We can’t let educators off the hook

Steve Dembo said:

I don’t see it as teachers spurning technology, or choosing not to take advantage of those new ideas and tools. I think most teachers don’t even realize that there’s a decision to be made. It’s not a matter of choosing the red pill or the blue pill… if you don’t know that there are even two pills available as options.

… A teacher that has never heard of Blabberize or Glogster or Prezi, has never been introduced to the new world of online applications that are available to them. They likely don’t follow blogs or listen to podcasts. They have probably never been to an EdTech conference or seen a TED talk. In short, they’re just ordinary, average educators who aren’t aware that there’s a whole other world that they have easy access to… if they just ‘take the blue pill’.

… I’m all for conversations about ‘big’ change. And yes, I agree, it’s not the technology, it’s the pedagogy. However, I also think that you need at least a minimal base to build from before you can have those conversations. And the vast majority of the educators in this country do NOT have that base yet.

Every day that I present for educators, I have a greater appreciate for how distorted the view is as seen through the eyes of a typical EduBlogger. In fact, the majority of the voices in the EdTech Community are so far ahead of the curve that it doesn’t even seem like their on the same road anymore. Most educators have never listened to a podcast, much less created one. They’ve never edited a wiki, much less started one of their own. So how on earth could they be expected to have a rational conversation about the impact new technologies are having on the skill sets our students need? Simply put, they can’t. The majority of the voices many of us listen to on a regular basis… actually represent just a tiny fraction of the educators out there. We’re the minority, the outsiders, the ones who talk using strange terms involving words with far too many missing vowels.

Darren Draper said:

the large majority of teachers that I know are very caring individuals that believe firmly in life-long learning. Most love teaching because making a difference in the lives of our youth can be the most rewarding profession on the planet. Most love kids, love community, and want to share. It’s not that they don’t want to try new things, it’s not that they’re lazy, and it’s not that they’re incapable. Rather, it’s that their priorities don’t always line up with those of other progressive educators in and out of the blogosphere. I’m not saying it’s right, but I am trying to describe the reality that so many in the blogosphere seem to misunderstand.

Darren also said:

Those content to lurk but still hesitant (or unable, for whatever reason) to contribute.

The fact of the matter is that there exist a very large number of effective educators that are simply not able to contribute in any significantly recurrent amount to online discussion. All told, it’s not that they’re incapable of participating and it’s not that they’re unwilling. Rather, this group maintains perceived silence online because their professional priorities prohibit them from spending the time or energy required to provide plausible contribution.

To which I say, NO, WE CAN’T LET EDUCATORS OFF THE HOOK. Whether they’re teachers or administrators or librarians or education professors, they have a voluntarily-assumed, paid responsibility to be relevant to the needs of children and education TODAY and to prepare graduates as best they are able for TOMORROW. ‘Professional priorities’ must be aimed at preparing students for the world as it is and will be. Otherwise, what are educators there for?

You can’t ‘firmly believe in life-long learning’ and simultaneously not be clued in to the largest transformation in learning that ever has occurred in human history. Those two don’t co-exist. Being a ‘life-long learner’ is not ignoring what’s going on around you; you don’t get to claim the title of ‘effective educator’ if you do this.

FishhookLook, it’s not like those of us who now ‘get it’ were born with this knowledge. We weren’t like this at the beginning. At some point in our personal histories we were the same as these educators that for some reason now get to be labeled as ‘unable’ to do this. Unable to do this? Poppycock. At no time in the personal computer / Internet era has this technology and social media stuff been easier to initiate. It’s not like back when you needed to know computer coding. Want to use a wiki? Click Edit; type; click Save. Want to leave a comment on a blog? Click on Comments; type in your name, e-mail, school web site, and comment; click on Save. There isn’t an educator alive who ‘can’t do that.’ They engage in similarly-easy activity every time they search or order something online.

The reason many of us now ‘get it’ is because we realized that the world is changing, we recognized our responsibility to our students and schools, and we dived in and learned as we went along. Changing inertia into momentum, not waiting for someone to hand us the answer, taking responsibility ourselves rather than blaming others for our own inactivity – that’s what life-long learners do. That’s what effective educators do. That’s what we owe our children.

If you’re a teacher / administrator / librarian / education professor that somehow ‘doesn’t even realize [yet] that there’s a decision to be made,’ should you even be working in a school or university? Don’t our children and our school systems need and deserve someone who’s in a different place than you are? It’s one thing to still be a learner; heck, we’re all learners with this technology stuff. It’s another to opt out or not even recognize the choice. If we look at what our kids need, shouldn’t we replace you with someone else? 

It’s not about us. It’s not about our personal or professional priorities and preferences, our discomfort levels, or any of that other stuff that has to do with us. It’s about our students: our children and our youth who deserve at the end of their schooling experience to be prepared for the world in which they’re going to live and work and think and play and be. That’s the obligation of each and every one of us. No educator gets to disown this.

We can’t let educators off the hook. Not a single one. So keep that fishhook firmly wedged in their mouths. Keep tugging them along on the line. Keep scooping them up in our nets. Feed them tasty tidbits if need be. Do whatever it takes to make this happen. But insist on them doing the same.


Image credits: My fish hook; Slide – Should teachers get to choose?

151 Responses to “We can’t let educators off the hook”

  1. Yes, yes, yes! I get so frustrated when a teacher tells me s/he can’t use technology (of any kind) because “I’m not a techie”. I usually come back with “Do you accept that excuse from your students? When a student fails to complete an Algebra assignment, then tells you “I can’t do it. I’m just not a math person”, do you accept that as a legitimate excuse? No? Then stop using the same excuse yourself! Click edit–>type some stuff–>click save. It’s not rocket science.

  2. I love this post! Two and a half years ago I had never blogged or edited a wiki. I had just dipped my toes in to this strange new place called Twitter. When I would stumble onto sites that housed huge collections of Web 2.0 tools (or whatever we are supposed to call them) I was in heaven! I would play for hours, but I knew it was not possible to learn them all. The advantage I had over my peers was that I had the drive and desire to learn more about these tools and how they could benefit my students. (I have two young kids so I certainly do not have more time!) I’m also not afraid I will mess up or break something. People who are new to this need to just jump in and test the waters out. Maybe find a small group of teachers who want to do the same and teach each other the ins and outs of a different tool.

    There is absolutely no shame in not knowing EVERY tool out there. Nobody does, but we owe it to our students to be well versed in enough of them that we can provide a variety of learning opportunities.

  3. “.. should you even be working in a school or university? Don’t our children and our school systems need and deserve someone who’s in a different place than you are? It’s one thing to still be a learner; heck, we’re all learners with this technology stuff.”

    Whoa. That sounds very Rhee-esque. Surely you aren’t implying that it is tech-savvyness that makes a teacher a “learner” and “effective”. What do you say to the web 2.0 teacher-guru who is being that “learner”, up on all the latest Prezi-wiki-gdocs-mind candy yet has stopped learning about being an effective teacher of reading, math, science, and a widely read professional in areas of inquiry-based learning, collaborative learning structures, literature circles,…

    All I am saying is that this “learner” thing goes both ways. And, is much broader than clicking “edit” or “save” or having students choose multiple response choices projected on an interactive whiteboard using a remote clicker or making printable graph paper available on one’s classroom wiki or blogging homework assignments or converting the social studies textbook chapter into PowerPoint. I’m actually more concerned about these kinds of teachers. These technologies need to be situated in meaningful contexts that focus on meaningful learning. Too often, they are focused on the new tools.

    Yes, a teacher needs to remain relevant. No argument there. Yes, learning new tools that facilitate powerful and relevant learning practices is included here… I’d just rather see the emphasis on the powerful and relevant learning than on the tooliness-badges one proudly wears.

    • Steve, I concur with everything you’re saying. But there’s this sense I get from Darren (less so from Steve D) that one can somehow be an effective educator WITHOUT the tech stuff, that he and others are willing to cut educators a break. And, if so, I’m not buying it. We now live in a digital age; we all must become digital educators. No ifs, ands, ors, or buts. The tech stuff is not sufficient in and of itself, but neither is the notion of being pedagogically ‘effective’ without really ever using tech in one’s instruction.

      Didn’t mean to be quite so Rhee-esque (wouldn’t it be great if that became a catchprase?!). I knew I was a little vehement with this one. But I do think – particularly for school leaders – that if you’re not doing what needs to be done, then you should get out of the way to make room for someone who will. Because that’s what our kids and our society need.

      • Scott, all I am saying is that it is far too simplistic to draw the conclusion that the “geekier” teachers are better. And, if you agree with this premise, then one could make the argument that less technologically proficient teachers “could” be more effective in some instances.

        I guess I am just reacting the the tone out there/here that technology makes everything better… and the more technology, the better things get. In our impatience with technologizing and web2.0ing everything, many sometimes lose their focus on some things that really matter. Rather than sit and have a meaningful face to face discussion, they have to reserve time in the computer lab so that they can backchannel the discussion because backchanneling is hip. (Yes, I still believe students should be able to speak coherently to one another while maintaining eye contact.)

        No doubt, teachers have the professional obligation to keep learning and stay current in their field and in the culture of their students. We need to continually provide excellent [sustainable] examples of what learning in the 21st century can and does look like, and, as Chris infers, stop treating teachers like children.

        Thanks for sparking this discussion. I think it is really important.

        • Technology doesn’t always make it better. It does usually make it different, and sometimes it makes things that we care about worse (e.g., the concept of creative destruction). But the tech is here to stay so we thus have an obligation to our kids to help them figure out how to live effectively within this world. We’re not going to do that by being ignorant of it.

          Thank YOU for being part of the conversation. All of this is important. Really important. I appreciate your (and others’) willingness to participate in my little slice of it all.

          • Assuming you mean that “this world” is all about the tech, are you sure that it’s *every* educator’s responsibility to teach kids how to use it? Really? Every educator? Are there not important aspects of education, perhaps entire fields, and even this 21st Century world of wonder that are better left unplugged?

            This is good stuff, Scott. More thoughts and a personal response here:


          • Darren, obviously there are many times when using digital technologies to learn is either unnecessary and/or undesirable. I’m not advocating for tech for tech’s sake. Never have.

            That said, it’s a digital world. Everything we do is increasingly occurring through digital lenses, formats, and devices. Whether that’s good or bad depends on whom you ask, but it is what it is. As you know, the problem in schools is not that teachers and students are using technology too often. Sometimes I wish it were, but it isn’t.

            I confess that I am bothered when educators take this common-sense notion of using tech when and where appropriate and extend it to justify themselves NEVER using tech. I wholeheartedly disagree that one can be an effective educator today if you’re not using these technology tools or only using them in marginal ways.

            I agree with you (from your linked post) that educators ‘need to be pushed with love … and with understanding.’ I also feel that they need to be pushed with impatience (not patience), vigor, and a firm expectation (with teeth behind it if necessary) that they will move. And whatever I believe about teachers, I believe triple-fold about leaders (administrators and policymakers) and colleges of education, ’cause they’re the real issue, not our classroom instructors.

            We ARE in this together. Let’s keep up the good fight.

  4. I’m torn between both sentiments and need more time to ruminate on this. While how “distorted the view is as seen through the eyes of a typical EduBlogger” is so true, so too is the idea that we simply can’t accept teachers who aren’t willing to try and succeed.

    However, I think that there’s another cogent reason for why some teachers don’t engage technology at the level which you (we) would hope. I can’t paste the screen shots, so this will have to suffice:

    blabberize.com is categorized as games

    Access to the site http://blabberize.com is being denied because it is currently listed in the -games- category which is being blocked according to local network access policies.

    glogster.com is categorized as forums.social_networking

    Access to the site http://www.glogster.com is being denied because it is currently listed in the -forums.social_networking- category which is being blocked according to local network access policies.

    edutechintegration.blogspot.com is categorized as forums.blogs

    Access to the site http://edutechintegration.blogspot.com is being denied because it is currently listed in the -forums.blogs- category which is being blocked according to local network access policies.

    That’s right–the last one is blocked because it’s a blog.

    • Chris – that’s one of my pet peeves. Luckily, as a school IT/EdTech professional, I’m in a position to STOP the madness of blocking/filtering sites. Blocking/filtering does not work. Kids have the Internet in their pockets, and they know how to get around most blocks anyway. Educating kids on responsible Internet use is a much better solution, and as long as abuse carries real consequences, it works like a charm.

