More on Technology is a Tool, NOT a Learning Outcome

It’s been a ton of fun to watch the reaction that people have had to my “Technology is a Tool, NOT a Learning Outcome” image.  Most people found it to be incredibly valuable, summarizing their core beliefs in a concise way.  The beauty of writing in public spaces, though, is the fact that readers can confirm AND challenge your original positions — and many readers have pushed back against my image.

Here are three comments that have had me thinking all week long:

“There are no wrong answers when it comes to the use of technology in education.”

The biggest beef that people have had with my image is the use of the word “wrong” in my graphic.  While some felt that I was being “dogmatic,” others genuinely argued that ANY technology choices made by schools and teachers are automatically GOOD choices.

To be honest, that’s the very thinking I was hoping to challenge.  The simple truth is that technology DOESN’T automatically make a lesson more engaging and/or valuable to student learners — and suggesting otherwise often results in districts investing TONS of cold hard cash into digital products or services that do little to change learning spaces for the better.

(See: Interactive Whiteboards)

If we are going to move beyond a world where technology remains a motivational herring — and where skeptics like Mark Bauerlein can accurately call us “ever optimistic techno-cheerleaders” — we REALLY DO have to start thinking carefully about learning first and technology second.

“WHY why why keep burdening children with the expectation that they have to make a difference and drive change?  Can’t they just, you know, live their lives, make a living, and go home at Thanksgiving, like we all did?”

Another reader pushed against the suggestion that kids should be encouraged to drive change in the world around them.  For me, this thought really hit home because I’m passionate about showing kids that technology can make it possible for ANYONE to take action on critical issues.

(See:  Student Microlending)

And if you were to ask the students in my classroom who have been involved in our change efforts, I bet that NONE of them would report feeling “burdened” by the work that they are doing.  Instead, they would tell you how proud they are to raise awareness around causes that they care about.

Need proof?  Here’s a quote from a March 2013 interview that they did with the folks at Middleweb about our #sugarkills blog:

“We are learning that 12-year olds can help people all around the world be more careful with the things that they put in their body. We just like the feeling of being able to be as powerful and influential as adults.  It feels amazing to be able to educate people on the dangers of sugar. In our opinion, this is a great way to spend time in school!”

I think the most important lesson that I’ve learned about today’s students is that they DO want to make a difference in — and they AREN’T satisfied with learning spaces that are completely divorced from — the world around them.  The best assignments are those that empower kids to do something more than learn essential concepts in isolation.

“Technology is the glue that allows for deeper and more varied levels of belonging.”

My friend and mentor Dean Shareski pointed out that learning is dependent on situations where we work together and feel a sense of belonging with others.  He goes on to argue that technology is important because it makes new forms of belonging possible.

That’s powerful, isn’t it?  More importantly, it’s true:  When a learner feels like they belong to something bigger than themselves, they become more motivated.  Similarly, when a learner belongs to something bigger than themselves, they are surrounded by people who share similar interests and can challenge thinking.

(See: Lathered Brilliance, Superman Underoos and Social Media Spaces)

That’s EXACTLY what’s happening in this blog post, right?  Technology has made it possible for me to belong to a group of co-learners who are thinking together about what learning spaces should look like in today’s world.  Our relationship is symbiotic:  I’m providing intellectual challenge for the people that I’m learning with just like they are providing intellectual challenge for me.  The glue holding us together is the technology that we are using to share and learn and question.

Shouldn’t we be teaching kids that technology can make this kind of intellectual togetherness possible for anyone?

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Related Radical Reads:

Innovation Flourishes in the Spaces Between Devices [SLIDE]

Middleweb Interview: The #sugarkills Gang

My Kids, A Cause and Our Classroom Blog