Ed tech advocates: You can pack up and go home now

Good news!

According to a recent Tech&Learning survey of its readers regarding use of digital technologies in their schools, over 90% of the survey respondents reported that they were either ‘pretty good and getting better’ or ‘truly 21st century.’


In other words… pack up your suitcases, conference speakers. Put away your soapboxes, ed techies. Shut down your blogs and Twitter accounts, tech advocates. Our work here is DONE.

Woo hoo! Nice job!

Image credit: Tech&Learning

40 Responses to “Ed tech advocates: You can pack up and go home now”

  1. This is a wonderful example of how stats can be used to show anything you want. They asked their readers this question and since their site is about technology and education people that are going there are going to be more tech savvy then your typical teacher. So we still have a long way to go to get this level of adoption among all teachers.

    • “more tech savvy then your typical teacher”? They may believe they are, but that doesn’t make it true.

      I think the lesson from this chart is that people who get their information from magazines are so far behind that they don’t even know how far behind they are.

  2. While the survey itself is virtually meaningless, your conclusion is not necessarily so. I don’t think we should be tech advocates. We should be teaching and learning advocates. Conference soapboxes can be very self-serving.

  3. Hold on! We have learned a lot and spent a lot of money but many of us have not connected the dots. As noted our use of technology as a tool for learning must become so seamless that we cannot distinguish the various parts. We may not need as much convincing now but we still need a great deal of assistance and encouragement as we design a new paradigm for teaching and learning. Many of us are just now ready to move on to level 2. We need the visionaries’ continued leadership and support.

  4. Maybe it’s time to focus on the learning instead of the tech.

    • Well said Russ. It is about the learning, but shouldn’t we have students learn how to use tools of this century?

      • Whatever best facilitates the learning. I see enough let’s-throw-new-tech-at-em-and-hope-they-learn thinking that I think it’s time we focus on learning and use the best tools for the situation. It’s a subtle shift in the way I see things approached by the ed tech advocates Scott speaks of.

        As far as learning the actual tools, when there’s a need to learn them — when there is value in learning them — they will be learned whether we’re teaching them or not. Who taught our students to SMS? Not us. They needed to learn because there was social value for them. I learned how to use a leaf blower within the last few weeks because I needed to get rid of the leaves in my yard. I had motivation because there was value in learning the tool. Let the learning drive the tool-learning. I’m genuinely not interested in what century the tools are from. I’m interested in students learning. When they need specific tools, we’ll find them and they’ll learn to use them because the learning wouldn’t happen if they didn’t.

        • Russ, I get what you’re saying here, and I mostly agree with you. BUT… we also have to be cognizant of the fact that students will NOT learn much of what they need on their own. We have lots of evidence that they learn what they need for personal, social purposes but not for more academic, discipline-specific, and/or productive work-type purposes. A leaf blower is a simple machine. Using complex digital technologies in complex ways for productive work that’s valued in a hypercompetitive global economy is a little different…

          Plus, if we think they’ll just learn it on their own, then we’re not really necessary, are we? I’m not ready to go that far, are you?

          • Scott, if they need to learn it they will. The problem is that they don’t agree with us about what they need to learn. (We don’t necessarily agree with each other for that matter.) While I get a lot of pleasure and hopefully gain some wisdom from reading about the colonial history of what is now the US, others may see that as a waste of time (like my wife.)

            I do believe we give our students a wide variety of experiences and opportunities to learn, including digital tools. Content is a very tricky subject…

          • I’m asking for a simple change in mindset and approach:

            Ed tech advocate: We should use Skype!
            Learning advocate: We should connect our kids with other schools around the globe so they can have diverse conversations and learn with instead of learn aboutnother cultures.

            Ed tech advocate: We should blog!
            Learning advocate: We should connect our kids to readers around the world so they begin to understand the connective nature of writing.

            Ed tech advocate: We should use Google Docs to go paperless!
            Learning advocate: My students need better ways to transparently revise and share their work with more than just one partner in the classroom.