      Our school encourages students to participate in the discussion by commenting on blog posts, creating their own blogs, etc. Hopefully the day never comes when I lose the battle against blocking.

      Too often, though, IT departments don’t feel like fighting the fight, so they go along with whatever the administration wants, even if the requests are misguided or misinformed.

    • My blog is blocked at your school! Not surprised though. I have a friend who became principal in another district and I sent him a link to it and he got the same response. I told him it was time for him to tell his district to catch up with the times and allow access. The district I work in spent a lot of time last year updating and allowing access to sites for teachers and students.

      Is the edu version of Glogster blocked?

    • That’s a large part of the problem. Not only are teachers not supported in learning new technology, we are actively punished for using it! Anyone still using overheads never has to worry about the server being down, website being blocked, wrong versions of software installed (trying to get software installed). Every teacher in my district that actively uses technology is regularly frustrated by one or more of these problems.

  5. What gets me is that, for the most part, all these “technology tools” are part of the interactive media, things which millions upon millions of people of all ages learn to use on their own–no professional development or classroom instruction required–for the simple conduct of their personal lives. My 76 year old mother-in-law uses Wikipedia on her iPhone constantly, but a 28 year old education masters degree student has never used or heard of Google Docs? Please.

    When I’m in a classroom filled with educators taking an “Intro to ed tech” course and nearly no hands get raised when the questions like “does anyone listen to a podcast” or “does anyone read a blog” get asked, it floors me… not even “Car Talk” or “Serious Eats” or “I Can Has Cheezburger.” Forcing them to engage in the interactive media is almost comical for some, like watching Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil doing the Macarena (“I’m with it… I’m hip…”).

    I’m just echoing the sentiment of this post: why are so much teachers out of the loop here, especially when the technology is becoming almost invisible, revealing the services and message it provides? Steve Dembo’s right that ed tech people are way ahead of the curve, but maybe that’s not because they’re driving a race car: a lot of educators may, in fact, have a flat tire.

  6. I agree that we can’t let teachers off the hook with any kind of professional growth (whether its tech integration or instructional strategies like differentiation). However, the main skill of teaching, ie working with kids day-in-day-out, is so specialized and crucial, that we let teachers slide on a lot of other skills (not just tech). I am willing to concede that many excellent teachers will not have mastery over a wide range of secondary skills (e.g. organization, communication, technology).

    I had a messy desk and sometimes lost a student paper or two. However, I hope I “made up” for that weakness with my enthusiasm, creativity, and rapport with certain types of students. I probably should have been more organized, and someone could have rightly chastised me for not putting enough focus on developing as an organized teacher. However, I am not sure that would have been the best use of my PD time.

    In elementary settings it is common to have support staff specialists teach music, pe, world languages, science, reading, speech, english language learners, gifted students, struggling students, etc. They either assist the classroom teacher in a co-teach environment or “pull-out” students and then communicate with the classroom teacher to ensure follow up. I am comfortable being the tech assistant in that vein and not forcing teachers to become tech experts (just like I don’t expect them to be able to teach music or Spanish).
    Do I think that the tech integration in the classroom is richer if the teacher is more comfortable with tech and takes the lead? Yes. Do I wish teachers could do it without me and then I could go back to the classroom? Many times a week.
    However, with proper planning and support even low tech teachers can use tech and seeing that happen is rewarding and a valuable (necessary?) service to students. Sadly not all schools and districts can fund the tech integration specialists. (or music or art or pe or…)

    • “I am comfortable being the tech assistant in that vein and not forcing teachers to become tech experts (just like I don’t expect them to be able to teach music or Spanish).”

      One thing I like to tell my teachers during my technology PD sessions is they do NOT have to become experts in technology, or even experts in a given tool. What’s important is that they recognize various ways the tools can be used to engage the student, and learn how to evaluate the use of these tools. The kids will figure out the tech on their own, and will become the experts themselves.

  7. I know you’re lumping two conversations together, but I feel the need to clarify. The way your response is written, it seems to imply that I think it’s OK or justified for teachers not to be actively integrating technology and conscientiously exploring the impact of these societal/technological changes for students.

    That is NOT what I am saying.

    I was saying that there are thousands of teachers that may be concerned about these issues, and may even be doing something about them in their own ways, without ever exploring a Web 2.0 site, seeing a TED talk, or reading a blog. Well intentioned, conscientious, insightful teachers that simply don’t know that these communities exist. In fact, I think the majority of teachers fall in that circle of the venn diagram.

    The main point of the blog post you referred to is how much I value having the opportunity of opening them up to those avenues.

    I love your passion and agree that every teacher absolutely must be considering how education must change to meet the present and future needs of our students.

    However, the way you’re describing it, it sounds as though the solution to ignorance is to not be ignorant. That’s easy to say, except that most people who ARE ignorant in this way don’t know it! It’s like giving them a ticket for parking on a street that doesn’t have any no parking signs. And then saying, “Well, they should just KNOW.”

    Who introduced you to blogs? To wikis? To podcasts? Who got you started on this path? I’d bet there was a point in time when you saw or heard something that opened your eyes. Or was it simply an immaculate realization?

    If you want a takeaway, it’s that every person who feels as strongly as you do needs to be going out there actively and passing out glasses of Kool Aid.

    • Steve, thanks for the clarification. I agree that I lumped you and Darren together in ways that probably weren’t quite right. Like you, I see on a daily basis teachers and administrators that have no clue about this stuff, which is why, like you, I work so hard to help them with it. But I think we have to be very careful not to let recognition of ignorance devolve into an excuse for their inaction. In other words, we can be somewhat empathetic but not TOO empathetic, because the latter leads to letting them opt out and we CANNOT let that happen.

      Who introduced me to this much of this stuff? My online network (PLN, if you will). I started reading blogs on my own, which led me to start blogging on my own. From there it took off. This is why I think the #1 tool a novice educator should be using is a RSS reader. We should be helping them set up listening stations that move them forward.

      Off to mix up my next batch of Kool-Aid…

  8. What super(man)powers do we have to force other educators to use technology? Have you ever been around a wild-eyed fanatic that makes everyone uncomfortable?

    Last time I checked school was for learning.I didn’t realize the tools made all the difference…

    • I guess it’s up to you and others to judge whether my calls for action make me a ‘wild-eyed fanatic.’ And of course no one can force anyone to do anything. But we can as school leaders and policymakers take a stand and say ‘We need to do this and, if you won’t, this is not the place for you.’ Not in a mean way, just in a way that recognizes that individuals don’t get to veto institutional priorities, particularly important ones like preparing students for their own future.

      I will say this: the tools ARE making all the difference in every single information-oriented societal sector we can identify: newspapers, magazines, television, radio, journalism, music, movies, book publishing, travel agencies, map making, real estate, the postal service, personal finance and money management, multinational business, global workforce needs, job offshoring, medicine, personal health, postsecondary education, politics, and so on… If your societal sector intersects in any way, shape, or form with ‘information,’ then the impacts upon you of these technological tools that are driving global transformation and, often, industry destruction are both rapid and sizable. We should not expect P-12 education, another information-oriented societal sector, to somehow be immune from the effects of these transformational tools.

      Change or die, to be replaced by something else that better meets the needs of kids, families, and society…

      • I am neither a school leader or a policy maker, I am a classroom teacher that chooses the tools I use because I believe they offer students the ability learn better (universal design).

        I do agree that information tools are essential for many jobs, but I also know that every job has to be trained for individually as does every tool. A student using a blog is not inherently more likely to be able to use accounting software than one that doesn’t blog.

        Isn’t there a difference between the ability to access information and the ability learn? Yes, digital tools are great for finding things out. Are they just as great for helping students learn? My answer is maybe because a teacher with a pencil and a piece of paper may be just as helpful.

        When all is said and done I would prefer to teach my students how to learn and help them learn how to think than to worry about whether or not all their teachers are tech literate.

        You say this isn’t all about “us” but about what is best for our students. You haven’t yet convinced me that this is about them.

        • Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I’m with you … up until you say that the world of ink, pencils, and paper is an equally-powerful learning paradigm as the digital, online one in which we now live. Learning these days IS (or should be) about these digital tools, particularly the opportunities for personalization and interaction. The learning possibilities and affordances that we now have are MUCH more robust than the world of ink, pencil, and paper. Can you call yourself an empowered learner these days and not be deeply immersed in these digital, online learning spaces? If we say our students can, we do them a disservice.

          • They are more robust, but the tools of today do have drawbacks. To think the tools of today are automatically better is a problem of uncritical adoption (see my comment below).

            Also, the mini debate here must ask what learning is. If learning is simply accessing info, then todays tools are better, if learning is a process of the mind, then the tool doesn’t matter, but the mental engagement does. Students can be mentally engaged with info through any medium. Importantly, interested in a shiny new tech is not the same as authentically engaged.

          • Good points. Here are the types of arguments with which I struggle…

            “Students can learn to collaborate without using technology.” Sure they can, but so much of how we collaborate today utilizes digital technologies. Plus these technologies allow us to collaborate in ways that never before were possible and often are desirable. So does this give us permission to NOT teach kids how to collaborate using technology (’cause that’s what usually happens)?

            “Students can learn to be effective [thinkers / writers / workers / communicators / whatever] without technology.” Sure they can, but so much of how we [think / write / work / communicate / whatever] today utilizes digital technologies. Plus these technologies allow us to [think / write / work / communicate / whatever] in ways that never before were possible and often are desirable. So does this give us permission to NOT teach kids how to [think / write / work / communicate / whatever] using technology (’cause that’s what usually happens)?

            You see where I’m going with this. We try to separate out process from tools, and yet the existence of the tools often (but not always) transforms what it means to do the process. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes that’s bad, but we can’t just ignore it. And that’s what most of our educators and schools are doing now. We are not educating our students to be effective users of today’s (and tomorrow’s) digital information landscape. We have to own that.

          • You are right, we cannot simply ignore the new technology because we can do things without it. But we must also guard against using the new technology because it’s new. I know that is not what you are saying, but your language could easily be interpreted that way.

            Also, the tool changing the process is exactly the kind of philosophical ideas students need to be wrestling with (again see much longer comment below). Tech literate individuals must know how to use technology, but also how to critically examine technology. Interestingly, you can’t critically examine something you haven’t actually experienced. I would sometimes have my students use a technology just so they could come to realize how the technology caused them to engage in meaningful thinking less rather than more. Then we would discuss how we might manipulate our use of the tech to promote more lofty goals for our learning/communicating/whatever.

            So, i’m all for using the technology, but more so that students can understand how technology shapes culture and us as individuals rather than so they can use the technology. Cause let’s be honest, no on taught me how to use a blog, I figured it out. But getting to the deeper philosophical issues, that takes some guidance.

          • Jerrid, we’re on the same page then, both about the larger philosophical point as well as about your note that you can’t think critically about things you haven’t experienced. The latter is why our administrators struggle so much with establishing appropriate policies and rules for school uses of tech – they aren’t users of much (any) of this stuff.

      • RE:”‘We need to do this and, if you won’t, this is not the place for you.’”

        This reminded me of a story told by two administrators of a school that had gone 1:1. They brought in special folks for PD and they were very excited about the potential But, a couple weeks into the school year they were walking around the building and found TWO teachers who had posted signs on their doors, “Do NOT Bring your laptops into this class.”

        At some point this should become flagrant insubordination, IMHO, and those folks would be told just what you said. “This is our philosophy. If you can’t or won’t participate, then this isn’t the place for you. You’ve got 30 days to make up your mind.”

      • “We should not expect P-12 education, another information-oriented societal sector, to somehow be immune from the effects of these transformational tools.”

        Nor should we allow teacher unions to protect the status quo, solely based on seniority, to allow the stagnation of the teaching ranks.

  9. If we are going to say that it is okay to let educators “off the hook,” then are we also willing to let students “off the hook” when it comes to learning our antiquated ways? It’s ironic to me that educators push this belief in lifelong learning, and the need for students to be educated, and yet they think they are somehow exempt. I challenge each teacher: For every 21st century tool you CHOOSE not to embrace, let your students choose one of your 20th century teaching methods to ignore.
    In the end, students will be learning on their own with all the tools you have shunned, but teachers will be sitting in the dark.

