There’s a part of me that feels as if the discussion I raised the other day about how using technology in way that simply adds up to “digitalizing worksheets” devolved to a place where I feel I wasn’t quite paying heed to the idea that I really do recognize the potential — if not obvious — merits of technology. I have seen Smartboards, airliners, wikis, webquests, nings and the such used in a manner that absolutely legitimizes the credibility of the argument for 21rst century skills in the classroom… and I am a fan.
However, everything I’ve seen that I greatly admire has a foundation in real human thought and deep student thinking.
Technology allows students to probe deeper and wider with more expediency and more efficiency (to name but a few of the benefits). Wielded properly, the case for utilizing 21rst century technology tools is virtually inarguable. The stuff rocks.
However… well, the however category might be the biggest technology hurdle out there — and the one that so few are addressing by name. Bigger than the expenditure, the PD needed, the retrofitting of all our current institutions and the investment we are going to need to make on a zillion other fronts is the “However category”.
The “However” category relates to fundamentally asking ourselves, “What is the goal of classroom education?” If technology is not meta-cognitively implemented with an eye on reflectively asking ourselves “what is the learning goal that this tool better empowers me to achieve” then we will quickly find ourselves losing the forest for the trees.
After all, if we do not ask the right questions there is a very low likelihood that we are going to stumble into the right answers.
I know the past few years of NCLB has seen an almost manic mandate to have teachers — especially new teachers — put the day’s “academic objective on the board at the front of the room”. (As if learning is a widget to be easily stamped; today we will be persuasive argument writers, tomorrow precise gerund users, Thursday will see us read Langston Hughes for subtext and Friday will see us master split infinitives. Oh, the buffoonery.)
However, with technology, having a clear, well thought-out student learning objective really is the compass by which one can navigate the use of technology. Now, I don’t want to double dip and plagiarize from myself (can one even be guilty of this?) because I talk address this issue in depth in my Scholastic book Teaching Teens and Reaping Results in Wi-Fi, Hip-Hop, Where Has All the Sanity Gone World, yet, the fact is, when you bring project-based learning into the classroom, you need to know what intellectual goal you are pursuing before you even begin — and you better tenaciously pursue that clear and focused aim because all the bells and whistles available in tech today are like a Siren Temptress of the Sea which can easily lead a teachers onto the calamitous rocks of classroom lesson implosion.
Tech needs a litmus test to justify its incorporation into a classroom. Know your objective and then, think like Einstein who often said, “Simplify, simplify simplify.”
If the tech shoe doesn’t fit, why force it?