Skip to main content

Join the Community

or Close


Technology is a Tool, NOT a Learning Outcome.

Last weekend, I whipped up a hand-drawn image on the role that technology should play in teaching and learning spaces.  Over the last five days, it's been viewed over 4,000 times on Flickr and shared/favorited/retweeted over 500 times on Twitter.

Thought you might want to see it too:

The motivation behind the image was to remind teachers that carefully thinking through just what we want our kids to know and be able to do is the FIRST step that we need to take when making choices about the role that technology plays in our teaching.

Sometimes I think we get blinded by the digital shine that comes off of new gadgets, tools and services.  Worse yet, I'm convinced that far too many educators have bought into the mistaken notion that TECHNOLOGY motivates kids.

That just isn't true, y'all:  Kids AREN'T motivated by technology.  

Instead, they're motivated by opportunities to make a difference in the world; they are motivated by opportunities to ask and answer their own questions; and they are motivated by opportunities to learn together with like-minded peers.

Digital tools CAN make all of that work possible -- but until we start seeing technology as nothing MORE than a tool, we'll keep wasting time and cash on products that do nothing to change learning in meaningful ways for our kids.



Related Radical Reads:

Are Kids REALLY Motivated by Technology?

Classroom Technology and the Motivational Herring

What DO We Want Kids to Know and Be Able to Do?

Two Important Reminders for Digital Leaders

Change Depends on MORE Than Shiny iGadgets



Tim Shortt commented on July 11, 2013 at 9:31am:

Very true about teachers! I

Very true about teachers! I like your visual, it can also be a what?/Why? Chart.

Tim commented on January 26, 2016 at 1:45pm:


Technoloby is much more than a tool. It is people that are saying that is all it is, the ones that don't want to lose their job. Technology will replace humanes in many things in the future and teaching is one of them. With all the new AI coming out it will not just be a tool.

Delonna Halliday commented on July 11, 2013 at 11:05am:

Well Said!

I've heard that "Oh.. new...shiny" mentality labled "technolust." Once I recognized its symptoms, I could guard myself from the effects. It is fun for a moment or two, but newness changes so fast. I've not really been one for "keeping up with the Jones." (I was trying to find a creative way to add "District" into the Jones saying but they all fell flat).

I wrote once that saying, "I want my kids to make a PowerPoint" is like saying, "I have a new wrench. Let's go find something to tighten." Only a few technical theater folks are the only people I could see saying that Even then, once every bolt is torqued properly, it is no longer new, it is just a tool.

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on July 12, 2013 at 8:08am:

Technolust is a GREAT Term!

Hey Delonna, 

I love the term Technolust -- AND I love your wrench to tighten analogy too!  Those kinds of phrases and concepts are important for us to share with people simply because there are a TON of teachers who still struggle to think of learning first and technology second.  While it's a concept that seems common sensical to us, it's just not common sense to everyone.

Thanks for sharing, 


Anonymous commented on April 28, 2014 at 10:06pm:

I disagree.

I disagree. Some of these are very true, while others are not. While the technology world is expanding, some of us want to keep up. Creating films is something I want to do for the rest of my life and I feel motivated to do work while in school when there is involvement with things other than just book work and reading. BUT some of the things listed in the bad column can drive change or raise awareness, therefore I think this chart is partially incorrect. 

Anonymous commented on February 24, 2016 at 9:39am:

All true.

"Creating films is something I want to do."  No it isn't. You want to convey messages, you want to produce art that reflects you, you want to influence people, you want to be appreciated, you want recognition.  These are all possibly your real goals.

If you just wanted to create films, you would be perfectly happy to toss them in the trash as soon as you were done with them.  It's not the creation you want, it's the outcomes of creation.  Film is also a tool.

Tim Wilson commented on July 11, 2013 at 1:43pm:

So true!

Really like this! Well said!

Sarah Henchey commented on July 12, 2013 at 7:58am:

It's all in the verbs

Perfect reminder to print-out and keep up around the room this year as I embrace the 1:1 transition. I'm most struck by the difference in verbs - definitely an indication of where these skills fall on Bloom's and the ladder of life skills. Thanks for sharing! 

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on July 12, 2013 at 8:10am:

Prensky Calls it Nouns v. Verbs

Hey Sarah, 

You're on to something when you look at the verbs in the document.  Marc Prensky -- who has been at the edge of the digital transition for a long, long while -- says that tools are nouns and skills are verbs.  Our job should be to ALWAYS focus on the verbs because the nouns are ever-changing.  