    • So if I choose not to embrace Prezi, Glogster, or Blabberize, my kids don’t have to learn how to collaborate? They can opt out of small group work? No 1-on-1 conferencing?

      Give me a break.

  10. I have struggled with all the issues brought up in this post and it’s comments and for a long time, like a pendulum, I swung back and forth between my stances. I go back to my time in the classroom as a student. I never invested much time in learning anything unless I understood why I should and I had a graspable and acceptable definition of what it was I was supposed to be learning about. Technology, as it is categorized here, seems to be only digital and only web 2.0. That is a very narrow definition and a field where whatever our teachers teach our kids about today will absolutely be obsolete by the time they will need them for whatever time in their lives most educators believe they are preparing kids for. I think the general myth that is still held by educators is we are preparing our kids for the lives they will live tomorrow, not today. If that is the case, why invest time and energy in what we perceive as just a passing fad that will be gone by the time our kids are ready to use it outside our walls. This myth is a problem and an obstacle to keeping teachers and administrators on the hook.

    The approach I have found that works is to cast a much broader net in the definition I use for technology. Technology is not web 2.0, it is not cellphones, it is not computer, it is not anything invented after you were born. Yes, all those things are forms of technology but they do not encompass the definition. A pencil is a technology, paper is a technology, language is a technology, rituals and customs are a technology. Technology is human know-how and ability to manipulate a person’s external reality. Having discussions with educators about this definition and identifying what ways we want our kids to be able to manipulate their world leads many directions, one of these directions is certainly digital technologies.

    This approach also then allows teachers to internalize their own professional development objectives making them more personally invested in achieving them. It then becomes my job to help show them ways to meet those objectives they may not be aware of or comfortable with. BTW, this practice also works well with kids too, in almost every context.

  11. You can always tell a good blog post by the number of comments:)…with that being said, I think it is up to leaders in education to embrace that the world we currently live in is vastly differently than the world for which schools were originally designed. It is important for educators to live a life of learning. It is not only their job, it is their duty. That does not mean that what reality they knew 5, 10 or 20 years ago in education wasn’t important or valued, it just means the world is different and educators must adapt to the times. Technology is not the be all end all to learning, but it is a MAJOR aspect of almost everyone’s lives. It needs to be a part of the learning process for students. It needs to be a part of the learning and teaching process for teachers. If we as educators can’t practice what we preach (collaboration, creativity flexibility, critical thinking, communication, etc.) we should not be in the field of education.

    • I would be pretty darned happy if the leaders in education made the leap form teaching to learning, regardless of the method they choose to learn by.

      It seems we still can’t put aside the “teaching tools” mentality to focus on learning.

      • Have you been reading Will Richardson (www.weblogg-ed.com) lately? If not, he’s had some really good posts recently on the separation of teaching and schooling from learning…

      • I was hoping someone would bring up this point. I was ready to write it if not. We have come to a time when we – educators – believe that all children should be given the opportunity to learn. We believe that learning should be a rich and textured experience. We believe that allowing an unevenness of experience along lines of race or class or gender is unjust. In short we believe that schools should be institutions of learning. Unfortunately, we still work and operate in institutions of teaching. This is the hook we should not let folks off of. When committed educators see their job is to insure that students learn then technology is an easy road to go down. When learning is the objective staying current on how learning best occurs and the how to best facilitate that becomes a clear pathway.

    • Deron, you seem to be carefully walking the tightrope between “rah rah technology” and “learning is most important”. To which I say, Kudos.

      However, your last statement about educators “practicing what they preach”. In what way does collaboration, creativity, flexibility, critical thinking and communication REQUIRE digital technology?

      It doesn’t, and i think you know that. However, the original post by Scott is written in a way that all these things do require digital technology. If we think these things require technology, we give teachers a scapegoat for not encouraging collaboration etc in their students if they don’t have access to technology. The goals you mentioned ought to be promoted extensively in classrooms whether digital technology is used or not!

      • Jerrid, I think we both submitted our comments at the same time, as we share a common sentiment here

      • Jerrid,

        I was walking the tightrope, because I whole-heartedly believe in both. When I refer to “practice what we preach,” I am talking about teachers being life-long learners. I think we need to be willing to learn new “things” for our own benefit, but more importantly to hopefully improve the learning of our students. If teachers can’t practice the idea of being a life-long learner, why would we ask students to do the same?

    • Exactly. Lets focus on those things: collaboration, creativity, flexibility, critical thinking, communication, problem-solving, inquiry… and understand the diversity of tools available that can help facilitate these types of learning activity. Technology does not make these things magically happen. I think this is a key obstacle. For example, technology can facilitate problem-solving and inquiry only if problem-solving and inquiry are valued, emphasized and supported. I think an important issue here is that many of the pedagogies we techies claim technology supports and facilitates are often not pedagogies commonly embraced, or perhaps practiced, in many classrooms.

    • Deron: and then there are the posts for which you get 58 comments and 55 of them tell you you’re an idiot. =)


  12. I moved from a district that supports and embraces this shift to a regional service center that is wary and hesitant. Why? Allow me to echo Chris’ sentiment – reactionary and restrictive practices that block any and every thing that even remotely allows students’ voices to be heard. 75% of our 106 districts BLOCK Google Docs. I can’t imagine how many block some of the more glamorous web 2.0 stuff – they are blocking GOOGLE DOCS. And with that kind of thinking behind the TECHNOLOGY staff, why should the hook you speak of be even near the teachers? Administration and tech support MUST come first, wouldn’t you agree? As an education service center, we can offer professional development that results in fired up teachers eager to use these tools to engage students…only to have them face a brick wall back home of fearful administrators and tech staff who will not fight to get these tools unblocked. I’ve been in those meetings. It isn’t pretty.

  13. I think this is a great post, and I totally agree; however, I must admit that, as a teacher, I am getting tired of listening to all the things we don’t do or do wrong. We are not to blame for all the ills in education. Most of us are hard-working individuals who really care about young adults. We are willing to try new technologies and implement new strategies, but we often do so in baby steps because true pedagogy is not always a priority in many districts. School districts and administrators need to stop concerning themselves with what looks good and start doing what works instead.

  14. Yikes!! What on earth would I do if I worked at a school that blocked collaborative websites? Thank goodness many schools are on board. If teachers do not have access they will not be able to learn the tools. Administrators, step up and get your teachers the tools they need and “hook” em.

  15. Our world has changed and will continue to change. We cannot predict how it will change. Because we cannot predict what technologies will be of use to students in the future, preparing them to use specific technologies is a pointless goal. Our goals should be focused on student thinking and habits of mind rather than the simple use of technology. Only by preparing flexible thinkers can we hope to prepare students for an ever changing future.

    Too much focus on digital technology may actually limit students flexibility. Consider how too much focus on textbooks limits the flexibility and creativity of “traditional” teachers. Might we be setting up students and future teachers for “lock in” in which they are not prepared to flexibly adapt, but only to make use of today’s technologies.

    Some might say the only way to learn to “flexibly adapt” is to actually use technology. I would agree, but there is an important caveat. We must help our students think critically about technology. We must help students identify what the technology does for us and in what ways the technology limits us – what improvement technology brings and what negative impact technology has. If students and teachers can’t philosophize about technology, they cannot make informed decisions about technology use and will be doomed to “follow the crowd”. This following the crowd is what I see promoted in this post. The only rationale offered for using technology is because “everyone is doing it”. Shame on us for ever doing something because it is popular.

    Perhaps more important than engaging with philosophy about technology, we must help our students be better learners. I don’t mean help them learn better by using technology, I mean help them learn how to learn. Importantly, principles of learning apply to learning with or without technology, they even apply to learning ABOUT technology.

    Let’s be honest. If you want to prepare students for the “real world” do you really think “glogster” is used by most adults for their professional lives? How many professionals out there today were taught how to use email in their schooling? For those over 35, probably none. Yet, they are capable of using email. Teaching a technology should never be the point. If we focus on helping students learn how to effectively learn, they will be prepared for any technology advance that comes along. If we focus too much on the technologies themselves our students will be in the same rut many teachers are.

    One final point that must be raised. Yes, technology is changing our world, but we assume all of this change is for the better. We, as teachers, must wrestle with what is worth conserving about “traditional” teaching alongside of what must be subverted. Imagine if Socratic dialogue was no longer used in classrooms because it is antiquated. Also, consider the harm Powerpoint has done to higher ed and by trickle down (its not just for economics) has done to k-12. A technology almost single handedly caused a focus on efficiency in education rather than on deep learning. Sad. (Yes, i know the shift toward and efficiency model is more complex than the introduction of powerpoint, but it became the vehicle in which our classrooms were changed). We have to admit and then figure out in what ways new technology might be changing our classrooms for the worse as well as for the better.

    PS. Before I am dismissed as a Luddite (as often happens). I teach an education technology course for preservice teachers, used technology often in my middle school classroom and qualify for the “geek” category when it comes to gadgets. 🙂 However, technology literacy runs much deeper than knowing how to use technology. Just as science literacy must include some knowledge of the philosophy of science (not just facts), technology literacy must include some knowledge of the philosophy of technology (not just the hardware and software).

  16. The post is right on point–something that has needed to be said. It most likely needs to be said on a daily basis. The comments on your post bother me. I don’t think some of your readers understood your post. I will emphatically state this: The use of technology in your classroom WILL make a you a better educator! Does that mean you will be better than the teacher next door who doesn’t use technology? No! It will make YOU a better teacher. If the teacher next door used technology then he/she would become a better teacher. Some readers will take this as technology makes everything better. Once again–NO! One of the best courses I ever took taught us when not to use technology. The use of problem-solving skills and critical thinking enabled us to make the best choice in what approach we took. The year I took that course? 1981!!!

    In closing, I will say one thing that no one can dispute. Today’s tech has raised the level of communication to a whole different level. And what is teaching/learning but effective communication!

    Thanks for a great post!

    • In one breath you say “use of technology WILL make you a better educator!”, then later you say, “Some readers will take this as technology makes everything better. Once again-NO!” How did you want us to take that first statement. It seems pretty clear that you think that once a teacher starts using technology, their practice improves. You do admit it doesn’t make you better than someone else, but clearly you think tech makes an individual a better teacher. That’s an interesting point. Let me give an example to refute your claim.

      Teacher X used to write notes on the board in an outline form. Then this teacher started using powerpoint. The same outline went on the projector. Now these two approaches are not high quality to begin with, but the example serves to illustrate a point. The teacher using powerpoint is more likely to click through faster removing valuable “process time” from the classroom. Now that the teacher is able to deliver content more efficiently they are also likely to include more content in their course. While this sounds like a good thing, the increase of content contributes to the “breadth vs depth” issue and powerpoint definitely has a bias toward breadth.

      Now, you’ll say, “this is why making informed decisions about tech use is so important”. To which I’ll agree, however you said “technology WILL make you a better teacher”. No, it won’t. YOU make you a better teacher.

      • I appreciate your reply! However, your example refuting my claim was already pointed out in my first comment–“..informed decisions…” That being said, your final statement is really just semantics. “YOU make you a better teacher” is obvious since it is YOU that will learn how to integrate technology. I could even go once step further and claim that not only YOU make yourself better, but also all the people who collaborate on blogs like this, Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, etc. Oh–that’s technology!

        • Your initial claim was “tech will make you a better teacher”. I provided an example to refute and said then noted exactly how you would respond. Then you responded that way. Interesting.

          You can’t say tech WILL make you a better teacher then add in “if you make good decisions”. The good decisions part should be the more prevalent part.

          Oh, and it is the people, not the technology who make me a better teacher. If we give too much credit to the technology that connects us, we’ll lose our humanity. Extreme? yes. Important to understand – more than you know.

          • I’m not sure why you would think I would respond any differently since the example you gave to refute my claim was already taken into account in my original comment.

            I’m also not sure why you say I can’t say “tech WILL …” and then add “if you make …” Is there a rule against claiming that proper use of anything is important?

            Finally, you seem to be coming from a viewpoint that I am for technology for the sake of technology. You couldn’t be more wrong. That is why I used the example of when you should and shouldn’t use technology. You seem to be somewhat afraid of the technology–that somehow it will take over education and we will all become zombies of tech. That is why it has always been my view that everyone should take control of technology so that the technology doesn’t control them. How does one do that? Learn as much as you can about tech and make it work for you–not the other way around!

