Technology for the Sake of Technology

Image Source: http://bit.ly/nuXYmA

I’ve been back at school for about two weeks now.  It’s been great to get back in the building.  It’s where I belong and it’s what I love to do.  Writing blog entries and starting my master’s degree in Educational Technology and Design have really opened my mind to thinking about things in different ways and from different angles.  It’s meant a whole new way of approaching and solving problems.

One idea that has stuck with me from my summer course was “What exactly is technology and how do we use it?”.  Let me clarify.  One chat that happened over twitter and in our course discussion thread was that hair colour is a technology.  If we look at technology as being cables, cords, wires and processors, then hair colour does not fit.  If we use a broader definition that technology is a solution to a problem, then hair colour is technology.

So that brings me to this morning when a colleague asked me to go look through a PowerPoint presentation that he was working on to present to his class.  The topic was The Legislative and Judicial Branches of the Canadian Government (Social Studies 9).  His classroom is very well outfitted.  He has a tablet laptop, projector, sound system and a mounted SMART board.  He began by apologizing to me for not using SMART Notebook software.  The apology came because in my school I have been working with staff on improving their SMART board skills.  I told him that he didn’t need to apologize.  From my reading/thinking/processing over the summer, one of the tuths that I’ve come to believe is that technology is most useful when it can meet a need.  But it’s not only meeting a need thats important, but  meeting a need in an efficient and useful manner.

This teacher has interactivity in the classroom.  His students are engaged in conversation, group work, group research, and collaborative learning.  PowerPoint has gotten a bad rap for being a ‘boring’ means of presentation.  There are many other tools one could use (SMART Notebook and Prezi come to mind). However,  is it the teacher or the technology that is going to drive this lesson?  His slides had humour, great infographics, and fantastic images.  There was very little text, which means that it was not PowerPoint that was going to drive the lesson, but a real-life teacher.

I’ve come to a conclusion that using technology for the sake of using technology is not always best practice.  Don’t we have times where reaching for a pad and pen is quicker than opening an application on a laptop to make a reminder or jot a phone number?  Does fancier/flashier software make for a better lesson or teacher?  Aren’t there times when using a whiteboard marker to solve an equation is easier than starting up a computer and using an interactive white board?  What about phoning parents vs e-mail?  Are there times when a phone conversation is more useful than getting into a misunderstood e-mail battle?

In a confusing manner, this blog entry seems to be ‘anti-technology’, but that is far from the truth.  I love technology – I use it all the time in teaching and in my personal life.  I love exploring new web tools and applications and seeing how they can be used to improve the status-quo.  My point is this.  Technology for technology’s sake is not always best practice.  It’s important that we choose the right tool for the right job and make sure that we use our ‘human’ talents and efficiencies in harmony with technology.

J.T.

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3 thoughts on “Technology for the Sake of Technology

  1. Great post. I have an addition. In my creative writing class we have started a twitter account. I am not really sure what we are going to do with it. It initially began with a first day 140 character story contest.

    Today we read an excerpt from one of Syd Field’s books. One of the students had a complaint. I suggested we find him on Twitter. It wasn’t a part of the plan, and I certainly do not have a rational pedagogical reason for our Twitter account other than – digital media is fun. Only by exploring it and experimenting with it do we begin to shake out some of the possibilities.

    I read this post earlier and thought of your blog. Not as much about the post as the picture:

    http://web20classroom.blogspot.com/2011/09/learning-should-be-messyright.html

    I am pretty sure they had the opposite in mind at U of S when the designed the learning commons!

    So, although it seems there is no sense in using toys for the sake of using toys, sometimes unexpected payoffs come from simply … well… using toys for the sake of using toys.

  2. One can always argue that the purpose of bringing technology into the classroom is to enhance skills related to technology – skills like researching, reading, evaluating information, etc.

    And there is little doubt that technology-enhanced learning can be more engaging and fun, but it can have so many other benefits like improved communication and collaborative skills, enhanced creativity, giving students an equal voice in conversation, etc.

    I completely agree that identifying the purpose or goal of the technology is critical if we are to be successful in using it effectively with our students. In terms of using Twitter, here is one blog posts that presents different reasons to use this social media in the classroom: http://h30411.www3.hp.com/posts/1118287-Five_more_ways_to_use_Twitter_in_the_classroom?mcid=Twitter

    When introducing a new technology, I always ask myself, “Why is this a good option for students? ” and one of the consistent responses is, “Because it provides different ways for students to show what they know.”

  3. I love the picture Stephen posted. And as usual, I have a wee story… and I may tell it again in 873.

    My first job interview for an instructional design position was at Indiana University, and I was being interviewed by Rob Foshay (who later became Vice President of Plato Learning Systems) and Tom Schwen (who was one of the top instructional design professors in the world, and later became my dissertation supervisor). Great guys, but I was a whole bunch of intimidated.

    A whole bunch.

    I was coming off of a stint working with a media design and development group on campus, so I was full of passion for everything technological.

    First question:

    Rob tosses a pencil to me across the table, and pushed a blank piece of paper in my direction. He said, “Design something for us.”

    Of course the point they were impressing on me was that it wasn’t about the technology. It was about ideas and creativity and discipline. I’ve never forgotten that little lesson.

    And yes, I got the job, but not because of my stellar interview. I think they felt sorry for me after seeing the look on my face when they gave me the pencil test.

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