Technology is just a tool, not an end.
I used to think it was more. Technology was novel and cool and I wanted as much in my classroom as I could get.
I asked the essential question, “How can I use technology as a tool to improve student learning?” I learned that mantra from the Intel Teach to the Future program I was a part of at the turn of the century. (I love the sound of that…turn of the century. I used to think of automobiles and electricity coming at the turn of the century. Now it has a whole new meaning.)
Most people in the year 2000 didn’t know about using technology to connect and collaborate with people in other parts of the world. The technology I used was really just an enhancement of typical curriculum. With all my cool technology — and it was cutting edge — my classroom was still teacher-directed. We had a projector, the Internet, a laptop cart with Microsoft programs, yet, it seems I was still up front a good portion of my day.
In the Intel program I took my second grade rocks and minerals unit and enhanced it with technology. I created student samples of a PowerPoint and Publisher web page and newsletter, all with content and links from the Internet. It was high-tech, and, in theory, I was to bring it back and have my students create PowerPoints, web pages, and newsletters using the Microsoft programs. It was powerful and intimidating, difficult and unwieldy. We tried in second grade, and we did some amazing things, but in many ways it just ended up being a “cool” way to share the same content that I had always taught. I think it was some of the most innovative and cutting-edge use of technology in the classroom in 2000, but I didn’t quite get the vision. Most of us didn’t get it.
Twelve years later and now I know that technology is just a small part of it. Today, my mantra is “How can my geniuses be empowered to connect, create, contribute and collaborate in an ever-changing world?”
It’s not about technology. Here are two reasons why.
- The tech has lost its novelty. Kids have been raised in a digital age. (Not the same as “they all know how to use technology” because they don’t. Some of them love technology and take to it naturally. A few don’t like technology, and they think they would be happy to avoid mastering all the programs and possibilities.)
- We like to get our hands dirty with the real things — good old “analogue” rocks, for instance, in my rocks and minerals unit. (Can I use that word “analogue” as the opposite of “digital”?) We’ve all figured out that we can’t and don’t want to do everything on computers.
However, it’s a little bit about technology. Since I became a connected educator, the technology has done something radical to my students and me. Though it’s not everything, technology is vital. I found that the Internet has been a catalyst, a fuse, a fire starter connecting me with other like-minded, fiery educators, amazing innovators and educational reformers who I otherwise would not have met. These people (aided by technology) have launched, spurred, carried me to a whole new way of learning, thinking, and teaching (and a great bag of mixed metaphors).
My students have experienced the benefit of my transformation. They are truly geniuses, empowered to connect, create, contribute and collaborate in an ever-changing world.
It’s not about the technology. It’s about the learning. I’ll say it again and again, you are going to become irrelevant if you don’t become the chief learner in your classroom. (However, I do still think technology is cool.)