  17. I want to spin off of Jerrid Kruse’s philosophical slant here, while also insisting – yes insisting – that teachers and educational administrators accept their roles as professionals.

    So, let me start by saying that I consider teaching among the most important professions on earth, but just as doctors need to be current on medical technology, teachers MUST be current on information and communication technologies. Those are the tools of the trade.

    If you don’t think so, then find a doctor who has “never heard” of CT Scans (or X-rays) or vaccinations or ultra-sound.

    OK – but why don’t teachers understand this? To figure this out we need to understand this philosophically and historically. Doctors, in the mid-19th Century resisted technologies as most teachers do now. Lister and Pasteur were “so far ahead of the curve they weren’t on the same road” when they suggested sterilization. Doctors of the time, seeing themselves as “healers” could not comprehend that they were killing half of their patients by resisting the technologies of the time – the belief system inherent in the identity model of the profession actually prevented them from being what they perceived themselves to be.

    Many (most?) teachers, administrators, local/state ed leaders today are the same. They see themselves as part of a noble, historic profession. They see themselves as “educators” and so they can not make the leap to understanding that their refusal to adopt contemporary technology locks in the systemic failure of the Gutenberg-era.

    Part of this is because we teach neither history nor philosophy. We do not share with teachers why Socrates opposed literacy, or what Gutenberg destroyed. We do not allow them to understand the essential humanness of technology, or to understand technology in Heidegger’s terms – the art of manipulating the world for our benefit.

    Now I don’t know what Glogster is, but I do know that every technology gives and takes. The book disabled hundreds of millions and wiped out hundreds of languages. It also spread learning and allowed both the novel and eventually journalism to appear. And I know that our students must have the philosophical grounding in what technology is, how to learn it, and how to use it, that so many of our current teachers lack.

    After all, the classroom is filled with technology – chairs and desks (1835 via William Alcott), chalkboards (1840 via William Alcott), Time schedules (1845 via Henry Barnard), Books (1840s, mostly Henry Barnard), testing (1910, the Carnegie Commission), even ballpoint pens – that highly controversial 1950s invention of Marcel Bich. And all of those technologies have benefits and real limits.

    • YES! Your comment comes off more balanced than mine. Perhaps I am just reacting to the overly simplistic way most assume tech only has benefits and even worse assume that if we are careful we avoid the negatives. Unfortunately we can scarcely predict the negatives let alone avoid them.

  18. Two observations that have come from being at church and following the conversations without being able to add anything:

    1) This conversation would be more satisfying and ultimately more productive if it was taking place in a room with all of us together. The blog/comment method is very lacking for these types of conversations.

    2) I think that the tone of some of these conversations (as well as ones on twitter and other blogs) has gotten a little more negative (snarky?) and a lot more defensive than they would have a couple weeks ago. Are all the negative media attacks causing us to have a crappy attitude toward each other?

  19. Scared of tech? no. Scared of what will happen if people think they can “take control of tech”? Yes. You seem to naively think learning about technology allows us to control how technology affects us. Technology will change who you are for better and for worse. The only decision you can make is whether the worse is worth the better. If you think technology only comes with good things or that we might be able to “control” the technology try reading any of these books:

    Technopoly: Neil Postman
    The Shallows: Nicholas Carr
    Amusing ourselves to death: Neil Postman
    The cult of the Amateur: Andrew Keen
    Any of works by Marshall McLuhan
    Your are not a gadget: Jaron Lanier
    Brave New World: Aldous Huxley

    (Notice 1984 is not on this list, cause Orwell was wrong – the tech won’t be forced on us, we will want it so badly there will be no need to force it on us.)

    Perhaps all these people are “crazy”. But technology has such a pervasive role in our lives to think it doesn’t have profound impact on who we are would seem unlikely.

    Again, so that you don’t think i’m a Luddite, either do a google search for me, or visit my website http://www.jerridkruse.com It will be clear I am not afraid of technology, but lack of fear doesn’t mean we should proceed as though tech use is just “proper decisions”.

  20. Hi Scott,

    I am frustrated by this post and its too common theme.

    Teachers DO use technology. In my district, they ALL use e-mail, web-based information sources, electronic gradebooks/attendance reporting, word processing, and VOIP telephones and 80+ use SmartBoards. All our elementary teachers use reading and math software tutorials.

    The complaint should not be that teachers don’t use technology, but that they don’t use technology to support a particular method of instruction.

    We need to be clearer about our complaints.

    I would also argue that the effectiveness of technology use is still debatable – as is every other pedagogy.


    • Good point, Doug. It would behoove us to be more specific. ‘Cause when I see the list of technologies that your teachers ARE using, I’m wishing they were more student-oriented rather than teacher-oriented and/or administrative in nature. Yeah, I don’t think most of us are advocating for greater educator usage of VOIP or electronic gradebooks.

    • Doug,

      Yes, there are two types of technologies, and both have their purposes. To extend my medical analogy (above) there are patient records technologies (say, digital prescribing, digitized records, or, in the past, file folders and microfilm). Obviously these definitely impact medical practice. But generally, when doctors speak of “medical technology” they are discussing the tools of diagnosis and care, not the pens and clipboards at the receptionist’s desk.

      I’m not really focused on, nor do I think Scott is focused on, “administrative technologies” but on “educational technologies.” A gradebook – I might argue, is no more an “educational technology” than a file cabinet is.

      That said, “effectiveness”? I always wonder why contemporary technologies are subjected to these questions in ways older technologies are not. Is a chalkboard always effective? Obviously we know books are often ineffective – as are lectures – chairs – semesters – class periods – pens – pencils.

      We cannot deny that something is a “technology” simply because it was invented before we were born.

      • Well said, Ira. I think that’s why Doug mentioned that we need to look beyond the technology at the methods of instruction and pedagogies. These are often what make the pencil, semesters or the Internet… “effective”.

      • Hi Ira,

        What happens when we make the grade book accessible to parents and students to help with work completion issues? What about when we use the data in it to analyze the effectiveness of a particular intervention?

        It’s not the technology. per se. It’s all about how it’s used. I find it hard to separate the “administrative” and “instructional.”


        • OK, yes, technologies can, and do, cross the lines. I’ve seen blackboards use to communicate to parents on “Meet the Teacher” night. I’ve seen dittos and copies sent home to parents. I’ve seen gradebooks shown to parents at conferences. But that is “mechanical adaptation” – I switched from charcoal to a pencil – and while important, it is different.

          What I think we are discussing is transformational technologies. Technologies whereuse alters the learning process.

          • An important caveat (that i know Ira understands) needs to be mentioned. The transformation of the learning process through technology is not always for the better. If we don’t see how tech can transform for better and for worse, we are merely making decisions based on popularity – which is not wise.

    • Great point, Doug. I agree that a working definition here might help to clear the waters. I also agree with your final statement that the effectiveness of technology use is still debatable (a key component of my argument).

      Scott, I see that your definition of technology use includes student-oriented technologies. I’m still not exactly what you mean here (isn’t a student using VOIP a student-oriented technology?), but I sense you’re really referring to student-centered pedagogy. Nevertheless, student-centered pedagogy exists independent of technology use and still favors the argument that teaching can be effective, as long as it’s student-centered, even without the use of electricity. Or a pencil.

      When I wrote my original post, dove-tailing off Steve’s, I was referring to the same blue and red pills that (I thought) Steve was: specifically, collaborative and other web 2.0 technologies. Naturally all teachers use some technology, even if that use only entails checking for email messages once a year. However, I remain unconvinced that every teacher must use a Twitter-wiki-Diigo-flickr in order to be “effective,” because effectiveness is differently defined in different settings and by different people. Furthermore, because different educators fulfill different professional roles, who are we to classify all wiki-less teachers as lousy, when they might be seeing a large amount of success, as defined by local stakeholders?

      I agree with others in this thread that this is one of the most important conversations occurring right now in the edublogosphere, and look forward to writing/thinking more on this in the near future!

      • Darren, well stated. No one here is defending a teacher’s refusal to learn and use present-day technologies. But what I think we are defending is the choice of technology (old/new) to achieve desired outcomes. No one should be making anyone feel guilty because they had their students write on paper instead of on a wiki or blog, use Post-its instead of Wallwisher, or use Prezi instead of PowerPoint. Paper is not going away any time soon. Neither is the pencil. Sometimes I feel like this is what the conversation has come down to by tech evangelists. What teachers should be made to feel guilty of is boring their students and wasting precious powerful learning opportunities out of ignorance or willingness to consider the needs of the learners and tools that can help facilitate meaningful, engaged, connected, relevant learning. If there is a tool that can make what my students experience qualitatively or quantitatively better, then I should be willing to consider it. Even more, I should covet it. If folks who are pitching new tools can’t come up with a coherent rationale as to how the tools can make learning better (and they often can’t), then shame on them – as they are as much to blame for lack of adoption as are those who refuse to have an open mind in this regard.

        This conversation has traveled a number of directions and perspectives… all very important and inextricably connected. What’s the next step here?

  21. Wow. I just read through all the comments. That was no easy task. 🙂

    Let me take this from a different spin.

    Professional Development in many schools leaves teachers with their heads spinning. Lots of bandwagon jumping with educational ideas, programs… every time something new and catchy comes along, we have to jump on the bandwagon. I’m not saying that some of these practices and programs are bad or unworthy of our attention, but I do think that the focus of a district should allow teachers and ed staff time to learn, grow, adapt, and put into practice. You can’t do that when something new is added to your plate every year. Think Differentiated Instruction, Grading for Learning, RtI, BIST, Daily 5, Literacy across the Curriculum, etc, etc.

    In my experience, technology training in the Professional Development/Education world tends to be an “add-on,” rather than something that is seen as a tool to help accomplish other goals. When you look at a typical PD menu, you might find classes and workshops on RtI, grading practices, new literacy programs…. and a “How to use Microsoft Excel” class. Are we surprised that teachers view technology as something separate? Most teachers using technology are using it for their own organizational benefit, or substituting technology for older practices, e.g. projecting PowerPoint notes instead of using chalkboard for notes.

    I’m not making excuses for anyone, because I feel life-long learning means you take charge for yourself. However, in school districts where there are very established PD dept’s, I see so much required training and classes that really stretch our teachers’ thin. For some, it becomes a matter of time- “I don’t have time to learn to use a tool that might help my kids be more creative, because I have to learn all about RtI and how to implement those new forms.”

    What about those districts that don’t allow teachers to use tools such as blogs, wikis, etc. with their kids? Sometimes it’s easier to just give up instead of fight for what’s right for kids.

    As for the issue of self-starting in learning technology- I’m one of those people. If I don’t know how to use something, I dig in and tinker (we talked about that type of learner at EBC10 in Denver). I also have to realize that many people are not equipped to tinker. Should we expect every person in education to take charge of their own learning? I think that’s easier said than done. It bothers me when teachers act like they’re technophobic, but part of me has to understand they need help in understanding a tool before they automatically know how to infuse an area of learning with a tool. I know some people who still prefer sending a note in a physical mailbox (that I see 2x a day at the most) to typing up a quick email that I will see almost immediately. And trust me, it’s not a generational thing. I often see more veteran teachers working with technology than younger teachers. Many younger teachers walk out of colleges/universities viewing tech tools as something they use outside of school.

    So what to do? No, we can’t let educators off the hook. We have to bring along the willing as patiently as we can. We have to work with the unwilling to help them see that kids need transformed learning experiences. It’s not about the tools, it’s about the learning. How can we transform what our kids should be learning with technology to help us along the way?

    • Michelle, you said, “Should we expect every person in education to take charge of their own learning?”

      Isn’t this what we expect from our students? If so, shouldn’t we be modeling this ourselves as educators? Or is this yet another example of ‘do as I say, not as I do?’

      • I’d respond, “No.” We don’t expect ALL of our kids to take charge of their learning. I’d go as far as to say that we often enable kids NOT to take charge of their learning.

        Do as I say. Number your page from 1-20. Sorry, we cannot talk about that story right now, because we have to learn math.