            I think the Ed tech advocate has run its course. Not sure there was a big need in the first place. I know I fell in the trap for a while of being tech-hungry and it set me back as a teacher. Now I focus on learning.

            You’ve written about how teachers shouldn’t be let off the hook for knowing about, using, and learning the new tools. I agree to an extent. The problem is that “Ed tech advocacy” has not just given them an excuse not to, it has given them a crutch. Why do any thinking when someone else will do it for me? Teachers are professionals. Ed tech advocates have treated them like babies by focusing on tools. Show us the advanced learning that can take place and we’ll learn what needs to be learned to get at that higher-level learning with our kids.

        • Russ, I’m with you, but I think that has always been my job as tech integration specialist. I can change my job title, but the fact is I have been the link between technology and learning. I have been showing how these tools can lead to new ways of learning and deeper learning.

          Unfortunately, your vision of teachers as jumping on board as soon as they see the learning possibilities hasn’t played out for many of our teachers. This is an ongoing discussion that takes time, energy, support, and focus. Without people to lead this discussion, it won’t happen.

          • I apologize for giving off the impression that change is immediate. It’s not. Not when leading with tech and not when leading with learning. Just as I do with my students I start with the end in mind. When I introduce a lesson, I start by showing them the big picture. It’s about building relationships and having conversations.

            I’d rather start and end with learning. I know this is a long process but that’s the process I feel we should take. It’s the process my district takes and we see learning-based technology use every day that wasn’t happening in the past. I’ve also been in a district where I saw tech-for-tech’s-sake and that came from shortcuts and showing off technology as the goal. I’m not saying anything about other districts, but in my experience, starting with deeper levels of learning is a long road that leads to deeper levels of learning.

  5. Scott: You won!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Will the “here’s how to use this cool new tool” conference workshops end now? How about the “here are the cool tools our kids are used to using at home…you really need to start using them in your classroom so that our country isn’t left behind” keynotes – are they going to end, too?

  7. The funny thing is that I use more technology to support learning than most teachers I know and I’d still rate myself as a “hardly any” guy when trying to explain just how much I know about finding ways to get students to use digital tools as learners.

    Does that mean I’m waaaayyyy behind or the only guy ignorant enough to be honest about my ignorance when it comes to using new tools to change the teaching/learning transaction in my classroom?


    • I think you’re smart enough to know what you don’t know.

      I’ve heard that experts typically don’t believe they are experts — self-questioning leads them to the continuous improvement that brings their skills and knowledge to an expert level.

  8. Sweet! Thanks Scott. I was getting tired of writing anyway. 🙂

  9. This only highlights the difficulty of the overall task that remains. 91% of respondents feel comfortable and comfortable people aren’t very open to change.

  10. I highlighted your post in my Daily Digest of Education related blogs today as I thought other teachers would find it of interest. You can see it here: http://bit.ly/cepAog

  11. I am skeptical of self-reported proficiency claims and caution like another reader wrote that “comfortable” often means unwilling to change. My soapbox goes beyond using technology applications in the classroom, but how to do so in an engaging, effective, and critical thinking manner. (Yes, I also agree what clearly constitutes that criteria is still a work-in-progress however; children are not “standard” so I don’t believe any single definition can or should be blanketed across education.) Just this past Tuesday, I visited an elementary campus (I teach 3rd grade) to learn from a campus that boasted being saturated in technology and model teachers who use it. A campus specialist greeted us, and offered, “we can visit ms. Xzy’s 5th grade class. She’s great at technology and is even using it now!” We entered a class with every students at their desk, copying the worksheet the teacher was while-group filling out under the document camera. Yeah, what great take on 21st century overhead technology. In another room a teacher disclaimed, “I use technology a lot, but mostly for grammar and social studies because, you know, reading doesn’t really lend itself to using technology.” She then proceeded to show us how to capture (not import without frames) a word doc to be used a template (worksheet) on the interactive white board. “it’s not entirely creative, but the kids enjoy it and they get to learn to use the pen!” Wow, learning to use a pen in 5th grade?! Lastly, there were students that logged on to desktops to access their teacher’s website (I started to get excited, as this is one way i make resources available to my students) but my thrill ended when the kiddos opened a power point and copied each slide “for notes”. My observations saddened me in that these teachers were the going best examples of “classroom technology integration” not only for their campus but for visiting schools. No one even knew that that didn’t know! I’m sure these teachers would self-profess being “comfortable”. I guess it’s better that using the document camera as a paperweight… I feel like the little boy in the parade crowd of The Emperor’s New Clothes watching school leadership brag about something that isn’t there.

