Educational technology should be about learning, not control

Glass ceiling

JogNog did a short survey of more than 150 teachers and principals across America. One of the questions it asked was, “What are your three biggest challenges to being a great teacher?” The top two responses were motivating students and student behavioral issues.

Over at Education Rethink, Steve from Jognog said, “The technology can create even more control issues in class – more headaches for the teacher. So the technology needs to be simple and consistent.” But the top two responses fall within the category of students aren’t buying what we’re trying to sell them and are instructional/curricular issues, not technology issues.

I’ve got two quick thoughts on this: 

  1. If technology in your classrooms is viewed as a (lack of) control issue, you’ve got bigger issues. It’s not about control. It’s about learning. Yet again, our needs to box in and manage students get in the way of engagement and learning.
  2. As Seymour Papert used to emphasize, good technologies should have low floors (i.e., it’s easy for novices to get started) and high ceilings (i.e., it’s easy for experts to work on increasingly sophisticated projects). ‘Simple and consistent’ may be desirable low floor characteristics but we need much, much more for our students.

What are your thoughts?

Image credit: Web architecture, Bigstock

3 Responses to “Educational technology should be about learning, not control”

  1. I absolutely LOVE that idea from Seymour Papert. As I embark on using Twitter to help my students develop PLNs for their personal blogs this year, I will keep this mantra in mind. Thanks for sharing!

    -Kerri Schweibert

  2. Hi Scott – I hope your readers find the survey results useful.

    I agree with your ‘low floors / high ceilings’ quote from Papert. It is also a key to any good game (e.g. chess – easy to start playing / hard to be a master).

    I’d just argue that the floor for a lot of educational technology needs to be even lower / simpler to get started with.
    Teachers have a ton more stuff to do these days and the same (or less) time to do it – so when a new technology comes in it has to be simple – or as a colleague of mine pointed out – it is like visiting a relative who has a new baby – they are happy to see you but your darn well better leave behind a baby gift that saves them a lot more time than you took up in your visit.

    We should require the educational technology in our classrooms to save the teacher more time than it takes to learn the technology, set it up and get the students using it. Then they can use that extra time to learn about the new and even more powerful features for their students.

  3. Isaac Crandell-Tanner Reply July 22, 2012 at 2:33 am

    I teach English in a Senior High School which is open plan. We use google docs for many of our writing assignments and students are often spread out over several learning spaces and two floors in their search for computers to work on.

    There can be issues with motivation/behaviour but these become minimal when students are clear on the task requirements, believe in their ability to achieve the task, and know that there is a clear expectation in terms of how much they will complete in a given period.

    So, I agree – it is about learning. When students are focused on the learning and have bought in to the importance of it (part of my job, as a teacher, is to ensure that this happens), the issues around control and behaviour become unimportant.

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