        I’m not saying it’s right, Scott. I’m just saying it’s the reality in most schools. If we enable kids to be helpless, we do the same thing with our teachers. Highly prescriptive PD with no options for alternatives are a major cause. I’m a music teacher now, after leaving PD. You should see the ‘options’ for specialists when it comes to meaningful PD.

        • There is indeed a difference between what we say we value and aspire to (“all students will become lifelong learners”) and what we do in practice. As you note, we enable both children and adult employees to NOT take charge of their learning (through mind-numbingly bad PD, a lack of PD focus or sustained support or follow-through, fostering the expectation that one has to be paid/rewarded to learn, etc.). But we can control those systemic factors (at least theoretically), right? Together we create the system. So together we can change the system.

          Recognizing that educators WON’T do this in our current structures is different from letting educators off the hook by saying they CAN’T do this (and I’m not saying that you said this).

        • Michelle –

          I am a music teacher, too. Tomorrow afternoon, I will be helping the tech teacher analyze standardized test results.



  22. This is valuable discussion. I have a growing sense of dread and concern, however, when I read the discussion and see the IT Specialist titles of many of the contributors, telling classroom teachers that they had better lead, follow, or get out of the way. I am not an IT Specialist, I teach students every day of the week, for six hours per day. I have a Program of Studies to which I must adhere, and to which my students are held accountable by powers much more influencial than mine own. Wherever it seems appropriate, I encourage students to utilize all of the tools available to them to improve their learning, and to allow them to communicate their growing body of learning to others. I become agitated when someone who does not put in time in front of students suggests that I am not doing enough. I would challenge any non-teaching specialist to spend a significant amount of time implementing their suggested changes while in front of a real live classroom. Thanks for continuing the discussion, Scott. This is one of the most important dialogues on the blogsphere currently.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Todd. What you said is important. My original post was not meant to point fingers at classroom teachers. We all must own this together. Together we have created this system and together we must fix it. But no one gets to opt out…

    • Todd,

      I need to say two things: First, and I think this is a big part of Scott’s target here, every school administrator, every policy maker, and every tech director making “blocking decisions,” needs to wake up and take responsibility for keeping our current century away from education.

      But, second, one need not be an every day K-12 teacher to be part of this conversation. I am not – but I implement these technologies while teaching both large and small university classes, while working in teacher education, and while working with students and teachers across multiple schools with multiple technology systems and vastly different administrative structures. I think I know the issues, and I surely know the problems, but I also know the end result – for students – of educators who refuse to be part of the contemporary world.

      This is not a finger-pointing point. All of us have plenty to do here. But – in the end – a big part of this remains “taking responsibility for your own learning.” The first free seminars in these systems which I offered were presented in 1998, and at that point there was already a massive research base for what Scott is saying here. The laws regarding technology access in terms of students with disabilities (and those with “504” plans) were placed on the books in 1995. IBM was promoting speech recognition and text-to-speech in 1996, and Lynne Anderson-Inman was already proving the value of “digital texts” and “digital notebooks” and digitally linked note-taking in the mid-1990s.

      In other words – none of this is new. The information has been “reasonably available” for over a decade – in other words – for the entire K-12 career of today’s high school seniors.

      So we can complain about all we have to do – hell – in the 1850s plenty of school boards were protesting the cost of installing those “Black Boards” – or we can get this educational system where it needs to be.

  23. I recently wrote about common misconceptions about tech integration in education and I think that they apply to such a thread, because we all make so many assumptions about technology in education and its role.


    I agree with a lot of what people are saying. It is important to note the advances in technology in the past 5 years, especially in education.

    I agree that it is our job as educators to stay on top of what is going on in the lives of our students, and what is going on is technology. We are doing a disservice to our students by not doing so.

    We are entering an age in education where you either get on board or be prepared to be thrown off…and I am not just referring to technology.

    • By this logic, those of us who don’t watch southpark, who don’t wear skinny jeans, who don’t smoke pot, who don’t ride a skateboard, who don’t get why the family can hear stewie are irrelevant educators.

      I don’t disagree with your conclusions, but I disagree with your logic. We should not do things just because kids are doing them. We should be doing things because it will benefit kids in some way.

      • There’s a key question here, one that I spoke about on Change.org a long time ago – http://education.change.org/blog/view/technology_the_wrong_questions_and_the_right_questions

        “Then, as now, the wrong question was being asked. In 1842 the doubters wondered what these new technologies could do for schools as they existed. Today, educators and policy makers constantly wonder what computers, mobile phones, and social networking will do for a curriculum largely unchanged since 1910.

        “That was the wrong question then, and it is the wrong question now. The right question is, what can schools, what can education, contribute to these new technologies?”

        Does this seem radical? Maybe. But we are educating students who live TODAY and who will graduate into TOMORROW.

        That does not suggest an acceptance of an ignorance of the past, but it certainly neither excuses an ignorance of the present. If we were teaching in 1850 – Morse Code should have been an important idea, newspapers should have been an important idea, mail travelling via railroad and steamship should have been an important idea.

        Why? Not because these were “the newest things,” but because these already were, just 10-15 years after their invention or widespread adoption, essential parts of the world students lived in at that moment and would live in.

        The same is true now. We do not educate – if we educate well – for the present or the past. To do so is to deny our students’ rights to being prepared for their own future.

        • I’m not sure what you mean by “what can education contribute to
          Technology?”. However, you are right in that the questions we are asking are all wrong. Instead of how to fit current tech into traditional school we ought ask, “with all we know about teaching & learning, with all our technological advances, how would we design school if starting from scratch today?”

          Once we have an idea of our ideal, we then can ask what can we do in our schools or in our classrooms to make this vision a reality? The questions about technology integration are a symptom of our locked in beliefs rather than a solution.

          • Jerrid, Troy, and everyone…

            The issue is this –

            In order to be lifelong learners it is essential to understand and know how to function with the information and communications technologies of our world, and to know how to adapt when those technologies change.

            In order to be human successes we also must understand how to communicate what we know, how to collaborate, and how to distribute information.

            This is why Socrates drilled his students on memory. In pre-literate Greece, that was the essential tool.

            This is why we taught “reading” (meaning decoding ink-on-paper alphabetic texts) in school, and why we taught writing with pens and pencils, and why we introduced students to libraries. In the Gutenberg era these were the essential tools.

            I sure hope we didn’t do this to preserve our great grandfather’s skills. I hope we did it to enable our students to function in the world.

            Now, the tools of learning have changed, as have the tools of collaboration, of distribution, of creation, and if our schools do not teach these – and much more – help our students to understand how they must manipulate these tools for their purposes – and the world’s – nothing else we do in school really matters, because our students will not be able to effectively work with what they know.

            So when Troy (below) says, “Without technology an educator can be ‘successful’” I think he is wrong (I note as the spellcheck in Firefox allows me to instantly correct his misspelling “‘succecssful’” – a spellcheck which I can instantly switch between US English, British English, Australian English, Irish, and French). So is the colleague who told him, “I don’t need technology to engage my classes” – who, I bet, uses 15th to 19th Century technologies every day in her classroom (printed books, chalkboards, paper, pens, a clock, lighting, windows, chairs).

            Without the technologies which enable communication and information access, education is simply impossible. And if you choose to refuse to use the technologies your students will use – whichever antique technology you are limiting yourself to: books, carved stone tablets, hand scribed scrolls, or cave paintings, Morse Code or mail sent by sailing ship – you are abdicating your responsibility as educators.

      • Is not being on top of what our students are doing WHEN IT COMES TO TECHNOLOGY a benefit to them (took what I was trying to say out of the context it was intended)? Using technology WITH students does and will benefit them. Teaching proper Internet safety and dangers of social networking as part of a lesson on say, the Bill of Rights, brings the 200+ year old document to them and in a language they understand. Students really want a teacher who can relate to them and bring the content to them and technology is ONE way to bridge the gap that can exist, because it is something they understand. I am not saying it is the only way, but it can be very beneficial.

  24. Thank you! There is a sense of urgency in education that we can’t ignore. If a teacher waits 10 years to catch up, 10 years worth of students are done a disservice. It isn’t about being cutting edge or using the latest and greatest, it is about being the best teacher TODAY and that means knowing where students are going and what skills they are going to need to get there.

  25. Here I was resting on what I believe in because people wanted to belittle my attempts to point out: “It’s not about us.” And from the comments I am also reassured, with the technology (it is no longer ‘new’), the digital citizenship and world beyond the four walls of the classroom. As a colleague has told me, ‘I don’t need technology to engage my classes’ and yes, she is right. That’s where the idea that yes, traditional teacher centred learning can work, but this other world that exists beyond the one hour lesson can be a part of what you do. Both ways, together, not alone. Without technology an educator can be ‘succecssful’- whatever that means, but imagine using both methods.

  26. I wish every blog post and comment had each writer’s current position written on it, because so much of our disagreement IMHO comes from the varying perspectives from where/what subject/what grade we teach. For a kindergarten teacher, the Web 2.0 technology praised here is not nearly as important as getting students to cut, paste, color and draw, begin writing, listen to some good books, start reading books, etc. If you’re teaching at the collegiate level, then yes, tech is going to need to play a significant role in what you do.

    • Mark, you’re right – perspectives vary greatly here. However, following Scott’s original post, if there are developmentally appropriate and beneficial technologies out there for kindergarten students to use, and I’d argue that there are, then shouldn’t a kindergarten teacher consider them?

    • Mark: I agree with you… somewhat. It would be nice to know the background behind the points-of-view.

      However, aren’t keyboarding and mousing important skills to also teach Kindergarten students? What if they already KNOW those? How about more tech skills that help them transform their own drawings into a digital form?

      I teach K-5 music. We have used Skype, Google Earth, we’re podcasting, we create in GarageBand. We use a LOT of tech.

      Many kids come to Kdg with more tech skills than their Kdg teachers. My nephew is 5. He has learned the basics of economics through Webkinz since he was 2 1/2. How will his learning be transformed?

      Many kids don’t come to Kdg with tech skills. They’re now really behind their peers.

      As I note all of the above… I’m not advocating that kids spend their entire school day behind a computer. In our classroom, we blend high tech, low tech, and no tech in our learning. But if I didn’t have the skills to use technology to transform some of their learning, my kids would be ill-prepared.

  27. Mark,

    Have you watched this…

    Or seen this…

    I’m not sure level matters that much.


    I disagree. Paper and Pencils are going away – fast. Ask any 15 year old how often they use either outside the context of school. It is probably zero for most of them, outside of signing the birthday card for Grandma.

    And remember – please – paper is one of the least accessible ways to provide information. If you are using it you better be providing alternatives – that’s the law.

    • Ira, both my children, ages 8 and 11, regularly use paper, pencils, paper-based books, and real tennis rackets and baseball bats (not the Wii kind) regularly at home. By choice. Heck, my son is currently carving a wooden slingshot with a knife. If that isn’t antiquated, then I don’t know what is. I suppose he should be using the slingshot app on the ipod instead. No, I don’t shame him for doing so. I don’t pull him off of his baseball team to play baseball on the Wii because it is an up and coming technology that is revolutionizing the meaning of sports play.

      And furthermore, I think more kids *should* be writing at home (on paper or otherwise) rather then spending countless hours consuming stupid media and gossiping on Facebook and through texting. I think Grandma would really appreciate a hand-drawn card on paper, colored with crayon and decorated with sparkly things, don’t you? It’s not always about them.

      I’ll leave the accessibility issue alone, as I take no issue with it. I’m not meaning to sound combative, so I hope this doesn’t come across that way.

      • Steve,

        Not combative, just perspectives.

        Every year I spend a bunch of time at what is, essentially, our County Fair, and I am endlessly thrilled to see what 4H kids do. And, in fact, as I snuck into my “Conclusion” part of my “history of ed” series at SpeEdChange, in my – very urban – high school (the city had 75,000 people in 10 square miles), we created a “Heritage Farm” then to keep certain ideas alive.

        But I realize that even in the significantly rural county I live in now, very few kids raise their own cattle, very few carve their own tools, etc. I like that stuff, you do, your kids do, but for most it is “hobby” – not lifespan learning skills.

        So, yes, I love that kids draw, and I want art and music and = yes – shop and home ec in every school. I think our reductionist school efforts are miserable.

