The ups and downs of educational technology advocacy

Sometimes I read things like this post from George Couros and am uplifted that some educators are working hard to transition their schools into a digital, global era:

Take a twenty minute period in my life as evidenced below.

I read a blog post found in my Reader feed, which leads me to a link on YouTube, that leads me to a quote, which leads me to the person who stated the quote, to find a link on their Twitter profile, only to find another article on something that I would have never found myself.

I could go on from there, and I eventually will, but it is just amazing how one item, leads to another, and another, and so on.

That is how learning should be: continuous, connected, and meaningful.

And then I have exchanges like the one I had yesterday (excerpts are below) and am reminded about how far we still have to go.

No recognition that our knowledge environment is completely technology-suffused… No recognition that at what is apparently a great school, students could do amazing and powerful things with technology…





18 Responses to “The ups and downs of educational technology advocacy”

  1. Never mind the irony that the entire conversation happened in Twitter, right Scott?

    Not only does Ol’ Gilly miss the potential that new social spaces hold for his/her students, he/she is missing the very obvious impact that it is having on the way that he/she is currently learning.

    That interaction — that intellectual give and take — is the core of what I think learning is, and social spaces make that possible anytime, from anywhere and about any topic.


    Bill — who doesn’t disagree with you and is happy about that.

    • You find this conversation educational? Seems like more mcleod chest-thumping which, of course, had to be re-posted for the exact same reason.

      Add technology to an ineffective teacher and you’re left with a poor teacher and a poor learning experience. This is the consistently overlooked problem on this blog. The push for technology, which I do not necessarily disagree with, does not include a solution to the teacher problem.

      • Jeff, I’m not sure exactly which statement of mine you consider ‘chest-thumping.’ Our information landscape is technology-infused these days. And schools have been some of the slowest institutions to adapt…

        Obviously I am an unapologetic advocate of better integration of digital technologies into learning, teaching, and schooling. But you’re absolutely correct that the focus should be on learning first, not the tools. I don’t think I’ve ever said otherwise. But I also don’t think we can say that you’re a ‘good’ educator/school these days if you’re giving short shrift to technology.

    • Wow,
      I had a very similar conversation with the same user gillytoon, telling me we don’t need to employ teachers who are digitally literate. I gave up conversing after about four tweets. At first I was a bit peeved by it all and didn’t understand how gillytoon didn’t get it. Maybe this person is just a troll, they are in the tech infused environment tweeting, how ironic.

  2. Of course a non-tech environment is still relevant, powerful and is capable of helping students learn, achieve and become empowered, but the infusn of technology increases that power. For one thing, why do governments, businesses, NGOs, hospitals and research centres use technology? It is more effective, efficient and powerful.

    Take the case of my school last week and the continuing story of Malala. We are informing students of her heroic story in the traditional non-tech way: conversation, sharing our passion through our presence, paper, group meetings, etc…, but we are also infusing technology.

    Yes students will write letters and send them to their elected officials and try to send them to Pakistan and to Malala, but they are also tweeting about her on a Saturday night and creating a news broadcast in front of a green screen in order to send a digital message along with their written letters.

    Technology will not make a teacher great, nor will it guarantee that a classroom will be learning, but a great teacher would never eschew an important cultural shift or deny students a powerful and relevant set of skills.

  3. The truth is almost certainly somewhere in the middle. G is right that great teaching can take place without technology; you are right that technology can powerfully enhance teaching. The secondary students I talk to tend to yearn for their teachers to use less technology and to do more old-school teaching: running demonstrations and experiments, having discussions, even lecturing. They’re sick of online classes, videos and flipped classrooms, learning a foreign language through solely online tutorials, doing math through Khan Academy, etc.

    I know that you are advocating for a different sort of technology integration, so I can’t help but wonder if G and my former students are both really rejecting a different vision of tech use in schools than what you are suggesting be implemented. But their experiences are valid too, and I don’t blame them for finding great value in using less tech in schools.