That's a cool construct, isn't it?



James Kapptie commented on July 12, 2013 at 1:51pm:

de gadgetizing

Well said. The discussion had always needed to be about how does this help learning. It's amazing how schools are judged by if they have smart boards or if they are 1:1.

Tammy Long commented on July 12, 2013 at 4:13pm:

1.1 Transition/Effective Use of Technology

Very useful information which I will print out and save.  My school which is an First Nations school in northern Manitoba has just been given authorization to begin the 1.1 Transition Program but we will have to fund raise.  As a special education teacher I am interested in various technology to not only assist students with learning disabilities but the entire classroom to promote inclusion.


Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on July 13, 2013 at 8:55am:

Using Digital Tools for Differentiation

Hey Tammy, 

Not sure if it will help or not, but I did a workshop on using Digital Tools for Differentiation for some Alaska schools not long ago.  Here are the materials:

Good luck to you!


Gary B AU commented on July 12, 2013 at 9:37pm:

Beware the politician/administrator..and photo op!

Agree entirely. However, with short funding cycles, KPI and political considerations it becomes much simpler to state hardware achievements.

In our states (Victoria, Australia) 37, 000 notebooks for teachers and an Internet connected school with 22km of cabling was easier to show off than the real work of engaging learners to achieve and improve their understanding..too slow!

Progress is achieved one student at a time! it always has been.

Innovation allows improvements in outcomes by different 1:1 has great potential if the teaching facilitators are confident and adequately prepared and supported.

often cause and effect is confused.

1:1 does not necessarily create improved outcomes, but it can help.

engaged teachers do create improved to do that? Pay, conditions, workload, infrastructure support

enagaged students are essential for improved there is the challenge!

some things change, others stay the same!

Shawn Blankenship commented on July 12, 2013 at 11:19pm:

Infographic of the Year!

Outstanding Bill!  This will be a Infographic that could spark many important conversations within a team, school, or district about where our focus should be. That is learning outcomes. Thank you for sharing differently and clearly so we can truly understand.  Just brilliant!

Miri Yochanna commented on July 13, 2013 at 5:43am:

Well put!

Oh so true. This is an excellent document! It is something that I'm going to bring to my student teachers (the future teachers). 

Thank you so much for making it. 

Rob M commented on July 13, 2013 at 8:12am:



I don't disagree, but, the left side of the chart can lead to the right. Using technology efficiently is also important.

Emily commented on July 14, 2013 at 11:13am:

I agree!

The left side can absolutely lead to the right side! But, what I see now in my school is the push to make prezis instead of poster presentations, or have students answer questions via some electronic answer format instead of writing it on paper. The level of thinking is the same. When the left side is used to do the right side-- great! When it is used just to be used... not so great. 

Mary Warren commented on July 13, 2013 at 8:14am:

Middle School Physical Science

I love not only the chart, but the comment section on this is priceless!  My belief is that these wonderful technology tools are to provide us with the one resource that no one else can create, MORE TIME!  Immediate feedback on assessments, quick access for research, a tool for thoughtful discussions where even the shy student can be heard, and a creative tool for the artistically challenged, are all available via the 1:1 concept.  But the thoughtful, knowledgeable facilitator is still needed to help guide students through the journey of learning.  Analyzing the credibility of information is the critical skill to teach.  I truly am embracing the "blended learning" model.  You cannot replace the "Sage on the Stage" with an iPad or netbook and expect magic to happen, but the sage can become the compass to point the way.

Tim Stahmer commented on July 13, 2013 at 8:18am:

One More Thing

For our district, I would add one more thing to the left column: Take Tests. Some weeks, especially in the spring, that's all the computers in most schools are being used for. Gotta get that "data"!

David commented on July 13, 2013 at 9:56am:

Too simplistic

I guess I see this list as a false dichotomy...  Any teacher using tech tools in her/his subject area will use them to help integrate or interiorize the learning, UNLESS YOU ARE TEACHING COMPUTERS.  The list is a wake up call in some respects, but it could also be used by some educators to justify the non-use of technology tools.  Our children/youth use these tools in their everyday lives, and we educators should be using tools that they are familiar with. ALSO, some kids are motivated by using the tools themselves.  

Subscribe to Blogs by Bill Ferriter

Stay Informed

Sign up to receive the latest news and events through email!

Sign Up