        But, when kids are writing, I want them to (among other things) be able to communicate with Grandma even if Grandma lives thousands of miles away, even if Grandma is blind, even if Grandma speaks another language. And if they are reading, I don’t want them limited to the 2,000 “age appropriate” books and 1975 World Book Encyclopedia in the local public library.

        That is wrong – first grade to twelfth grade. Because those limitations existed 100 years ago, don’t make them “quaint” or “positive.” I mean, I love cars from the sixties. They’re fantastic. I’ve restored a couple in my life. They are much fun – and, yes, unlike my current cars I could really work on them – but, they were horribly polluting death traps which wasted the earth’s resources in massive ways.

        I’m surely not against glue and glitter and crayons and paper airplanes, but I no more want to romanticize old technologies than I want to romanticize life in the 1950s – which may have been lovely, unless you were Black or Hispanic or Female or Disabled or Gay or any number of other things.

        So, back to the point. I don’t write anything on paper anymore. I don’t teach with paper, I barely read on paper. I write one check a month. My shopping list is on my phone. My research is digital whether I am working academically or deciding which car to buy. I can work globally because I’m not paper dependent. If I get on the NYC Subway or London Tube or Chicago El, digital learning/entertainment technologies dominate. Far more text is input via mobile keypad and voice every day than even traditional keyboards.

        And it is changing fast. 20 years ago people carried remote “beepers” around to activate their phone answering machines, now VoiceMail itself is vanishing from businesses. Email has risen and is collapsing, all in the space of 15 years (“Oh thank you,” a 7th grader told me today as I helped her set up Google Calendar text-message alerts, “I thought you were going to tell me I was going to use something stupid like Email.”) Email is so uninteresting to most under 22 now that I don’t say “Gmail” – I say we’re creating your “Google Account.”

        This is real. Stats prove it is real – and remember, North America is far, far behind most other continents in this “paperless” adoption.

        Heritage stuff is fine. I love hands on. I watched kids just today making a paper bridge, forming styrofoam into gliders, building robots, watching Frisbees curve, painting a mural. All cool.

        But it is not the way the world communicates anymore.

        • Sure. But my kids’ grandma has no Internet, no computer, lives hundreds of miles away, and loves to receive cards and letters from the kids and the rest of the family. My brother lives in an area with no cable and no high speed Internet… in a provincial district (Eastern Townships) that has gone largely 1:1 with laptops in the schools. In the world that you describe, there are still lots of folks just like this. Their realities are not described as “heritage stuff”. There are still many schools quite poor in new technology.

          But we’re really not arguing for different things… just presenting different realities. The world has indeed changed. Paper has become more high tech, too. http://www.livescribe.com/en-us/

          And the tech geek that I am, I still write my grocery list on post-it notes 😉

          Our discussion has veered away from the initial post enough that it should probably stop here. Thanks for the push ‘n pull.

    • Ira,
      Sorry about the typo.
      To define what ‘successful’ within the frame of a New South Wales Department of Education and Training teacher can I point to the traditional summative assessment tools that rule our schools, that’s the reason for the inverted commas, that ‘success’ is currently measured by the economic rationing of bands and percentages and rankings- a traditional style of teaching can still allow a student to excel in these areas, that is route and teacher centred exposition. But rather than say her method is right or wrong (which would be wrong of me as a professional), I support and show what I can do with both areas of professional learning.

      • Troy,

        I didn’t mean to be a “typo cop” and I apologize for the impression – rather – as I try to suggest to the students I work with, that we now have great tools which allow us to build our communications efficiently and effectively.

        To switch to your major issue above, I find spelling to be a fairly ridiculous thing to be measuring – especially in English. Spelling is, of course, a 20th Century obsession. But I know that those who create school curricula and school tests, and many who will be potential employers, feel differently than I, and so we give kids tools they can use to get the spelling right while allowing their cognitive efforts to go into other – perhaps more important – things.

        But, this is why my major concerns about tech adoption are aimed at those who develop school policy. Yes, teachers must be responsible for their own learning, but imagine a doctor working in a hospital which actively discouraged the use of contemporary technologies – “Don’t x-ray that limb, just feel for a break.”

        Teachers, like students, are humans who respond to environmental pressures. Those who can impact those environments most, have the most responsibility.

  28. What a great discussion.
    Here is a very recent TED video by Chris Anderson (TED Director) speaking about the role of YouTube and video in innovation and changing the world.


    A MUST view for educators. This is edge of your seat compelling stuff that supports Ira’s and others views on keeping up with technology.

  29. Hmmm… I should add to my previous post that just putting down what, who, and where we teach might not be enough. I can see from the responses that we all bring lots of other biases to the table.

    For example, I’m not sure that Ira realizes that this: “I don’t write anything on paper anymore. I don’t teach with paper, I barely read on paper. I write one check a month. My shopping list is on my phone.” is still true for a surprisingly small minority of the overall population. More people still get newspapers on actual paper than electronically. More people read books than e-books. More people still write checks than pay bills online. More people write shopping lists on paper than their phones. And so on.

    Bias, bias, bias… all of our conversations are driven by our own personal views which we think everyone holds or should hold.

    • Mark:

      Just a few notes:

      Newspaper readership, yes a minority, but a rapidly changing environment http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1133/decline-print-newspapers-increased-online-news with (in 2009) only 25% of Americans getting news from print daily. And from Denver to Seattle to Ann Arbor newspapers have shifted entirely to online activities. In Detroit, though the papers print everyday, they don’t even bother to deliver on four of those days. Plus, the internet has changed which newspapers get read – “The Guardian has the second largest online readership of any English-language newspaper in the world, after the New York Times” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Guardian

      The change is occurring across the “print world” – Amazon, 19 July 2010: “Over the past three months, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 143 Kindle books. Over the past month, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 180 Kindle books. This is across Amazon.com’s entire U.S. book business and includes sales of hardcover books where there is no Kindle edition. Free Kindle books are excluded and if included would make the number even higher.”

      Cheques (Checks) are likely history sooner than later http://thebankwatch.com/2009/12/16/uk-to-eliminate-cheques-by-2018/

      And just observationally, living deep in the conservative American Midwest, when I walk through the Supermarket, I see very few paper shopping lists anymore, I see people looking at their phones, or using their phones to text for “list confirmation.”

      In the end, I am an “early adopter” – though hardly the “earliest” or “most aggressive” – but I have watched this transformation – whether observing the shrinking textbook section of our university bookstore, or watching the changes in the reading technologies embraced on mass transit in Dublin and London, or studying teen behavior around town. My theories don’t come from a love of the new technologies, but are grounded in what I have observed and the research I have watched over the past 15 years.

      My point is not the paper and pencils have ceased to exist, but rather that a child entering school in the US, UK, or Australia this year will graduate in 2023.

      2023. That’s what we are preparing our students for, not today’s “average.”

  30. Thanks for that thoughtful reply, Ira.

  31. This is a great post with a fabulous stream of comments. That said, we must remember that we, educators, both those of us who regularly read and post here and our colleagues who don’t, don’t get to vote. The voting is over.

    That became crystal clear to yesterday during a class discussion about the text structure of a non-fiction book when a 3rd grader answered the question about where did the photos come from? with the statement – “I think they were probably downloaded from a website somewhere.”

  32. As many of these comments are as long as posts themselves, I decided to write my own “comment” on my site “Tech the Plunge.” Read my thoughts “EdTech is NOT the Way for School Reform” at http://jeffthomastech.com/blog/?p=6119

  33. Lisa Lane asks: Should teachers be web-savvy or [only] web-aware?


  34. Scott,

    Thanks for the great discussion! The tone of the post was a bit much for me, but the points you and other folks are bringing up are nuanced and important. I especially like the differentiation between skills that are nice hobbies and skills that will be necessary to succeed as an adult not in today’s world, but in 2023.

    One issue I have using digital tech in my classroom (I’m a pretty tech-able millenial and I teach English to Speakers of Other Languages to adults) is that when the computers freeze or the network glitches, I’m left high and dry. This alone made me hesitate to use the computers in my classroom for weeks, and my concerns turned out to be legitimate. Tech support is a problem and Plan B is a problem.

    Non-adopters know about these potential headaches, and they know that adequate support is just not there. Yes, for the sake of their students they need to pop some Tylenol and use the tech anyway. But for the sake of the students and the teachers, edtech needs to be properly supported on a day-to-day basis. It can’t be all on the individual teacher. http://bit.ly/aUeH5E.

    • Hi Emily,

      You’re absolutely correct. Teachers are rational beings; they’re not going to try and integrate technology into what they do if they can’t count on it working. Unfortunately, school districts have a long history of meager support (at best). That’s one of the reasons why we work with administrators to try and help them understand what better technological and instructional support looks like.

      We have a long way to go on many aspects of the system… [sigh]

  35. Great post and I fully agree. Too much allowance is given to those who refuse to even explore the opportunities of net-based learning.
    I’ve written my comments to this on my blog, The Corridor of Uncertainty (http://acreelman.blogspot.com)under the heading No excuses.

  36. Scott,
    Wow, quite a discussion generated! Of course we all think our opinions are the right ones too!

    Here’s my story…I taught in a school district for 14 years. (This school was the local “leader” in education for Western Nebraska.) Yet, it wasn’t until I left to teach at an alternative school three years ago that I even heard some of this tech lingo. Was I an effective teacher? I like to think so. I had great relationships with (most of) my students and feel like their content knowledge grew consistently. Yet we had regular white boards, one library/computer lab for the entire school of one thousand, and very little technology.

    So, does technology equate itself to effective teaching? Yes and no. The relationship is first and foremost. Without this being established, no learning will occur regardless of the tools being used to teach. Next, tech support is absolutely critical. We wouldn’t go around with a broken leg without a cast to support the healing process; we need the support to create healthy learning for our students. We need computers in more than one lab. We need education to support that shift so we can be confident in what we hold true and dear. We need choices. It isn’t that every teacher needs to use every tool, but that every teacher is given some options of what tools are available and some ideas of how to use these tools.

    Technology is not content; it is, however, support in the educational process. So not letting teachers off the hook includes having solid tech support, solid administration, and solid purpose to the tools being used!

    I now use technology every day in a 1:1 environment. It works great and our kids are prepared in ways that other students in other public schools are not. It is community, state-wide, and national awareness that will help implement the shift in education. We can’t rank 55 out of 55 in IT (YouTube: Learning to Change…Changing to Learn.)

  37. Technology is a great tool, but it is only one element of education. There is always a fashionable “essential” skill that “must” be learnt. One hundred years ago it was probably the ability to read Latin, or some other skill that is considered largely irrevelant today. The idea that anyone can take the simplistic position (and expect to be taken seriously)that professional educators cannot be effective if they do not use the same tools that others may consider invaluable is both sad and narrow minded. Underpinning every effective teaching and learning relationship is (suprise, suprise), an effective realtionship. Lining up endless examples of the latest and greatest software packages does not build effective relationships, regardless of whether you are one of the lucky few who operate in a 1:1 environment.

    • Varsha,

      Your comment drew me back here because I think it demonstrates, once again, a huge missing component in most teacher education – history.

      The lack of real history of education courses is what leaves so many teachers completely unaware of why schools do what they do, and leaves them confused about what the tools of education are.

      You say, “There is always a fashionable “essential” skill that “must” be learnt. One hundred years ago it was probably the ability to read Latin, or some other skill that is considered largely irrelevant today,” but this is simply wrong. Latin is a subject – a topic. It is content. It is not a technology. The technologies you probably use in your classroom are not very different from those used 100 years ago – you use printed books made with mass-produced pulp-based paper. You use desks and chairs in a classroom. You use Blackboards or the closely linked successor technologies (Whiteboards, Interactive WhiteBoards). Your students have pens and paper. You have class periods of time. You meet in a classroom.

      Those are the technologies, dating to the 15th Century in some cases but introduced into schools in the 1840s-1890s, which you embrace, the technologies you have “naturalized” in your mind to a point where you no longer consider how they work, which students they favor, which students they disable.

      A school 100 years ago which operated – technologically – like a school from 80 years before – no printed books for students (just a few hornbooks passed around), no BlackBoards, few windows (and thus light), teachers hired as much for their quill-cutting capabilities as for anything else, would have been severely limited in pedagogical paths to follow in 1910 terms. Not that good teaching would have been impossible, but because the path to academic success would have been narrower, for technological reasons, and students leaving that school would have lacked 20th Century skills.