  4. What are the solutions to the “teacher problem?” The criticism is akin to a discussion on job reform being dismantled because it doesn’t address climate change. Both are important issues, but one cannot expect a single policy or idea to solve all concerns.

    • Sure we can! Obviously the answer is “Standardized testing” and “Teacher accountability” those are the answers to poverty, single parent homes, drug use, teen pregnancy, violence, crime, and every other problem with our educational system. Haven’t you been paying attention?

  5. Hi Scott,

    Here is the antithesis of Couros:

    “Calm, focused, undistracted, the linear mind is being pushed aside by a new kind of mind that wants and needs to take in and dole out information in short, disjointed, often overlapping bursts – the faster, the better.” David Carr, The Shallows.

    I’m finding that I personally am going for the quick information fix, rather than the extended, deep, reflective essay or book. I’ve had the same 20 minutes. But I wonder if they had been better spend reading Educational Leadership or Kappan.

    This worries me. I am not terribly sure that a world informed by 140 character sound bites is one which will be well run.

    Your old fart friend,


  6. We have to be mindful not to prepare our students for our generation of learning and learning styles. The generation of students we are working with today have been thrown into a world and a culture and a technological paradigm that is not of their choosing. It is an obligation indeed a duty to teach them what they need to know for their generation whether or not it may be “better.” I’m sure Similar arguments were made when people shifted from writing out books by hand.

    The fact is students have found a way to learn and they learn using the tools where they live. All kinds of examples can be used, students are able to respond thoughtfully to ideas. Whether it is 140 characters or a full paragraph they are responding and interacting with information.

    Isn’t a multimedia project that takes several people several days to complete just as valuable as an essay or having read a novel?

    Teachers need to be especially mindful that we don’t take our paradigms and forced them onto this generation of students.

  7. What a gem of a conversation!

    I agree with Mark, that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

    I find myself in such conversations regularly, as I sit at one end of the edtech spectrum, and many colleagues/educators sit at another. As agents of edtech change we need to embrace G’s attitude. G is in the majority.
    The only leverage I have with educators that are dismissive of edtech change is the relationship I have with them. It is quite noticable; I can look someone in the eye and ask them to walk with me through the journey, and if I have that relationship, they will come with me. Otherwise they stick to their guns.

  8. Great discussion.
    The many comments about finding a “middle ground” are based on the assumption that “teaching with technology” means that technology is your only or your primary tool. This is a meaningless dichotomy; no one is advocating using technology to the exclusion of other strategies.
    I’m so sorry to discover that some teachers think technology has no place in the education. Technology has a role in every other aspect of our lives, but not in learning? How ludicrous.

  9. It reads like a long and passionate argument for the merits of hand-made horse shoes.

    • Or that good teaching does not require technology, and poor teaching can not be saved by it.

    • Nailed it in one sentence, Stephen. Good teaching is good teaching — whether I’m doing it using technology or a megaphone. What Scott is talking about is that today’s students will be released into a world of technology, and if we ignore that fact we’re failing as educators.

  10. A good education should prepare a student to learn and adapt to any environment or problem. Technology is a common resource, but it isn’t the only one that is available. Recognizing that technology is a tool, and a common one at that, is an important shift for those that are overly passionate about tech for the sake of tech. I’ve seen great teaching with nothing but a voice, and I’ve seen horrible teaching with every gadget imaginable. Teaching is about engagement. There are a million different paths to get there that depend on everything from the presenter, to the audience, to the topic.

  11. This blog has two videos showing the old view of tech as a teaching screen and the power of tech to empower and connect learners

  12. Wow,
    I had a very similar conversation with the same user gillytoon, telling me we don’t need to employ teachers who are digitally literate. I gave up conversing after about four tweets. At first I was a bit peeved by it all and didn’t understand how gillytoon didn’t get it. Maybe this person is just a troll, they are in the tech infused environment tweeting, how ironic.

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