    • Mo: I found your commentary sadly indicative of the faulty mindset of teachers who place too much importance in the WOW! factor of technology.

      It wasn’t enough for you that the students in the observed classrooms were engaged and having fun on a rudimentary level.

      You seemed to harbor an expectation that was unrealistic. Practical and pragmatic teacher use what it takes to get the job done with the least amount of fanfare and complexity.

      Whatever happened to the simple and direct approach?

      I’ve observed too many younger teachers, raised to “have it all,” believe that Web 2.0 should be a means to turn their classrooms into virtual tech trade shows that look great on the surface without any real proof of success at the core.

      The show is what’s important to them, not the substance.

      • This rebuttal goes against my better judgment to say anything back, but…a good and effective teacher knows importance should never be on the WOW! factor, but on student learning- I have seen “shows” void of learning without technology, so that’s not the variable to generalize bad teaching by.

        Students can be engaged and not be having “fun”. Maybe they are too tired to protest, maybe they are raised(or threatened) to respect authority and do well in school no matter what, or maybe just maybe since their grade level indicated this us their 6th or 7th year in the school system, they have been conditioned (domesticated) that archaic and boring stand and deliver is the norm. I didn’t ask, so I don’t know, and it would be both judgmental and naive for me to assume.
        History (from what was subjectively determined by the few but recorded for the masses) tells us people can be (and have been) made or forced to do things against their will and that compliance does NOT mean it was by choice or preference…

  12. Talk about preaching to the choir. Who ready Tech & learning , DAH!! tech savvy folks. I that truly is the case, where are these teachers, cuz they sure aren’t in my neck of the woods.

  13. I feel that the majority of teachers, at least where I work, have a knowledge of how to use technology as a basic tool in the classroom. It is kind of like a beginning mechanic that only knows how to use a screw driver and a pair of pliers.

    We need to remember that technology is a tool for teaching. Therefore, the more teacher learn how they can use this powerful tool, the more effective they can be at their jobs. Have you ever seen a master mechanics tool box. They are huge and have every tool a person could imagine. Do they use them all the time? No, but they are they are there and they know how to use them when necessary. A pair of pliers can be used to do many different jobs, but it doesn’t do any job very well.

    It is the same with tech in the classroom. It certainly doesn’t hurt to know the options and how to use them. It might even make a person more effective in the classroom.

  14. Some truths I’ve learned via years of experience:

    People who relate to machinery as they relate to people are seriously troubled.

    The more “tech savvy” a person is, the more boring they likely are.

    • I would agree that a person who relates to a machine better than a person might be troubled. However, when a person figure out how to use the machine to learn and connect with others, I would say that person is on the road to becoming a 21st Century scholar.

      • Jeremy: An on-line connection isn’t real. A real connection is one completed in real time, vis-vis, with some voice recognition.

        There is no substitute for flesh and blood connections with real people, not this artificial nonsense in cyberspace.

        It’s like all these people drooling over virtual reality. I find virtual reality stupid. But then again, many VR advocates were the same people that got something out of hallucinogenic drugs. It’s too hippie counterculture inspired for me to regard seriously.

        I don’t “see” real people on line. I see characters on a screen. I require something more concrete.

        “21st Century Scholar”? That’s a laugh. It’s a meaningless marketing term invented by Madison Avenue.

        You can be a scholar regardless of what the date is on the calendar.

        Again, another artificial construct foisted on society by creeps and hucksters trying to sell you something.