      Of course – if you were comfortable with this century’s technology you would have read the comments here – and you would know much of this already, and your comment might have either embraced or challenged that thinking.

      • Thank you for your reply, Ira.
        How fortunate it is that my 15th century mindset and 18th century skill set allows me to understand your intent. Oh yeah, and the transformational nature of technological change. What more could the history teacher in me want (other than for an obviously educated person, such as yourself, to perhaps understand language as a technology)?
        Indeed, the obvious fact that I am embracing technological change by posting this reply seems to defy logic, or at least your brand of it. Well meaning as it may be, your presumptive arrogance that, since I do not see technology itself as the only key to effective education, that I must be an ignornant technophobe, is somewhat unfortunate. Similarly, it is disappointing that, in replying to my post, it appears that you are unable to acknowledge the central point of my initial post, that it is human relationships that underpin all learning, regardless of the mechanisms used to facillitate the process. To be an effecetive educator, you must be able to manage effective learning relationships before you dazzle students with the latest software.
        I use technology (electronic, lingusitic, mechanical etc) everyday, in an effort to expand potential, both my own and that of the secondary and tertiary students I work with.
        I do not reject the need to grow and change with the changing world. Instead, I aim to provide balance against those who seek to impose the view that, to question a single minded focus on the adoption of latest technological change, is to oppose transformational change in education. Neither this discussion, nor the chair and desk you likely used to compose your vitriolic post, are going away (unless your latest i-phone app has taught you to levitate your way through life), and those of us who see technology as a means to an objective (rather than the objective itself) are not going to creep quietly into the corner to sit silently beneath your digitised censure.

        • Varsha,
          You seem to be stating an opinion about technology that is off the point of the original post, and ignores most of the very substantive comments made thereafter. For instance, I didn’t see the vitriol in Ira’s reply to which you refer. I saw a fairly cogent challenge to the thinking you had expressed, but no vitriol.
          And, an ability to read Latin has relevance to many things, still today. It is one of those abilities that appears useless to those who don’t possess it, just as those who don’t understand the choice to which Steve refers in the original post of this thread fail to understand that there is even a choice to be made.

        • More sadly, the teachers pushing Web 2.0, mostly of the 40 and under generation, don’t have a problem foisting on children their faulty pop culture inspired values that places style over substance, artifice over quality, and self-indulgence over sacrifice.

  38. Varsha,

    Impressive anger. But I am angry too. In 1995 I, and many others, were begging educators to adopt new technologies which would broaden the success opportunities to a wider range of students. Text-To-Speech and Speech Recognition which might “undisable” kids. Digitized text sources which might conquer rural school resource limitations. Global connections which could offer new engagement opportunities for all.

    For 15 years refusniks and their apologists have conspired to keep education an elite pursuit via their continued embrace of 19th Century technologies, constantly using the fraudulent arguments and accusations you make above.

    Enough. The educational structures of the past have crippled the majority of humans long enough. It is time for us to be better than that.

    • I am glad you are angry, but I do see your anger as misdirected. I am neither a refusnik, nor an apologist, for those who seek to stifle change. I am not some disinterested teeacher who simply cannot muster the care or energy to learn new ways to help others learn.

      Your attempts to catagorise those that express views that challenge your own as elitists and wreakers is trapped in a paradigm that you appear to want to leave behind, yet here we are. That you are so angry that you choose to vent at an educator who calls for a view of transformational change in education that includes appreciation of multiple points of view, simply serves to illustrate your tunnel vision. Simplistic, and, to be honest, I thought you had something more intersting to say.

      That you believe that that the struggle to transform education is somehow limited to the time since 1995 only shows a profound lack of awareness of history, and of the changes that are being wrought the world over. I don’t want to limit the use of technology, I want acknowledgement of the importance of the people behind the LED screen, instead of hiding behind tired generalisations and condescending lables.

      • Varsha,

        I’d keep this up, but I’m about to present 11th Century Scotland – in UDL form – to a 15 and 16-year-olds in North Carolina, from where I am in Michigan. 15 and 16-year-olds who have, perhaps once, been more than 50 miles from home.

        The technologies of this century are absolutely necessary components of good pedagogy in this world. To not know how to leverage them for student advantage – all students advantage – is educational malpractice.

        Note: You will know that what you are saying about my attitudes is untrue by simply clicking on my name. A courtesy you seem unable to return to this global conversation.

    • Yes, let’s discuss elitism, but the type of “elitism” that I observe, the kind that separates haves and have-nots, the kind that don’t have the resources to buy and maintain cell phones and cell phone accounts, or the kind that have to pay bills rather than plunk down $500 for an iFad.

  39. By the way. No desk. No chair. Just a BlackBerry.

  40. This comment thread is getting tiresome, as is the whole debate no matter where or when it rears its ugly head. Clearly technology is important. We can argue until we are blue in the face, and many in this comment thread have, why kids need to have tech skills and why teachers need to keep up with tech in order to serve their needs. I refuse to believe, however, that the appearance of such a disconnect between many teachers and their ability to fluently integrate technology in their classrooms is the result of sloth-like attitude toward change or reluctance to keep learning themselves. There is a factor in this equation that always skews the results.

    Very few of these teachers who appear not to be keeping up with technology will, for example, rarely hesitate to learn or even apply their learning about technology when they need to use it to help them sell their house, pay their bills, order digital photos to be printed, or look for a job. So far as they can use it for personal needs I don’t see a learning curve problem or even a reluctance problem. Most teachers also are highly motivated to do what is good for their students and in the integration of things that improve learning other than technology I rarely hear complaints that they are not living up to expectations. There must be something else that is causing this problem.

    So, most teachers can and do learn technology and most teachers do what they believe is right for student learning in their classrooms. This should equate, by this logic, to teachers then use technology to improve learning in their classrooms. This is not what usually happens though. There are two missing variables in this equation: infrastructure and beliefs. Too often our schools do not have the infrastructure to offer support that teachers need to utilize technology effectively for teaching. This became evident to me last week when a teacher said in a staff meeting that at her old school she felt like she was a better teacher because she had the technology support to lift her up.

    The other variable, belief, is evident in this teacher’s stated frustration. It is a belief that teaching begets learning and that it is what a teacher does, the quality of their performance that is the primary factor that leads to student learning. The belief is that agency resides within the teacher. Successful technology integration only produces amplified results when in its integration agency is given to the learner, when it becomes a tool to help learners learn, not teachers teach. Of course, as a learning tool the variable of support also plays a part.

    This means letting go of an old paradigm, a 19th century way of thinking about school. But, what complicates this letting go and makes us nervous is we still feel we are measured against that old 19th century standard, that it is what we do in control of the classroom that produces learning. Even most teachers who agree that the learner should be in charge of their own learning are afraid to let the old way of thinking go and they are right to be afraid. Most administrators sit on the fence on this issue too. In the past ten years I have had principals who gave me high marks when I did a good job putting on the horse and pony show in front of the classroom. How would those same administrators assess my teaching in a classroom where I let the students control the learning? I bet some of them would consider that evidence enough to have grounds for dismissal.

    Teachers are stymied not only by a difficulty to accept a truth about teaching and learning that conflicts with what they were taught to believe but also by fear that when they finally do make that conversion that they will be the only one. So, we get stuck. Faced with this the calculated answer is not to go with what works best but stick with what has worked well enough and is generally acceptable.

    I would also like to add that that old belief about teaching and learning has been around for a very long time now and part of that belief, the part about the teacher possessing the knowledge and imparting it to kids, is in direct threat when faced with technology. A teacher who has been taught to believe that they are needed for the knowledge they have and that that knowledge gives them authority in the classroom is threatened by technology. That threat needs to be approached lightly. If one speaks the truth too harshly the faithful will simply label them a blasphemer and ignore the truth in their message.

  41. The push to demonize the “sage on the stage” approach in favor of “student centric learning” is just another means for the 40 and under generation of teachers to avoid the hard work and responsibility of leading a classroom with a firm authoritative hand. It also underscores their inability to project entertaining personalities that leave students with no choice but to allow their attention challenged brains to pay as close attention as they would to their favorite TV show. This approach is draining physically, so that means there won’t be enough left over for any useless texting and twittering, the kind of stuff that isn’t a productive use of time. I mean really, does the world have to know how awesome someone is or what you had for breakfast? Sorry, my ego doesn’t need to be stroked by a hundred different strangers.

  42. The push to demonize the “sage on the stage” approach in favor of “student centric learning” is just another means for the 40 and under generation of teachers to avoid the hard work and responsibility of leading a classroom with a firm authoritative hand. It also underscores their inability to project entertaining personalities that leave students with no choice but to allow their attention challenged brains to pay as close attention as they would to their favorite TV show. This approach is draining physically, so that means there won’t be enough left over for any useless texting and twittering, the kind of stuff that isn’t a productive use of time. I mean really, does the world have to know how awesome someone is or what you had for breakfast? Sorry, my ego doesn’t need to be stroked by a hundred different strangers…..

  43. Mark,
    That fact that you think that using web 2.0, or using technology well, or developing a solid student-centered classroom isn’t hard work merely shows how little you’ve bothered to explore that which you loathe. The fact that you think that twitter and texting is only an exercise in self-aggrandizement also demonstrates how little you’ve looked into these tools.

    • Chris: The definition of “hard work” differs greatly between me and the 40 and under generation, an American demographic that has never known real suffering, hardship, or have gone without wanting for anything. You see, I fortunately arrive from a culture that’s far removed from the FAST, EASY, FUN trap that many in American society is sucked into.

      I can value simplicity and using just what’s necessary to do the job. That’s how I teach and I am very successful, I wonder how many of the rest of you could teach kids with severe disabilities without losing your patience or your sanity? Guess what, your trendy gadgets don’t mean squat to kids who have difficulties with even the most basic aspects of human behavior.

      I guarantee you that I have studied these social media timewasters
      extensively. Why bother with twitter when you already have email or bulletin board systems which have worked well for years?

      Retro-adolescent “adults” need new toys every year to maintain their happiness. If they aren’t consuming or spending $$$, they aren’t satisfied,

      • Well Mr. Hauck, you’ve never learned not dismiss the generations your students belong to, which makes me doubt your teaching effectiveness. And you doubt your students capabilities too, which is – perhaps – another reason to consider retirement.

        It is funny, working with real educators recently we discovered how the iPhone (or similar touch screen devices, I’m no Apple shill) suddenly opened up communication for some students assumed to be “non-communicative” by teachers with attitudes similar to yours.

        And since I work with disabled students every day, at all levels, and have for a long time, I can tell you that what brought me to this field was the liberation possible through these tools, from the constraints of disability (my own included).

        So, Mr. Hauck, I’m sorry, but you are limiting the futures of all the students around you. I can hear your bitterness and anger, but that’s not what we need in classrooms today. We need educators who see possibilities.

        • Truth be told, ira, most of my students think twitter is stupid as well.

          The difference between people like you and people like me, ira, is that you place your faith in trendy and frivolous gadgets designed for techno geeks as the lights that will lead humanity.

          I place my faith in the human brain, the first and best computer, the heart, and the soul. Unfettered, uncluttered, pure and simple. People who are not corrupted by consumerism and false values promoted by pop culture.

          Humans must look within themselves to find the way. No gadget that St. Steven of Cupertino or any service that some geek from Silicon Valley invents can do it.

          The truth is, your heralded generation of under 40s are generally lazy and only interested in doing what they want to do, not what they are told to do (like previous generations).

          The “being told what to do” strategy served mankind very well for thousands of years, Whole nations and empires were formed via adult centric societies.

          Now you have a generation of smart asses who think they can compete with adults and command the same respect and status without having paid their dues to society, without having accomplished anything.

          What a joke.

          Yet, teachers like you feed their egos and permit this undeserved ascendence because you don’t have the guts to say “no,” just like the rest of the other failed generation of parents who raised these kids.

          • Allow me to restate that I have met and have worked with a small handful of under-40s who adhere to traditional morality and strategies that have been proven to work. They are not enslaved by trendy gadgets that pop culture tells them they have to have lest they be considered “unhip.”

