Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Does technology really empower learners to journey beyond just content?

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Subspace

The other day, I had our parent meeting for next years year seven students who will be entering the 1-1 laptop program here at McDowall State School.  My awesome (I better suck up just in case he ever reads this!) deputy principal stood up and talked a lot about the administration side of the program.  Parents had lots of issues with insurance, bags, transport etc.  Whilst these issues are of vital importance, it isn't exactly the most riveting and stimulating thing to engage with.

I then stood up and spoke to the parents about various things and one of the statements that I made is that technology is a vehicle that allows students to explore concepts deeply and think creatively.  It goes beyond the surface of learning and enables and empowers learners to go beyond the content and explore it in detail.  But does it really or am I just living in a fantasy world?

I think that in my classroom, it certainly does.  My kids are active participants in the learning cycle and not just passive recipients of information or 'I don't know' people.  They enquire, they explore, they think and they create.  I use technology as a tool that empowers my learners.  They go beyond the content and remix and add value.  But what concerns me is when I see educators just using technology as a replacement for doing what they have always done.  If you just 'word process' something instead of writing it, how is that enriching the lives of the students under your direction?  Sure it will keep them quiet and make your life a lot easier but why have you bothered.  It will make things look pretty (something that I am awful at) and they won't get sore wrists from copying copious amounts of notes from the board but is that enough?

I really think that we are on the cusp of change here in education.  I am sick and tired about hearing about 21st century learners needing 21st century methods.  We are almost 12% of the way through the 21st century.  It is time to change our pedagogy and inspire others do so as well.  If you are not keen to change and be inspired, you should go and work in a fish and chip shop!


  1. Hi Ashley,

    Good to read this post, very good you want to inspire your colleagues to use technology to empower their students.
    When I was a student I had to wait weeks on books from other libraries. Now these texts are on internet. We did collaborate, but had to travel to a meeting place to do so.
    Educators may use new technology as a replacement of older tech, but their students will discover the benefits of tech.

  2. I would like to add that it's important to tread carefully with colleagues who are not as far along the continuum of change as you are. For some change is a struggle -- to manage the machines, to learn the new tools, to get past the place where this process feels like it's adding work to a place where the tools can be transformative. Teachers learning technology need to be handled as delicately as one would a student for they are being asked to engage in a lot of risk-taking and their confidence can be every bit as fragile as that of younger students.

    For me the process has been ongoing for over 5 years and I'm just beginning to get it. Funnily enough the change from using a pen and paper to word processing was a tranformative process for me. It has given me the abiity to explore through writing because the words are no longer indelibly etched on a page. I've become free to add, remix, rearrange, and even delete and forget -- in other words to inquire, explore, experiment, think more deeply, and make creative connections. All this was magically given to me by what seems today to be 'just' word processing. Without that I don't think I'd have been able to even conceptualise how using digital tool can excite students and engage them in more powerful learning.

  3. Have to agree that just throwing technology at teachers and expecting the advantages to be obvious and easy to adapt to will alienate and build resistance. Teachers picking up technology have all the fears any adult learner has and, as adults, they also need to see some purpose beyond everyone is doing it or yet another reference to the 21st century student. (Where are these imaginary students?)

    Where I work our PD sessions have become all about technology and nothing about how this will help the students and why. I don't think any of our teaching staff entered the profession to display the many ways to look silly with machines.

    Maybe if the teachers could relax a bit on feeling they have to appear (be) competent in all phases of their practice to teach with technology they would be less resistant? I'm not a teacher but I do sense that our teachers are going through a period of feeling left out or pushed aside. Their simple inexperience with technology has frozen their many talents with people behind a wall of gadgets.

    Great post, this far past the start of the future time to think about the advantages of technology at a deeper level than mere operation.