  15. Mark,

    I find it interesting that I am having this conversation, which I feel is quite real, with a person who is living in Pennsylvania, yet we are not talking face to face. We are even discussing ideas.

    I agree that a face to face conversation is always better. However, if this was the only way that I was able to communicate, then I would not be able to have this conversation with you. Living in Colorado, I would not be able to communicate and learn with my friends in Australia, Europe, or Asia. Since I am a teacher, my travel budget is quite small. I would probably never have the chance to learn from educators in other countries.

  16. “Since I am a teacher, my travel budget is quite small. I would probably never have the chance to learn from educators in other countries.”

    That’s correct. You would make do with the resources at your disposal. You’d confer with your fellow colleagues at your own school or within reasonable travel time. You’d look within yourself to find more answers. You’d read peer reviewed journals that are sent to you or found in your local library or university.

    I don’t buy into this mystique of global communication. In my experience, people hear the word “global” and practically wet themselves with anticipation, thinking that the wisdom of the ages will be revealed because they’re corresponding with someone 10K miles away.

    You see, too many of my colleagues seem delighted by the WOW! factor of technology like little kids on Christmas morning, so the prospect of on-line global communication is thrilling and “awesome” (an overused and trite descriptor).

    I don’t view life in terms of “awesomeness.” I’m fifty years old, not 18, 25, or even 30. I do not possess a child-centric or retro- adolescent attitude, either.

    Personally, I don’t consider what some teacher in Australia can anecdotally relate what they are doing to be valuable to me. If they publish in a peer reviewed journal, then I may pay attention to them if their thesis is compelling enough or related to my own research..

    I am not like my younger colleagues who need to have more of everything like spoiled children, so it is sufficient that I confer with my immediate school colleagues, take a college course, or consult the first and best computer … my own mind.

    I know how to make do on less, which is a lost art in American society.

    Plus, I am one hell of a teacher to boot without catering to the trap of Web 2.0.

    • You’re also one hell of a harasser, aren’t you, David Black…I mean, Mark?

      • You are judged by the company you keep. At least I don’t have to pander to nitwits or kiddie level preoccupations to do my job or to live my life, sweetie.

        A true leader doesn’t follow others, but follows the dictates of their own mind and conscience, no matter how far it departs from collective “norm.”

  17. Everyone, I’m going to repeat what I said in the comment stream for another post. Thanks.


    I can’t think of the last time I deleted and/or censored comments on my blog, but I’d really prefer that we make our points without devolving to personal insults. I think we can vigorously debate ideas without personally attacking individuals. Please?

    [and, yes, I probably should have said this earlier on some other posts]

    • Scott: Let me explain: there have been a few behaviorally challenged teachers who have been following me around the blogsphere for the last several months because they don’t like what I write. Periodically, they’ll track me down and offer some non-sensical attacks that have no basis in reality.

      You see, when teachers stand for positions and philosophies that are built on foundations that are only designed to make themselves look good or to enhance their professional standing, I have to call them on it.

      • Mark, with all due respect, many of my readers and commenters would probably say that you yourself 1) are behaviorally-challenged, and 2) offer nonsensical attacks, and 3) have positions with no basis in reality. In other words, they disagree with you and your perspectives as much as you disagree with theirs.

        It takes a lot for me to delete a comment. So far I have been willing to let the dialogue play out – and let all sides state their perspectives – but I am somewhat dismayed that the overall tone of my comments area – which in the past generally has been challenging but polite – has devolved considerably of late and, unfortunately, I think some of that falls on your shoulders as well as that of others.

        • It would be helpful for you to understand, Scott, that those whom I’ve deemed “behaviorally challenged” have attempted to interfere with my private and professional life behind the scenes by making threats, ratting me out, and implicating a family member who has nothing to do with my on-line activities.

          It’s all explained on my blog:


  18. Maybe someone already said this, but there is a fundamental assumption about the pie chart being unquestioned: Computerization = better learning.

    This is not necessarily the case. Computers can be used in the exact same way a textbook and worksheet once were.