          • Mr. Hauck,
            Ira most certainly doesn’t need my assistance to support the dedication he demonstrates daily to the hearts, minds, and souls of his family, colleagues, and students. But I know for a fact that he’s deeply compassionate and supportive to people he’s never even met. If you’d read even a fraction of what he’s written on Twitter or on his blog you, too, would know this.
            I think both you and your students would benefit from exploring the possibilities that Twitter and some of the other tools of this century provide.

            And by the way, I’ll be celebrating my 60th birthday in two months (send chocolate) and I just got a note (email) from my dad, 88, about something he noticed on Facebook. He also sent a scribbled note from his notepad in the envelope with the drawing my mom made for my kids for Halloween; he’s still trying to keep his kid on the path, the one that wanders all over the prairie.

          • Mr. Hauck,
            Again, if all you find on Twitter are the self-ramblings of the GTL crowd, then you simply aren’t using it to its full potential. The wealth if information that I’ve found via posts and suggestions from others has been enlightening. I’d encourage you to try it again.

            I’m curious how you reconcile the thinkers, writers, and creative minds you admire–these people, many (most?)of whom made their marks and contributions because they refused to follow orders–with your criticism of how my generation simply refuses to do what we’re told. I’m also curious how you place faith solely in the human brain, heart, and soul, and not in the wealth of technological creations that they develop.

            For what it’s worth, my wife, who teaches self-contained special education, can’t believe that someone who teaches students similar to hers can’t find usefulness in technology. She constantly marvels at how technology has enriched her teaching and her student’s lives.

  44. There are a lot of opinions here. I agree most with Ira, Scott, and Carl.

    After teaching for 5 years and working high-tech for 20 years before returning to teaching, I can tell you that (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tahTKdEUAPk) Learning to Change…Changing to Learn is right: every industry on the planet uses technology as a tool for communication and work, and schools are WAY behind.

    Teachers and students should take advantage of the things technology lets you do (student-centered learning, in ways you can’t do in a normal classroom). Like any tool, you have to learn its advantages and disadvantages. Tech support and training are needed.

    I disagree that being in a room would be a better way to have this conversation. We’re all in different locations (I’m in the Boston area, fx) and just read this (really long!!!) list today, though the original post is about 2 weeks old. If we were all in the same room, we wouldn’t all be able to hear each other. Technology lets you choose what to read or not. So, technology trumps time, space, and individual choice.

  45. Great post Dan and so wonderful to see someone as mature age as you (and your dad..WOW!!) delighting in this wonderful technology we now have. Awesome tools that allow us to communicate so seamlessly.

  46. Chris: your wife assumes too much. She doesn’t even know the age group or the level of disability I’m dealing with.

    I’ve used plenty of augmentative communication devices in the past with special needs students. The difference between that tech and consumer junk pushed by Madison Avenue is significant to me.

    The classroom deserves to use tech that’s designed exclusively FOR the classroom, not consumer level junk.

    Yes, that’s exactly what I think of most products available on the consumer market. I’m also a person that only buys the essentials in life. I live frugally and I think everyone else should, too.

    After all, that’s part of what made the rank and file working class of previous generations great… their basic no-nonsense values and strict morality.

    • I guess I just have to say again how horrified I am to find such proud ignorance in an educator, which, combined with Mr. Hauck’s Soviet Government-level non-tolerance of dissenting opinion, sounds like the most toxic mix a classroom can experience.

      Ah well, the “frugal” Mr. Hauck wastes a fortune in his school’s funds because he wants to use limited production devices rather than adapting the basic tools of this century. He denies his students the sophistication of even the very best AAC systems WHILE spending absurd amounts of money because he is not intellectually curious enough to investigate the world in which he lives in.

      Worst of all, because Mr. Hauck chooses ignorance for himself, he chooses to keep his students disconnected from their world and their potentials.

      He pretends this is generational. It is, of course, not. There are those who seek knowledge and seek out the world in every generation. And there are small people and petty dictators in every generation, who want everyone to follow their mindless rules, ensuring that no one threatens their little power centers.

      I won’t respond to Mr. Hauck anymore. Rather, I just feel sorry for him. And I feel much worse for anyone forced to have him as a teacher.

  47. The number of lies that Ira Socol has said about me is simply astounding, but befitting a self-styled edublog “rock star” who every day basks in heaping does of sycophantic praise from his lemming like gadget freak followers. Since I’m one to not buy into that pop culture BS, he resorts to distortions and fabrications, making him appear as a vindictive schmuck.

    By the way, Ira, my organization has little money to spend since we’re a private non-profit. Millions? That’s a laugh. I teach in a building that was built in 1952. I buy certain classroom supplies out of my own pocket.

    And you know what? I can do more with little than any of the rest of you who are materially richer and more entitled.

    So ruminate on that and go play with your toys, kid.

    • Fear.
      Fear is driving some of this conversation now.
      …that no one hears me
      …that no one understands me
      …that no one will be like me
      …that everyone will be more ignorant than me
      …that other people know much more than I know

      *I* fear that this conversation is being completely LOST, overtaken by fear, anger and disrespect. Let’s get back to the point…what’s good for kids?

  48. Mark,

    I shouldn’t have to do this, but I need to give a disclaimer: Read any of my comments to this post or most any of the posts on my blog and you will see that I am not naive in my views toward technology. I, unlike you, have thought deeply about how technology changes our societies for the better and worse. Your reactionary comments don’t seem to stem from deep reflection or even slight amounts of reading on the subject. You clearly have an agenda. Interestingly, your comments illustrate how technology changes us. The anonymous nature of the internet encourages people to do and say things they would never do in person.

    You are right that many people adopt technology just because it is “trendy”. I always got upset when administrators bragged to others about the great things I did in my classroom, and then went on to only talk about the tech I used instead of the deep levels of thinking with which my students engaged. Many people do not consider the trade-offs that come with all technology. Too many people get blinded by the “shiny new objects” and they use the technology with little consideration for student impact on learning – both positive or negative.

    However, your comments give away your ignorance. You seem to believe only “new” technologies come with inherent problems. You likely have a chalk board, desks, and books in your room. These technologies changed our classrooms for better and worse as much as digital technologies do. In today’s world these “old” technologies have even more power for harm than digital technologies because of their widespread adoption. Books decreased our ability to remember, the chalkboard or “slates” encouraged students to lower standards as they could simply erase their ideas and start over, most desks promote individual work rather than group work. School buildings themselves (even those built in the 1950’s) encourage students to see learning in the classroom separate from the real world.

    You see, EVERY technology comes with inherent trade-offs. At no point do you question your “old” technologies. Because you don’t recognize the faults of the technologies with which you are comfortable, your thinking is no different than the people you criticize. That said, many of the people you do criticize have thought about the trade-offs. In Ira’s case, the access afforded by many technologies is worth the trade off that accompanies the access.

    You speak of the “under 40” generation as a group. You seem to think everyone under 40 is the same (with a few exceptions). This kind of thinking has marginalized groups of people for millennia. While the “under 40” group is not what I would call “marginalized”, the ease with which you dismiss entire groups of people makes me wonder what other groups you dismiss a priori. I hope you never teach underrepresented groups as I fear you would only contribute to a dialogue that keeps them as “others”. I hope you speak to your students about possibilities of the future, not how the past was “better”. The past was better for you, but if you really do teach students identified as “sped” or “disabled”, the past wasn’t a better place for them. Your view that the past was inherently better is not more informed or better than those who assume the future is inherently better. Our society is constantly shifting, deciding what to conserve and what to subvert is an important task. But to say I’ll take all of X (in your case, X is the past) is intellectually passive. To paraphrase the Bible, we are charged with the task of binding and loosing – not with the task of accepting dogma.

    Now, I know the above might have been long-winded and difficult to follow. I hope you notice ways in which I agree with you, but I also hope you notice the gapping holes apparent in your point of view and that anything with which I agree is purely coincidental as you have clearly not actually thought about these issues.

    In case you didn’t quite understand the above, I’ll summarize:

    You are arrogant and counterproductive. Your ideas clearly have little thought behind them. Your presence here shows that you don’t fully buy into your own thinking. Your unwillingness to engage in meaningful dialogue is what is wrong with this country – everyone wants a clear-cut answer that requires little thought. Unfortunately, the rest of us live in the real world – a world fraught with ambiguity and in which contextual decisions need to be made.

    Now, to play your game of “who can be more arrogant?”:

    How does it feel to be intellectually bitch-slapped by someone under 40?

    Have a nice night. I have to go finish a dissertation, plan for teaching tomorrow, wake up with my 1 year old, grade students’ papers, and read documents for committee meetings. How ever will I get it all done with my poor work ethic? I’m probably going to have to take a nap first as writing this post was just too much work for me. Thanks for helping me understand the source of my own laziness.

  49. “How does it feel to be intellectually bitch-slapped by someone under 40?”

    Nothing is more pathetic than a suburban Caucasian kid imitating the patter of some urban thug loser.

    Is this how a leader of young people would express themselves, in that kind of guttural subliterate patois?

    “To paraphrase the Bible, we are charged with the task of binding and loosing – not with the task of accepting dogma.”

    Yet, the judeo-christian bible is nothing BUT acceptance of dogma, plus a lot of fantastic fairy tales.

    Sorry, Jerrid, you’re going to have to make your case more effectively.

    “At no point do you question your “old” technologies.”

    Because I know they work and time has proven it. The tools I favor won’t expose me or my kids to electromagnetic radiation and possibly cause cancer. I also favor tools that aren’t part of pop culture or what kids think is “happening.” I’m fifty years old, why would I want to bother with kiddie culture and its adjuncts? It’s for the most part, mindnumbing doggerel.

    Golly, how did America rise to the rank of a world power in the 20th century using such antiquated tools?

    Hmm, all your trendy gadgets in the 21st century and America is sliding toward Third World status.

    “How ever will I get it all done with my poor work ethic?”

    If you were really interested in changing the lives of children, you certainly wouldn’t be wasting yout time teaching in college. You would have stayed in the K-12 classrooms.

    Since I taught at the college level for ten years, I know it’s only about advancement and chasing tenure, plus writing those boring and pedantic research papers that perhaps thirty people will ever read.

    The students are secondary.

    That’s why I got out. I taught at one of the leading parochial universities in the nation and it was a complete joke how students were treated by most faculty.

  50. 1) You are right, I should not lower my language standards to that of yours. You are all the anti-intellectual any of us need.

    2) A thesaurus not not make you smart.

    3) You clearly missed all of my pertinent points – again, you cannot, in good conscience, lump me in with the naive technophiles whom you loath so much. Our discussion left the realm of technology long ago. Now we are talking about dispositions.

    4) You are right that most post secondary instructors are not effective teachers. But you are generalizing – there are always pockets of excellence. Not all universities promote the “publish or perish” mantra. I purposely chose a school that places emphasis on teaching. You probably wouldn’t be able to get a job at a school like that.

    5) I got out of the k-12 classroom because I was sick of watching my students go on to teachers such as yourself – teachers who undone the liberation I had helped my students achieve.

    I hope that by preparing future teachers to be critical consumers who root their decisions in sound education philosophy and research, the dynamics of schools can be changed. I see my work as a way to enable idealistic young teachers to reach for and achieve their goals.

    Unfortunately, I have to spend quite a bit of time preparing my students to deal with teachers like you rather than further their learning on how to teach effectively. While I would like to spend more time investigating high-quality teaching, if teachers are not prepared to deal with people like you, they will likely cave to your bigoted peer pressure that only serves to maintain a status quo that produces widgets rather than thinkers. You are clearly a widget – with no real opinions or understanding of your own.

    I still get emails, facebook comments, and twitter messages from my students wondering why other teachers spoon-feed them answers and don’t encourage them to think. (Not once have I had a student write me saying they wished more teachers used technology – my students understood that our use of tech was not about the tech, but about learning).

    So thank you for giving me even stronger rationale to continue to prepare teachers effectively. Perhaps, if we get enough teachers doing good things and teaching kids to think rather than fall in line, you will be the anomaly and you will have to change. For now, you have the upper hand, but I love a good revolution.

    You’ll likely respond and further make it clear that you are not interested in actual dialogue – and I’ll probably get red in the face at your arrogance and ignorance. I’ll likely not respond as I have better things to do. However, I hope you continue to post – maybe even start your own blog. I would love to use you and your attitude as the antithesis of what kids need.

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