  19. Scott: I couldn’t care less what strangers think about me or what I say. I’m not interested in consensus or appeasing strangers.

    If people don’t understand me, it’s because they don’t want to stare into the pit of hell that is the present state of our American society.

    My commentary is an indictment on the vapid and predictable nature of the education profession, with its slavish reverence for egalitarian reasoning and world collectivism.

    The education system isn’t broken because of failed methodology, the system fails because most of the people working in the system are weak willed, poorly educated, pampered, and forgetful of the lessons taught to Americans by the greatest generation of them all, the World War 2 generation.

    The World War 2 generation succeeded because of their traditional morality and values. They didn’t cry and wail when things got tough. They made do with what they had. They saved their money and didn’t spend it on wasteful things. They thought about working, not goofing off in front of TVs or playing during their off time.

    Generation X/Y fails in many ways because they have no respect for successful historical precedent in the education profession. They think they have all the answers because their parents kept reminding them of how “special” they were while they were growing up. They have no sense of personal sacrifice or know no hardships.

    This is why Generation X/Y can’t manage a system that elevated America to the status of a world power in the 20th century.

    So tell me, Generation X/Yers, where’s America now under your allegedly morally superior tutelage? I’ll tell you where, mired behind other lesser cultures and slowly sliding toward third worldism as far as economic strength.

    Thank God we still have about the best military in the world, next to the IDF (Israeli Defense Force)!

    In this increasingly feminized world where legitimate male behavior has been vilified and demonized, so has the kind take-no-prisoners approach to discourse that made this nation great. I seriously doubt that the Founding Fathers would have discovered the fortitude to challenge and fight the British monarchy if they had played by the rules of gentlemanly engagement or curtsied before those they despised.

    The failure of education is rooted in the decline of American society and the quality of the people in it.

    It doesn’t take a PhD to see that.

    You see, I am not afraid of looking at life through the harshest prism.

    It’s unfortunate that so many others among my education colleagues can’t.

    This is why many of you fail.

    You think machines will save you?

    Think again.

    Scott, I *am* living in reality. Reality can be a foul and festering sty. The faster you realize it, the better off you’ll be.

  20. I’m not one to get into tit-for-tat, and I respect the option to disagree however; I feel my initial comment could use some clarifying so my position is less miscommunicated.
    Teachers are the single most influencing “thing” in a classroom. A good teacher can be effective in the wilderness with only twigs and berries at their disposal. Computers do not necessary = better leaning, in actuality I have come across a myriad of research with conclusions that exemplify the detriment of technology in the classroom on the basis that teachers depend on it more (programs) and actually teach less. My soapbox is technology is here to stay and trillions of dollars are being invested in its commonplace in schools so, let’s utilize its capabilities to meet the needs of today’s learners, not just like a worksheet, or a weight paper for that matter.
    This means going beyond seeing and using technology just as a mode of communication, but as an open-ended medium for creating and applying the required content standards. Rudimentary basics are necessary, but do not necessarily have to be boring. Trust me, I get that a bright-lighted horse and pony show can distract from the lesson, but I get that much brain research supports that today’s students process information differently than past generations and that they can follow the news on tv without the scrolling ticker at the bottom of the screen distracting them from doing so. That’s the beauty of technology and adapting to the progression of the times. Teachers don’t only have to use it as an instruction tool on the forefront- they can teach their lesson with chalk if they want, then assess the bottom line that questions if the student learning occurred or not. Instead of testing them with paper and pen, or a scantron and number 2 pencil, technology opens the door for to give students a voice for themselves, and create something that is more complex that is a right or wrong answer. You can assess their understanding of the curriculum objective in a non-linear manner. Tech and Web 2.0 apps can be integrated to both meet content standards and foster creativity, motivation, 21st century life and critical-thinking skills and engagement. Tech integration is, like everything in life, about balance. It’s about learning, and critically reflecting if learning has occurred, and why or why not. It’s about relationships of knowing your students and accepting the nature of children is that they were not conceived of a standard bland recipe and with a cookie cutter.

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