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Friday, November 4, 2011

Do We Idolize Technology?

Based on a NY Times article about a school in Silicon Valley that has banned technology in favor of books and hands-on experiences, one of the questions asked in an Education Week forum was “Does Technology Inhibit Deeper Learning?”  There is no doubt in my mind that using technology can be likened to eating cocoa puffs.  Kids love it, but in and of itself, it does not have much nutritional value. Technology is no different than any other tool in education it is how you use it that determines the depth of learning. We could certainly ask, “Does paper inhibit deeper learning?” It seems to when it is used as a worksheet full of lower level questions.  Just like any other tool, it is not technology that inhibits or deepens learning, it is what you do with the technology that elevates your activities into the D quadrant-bringing both rigor and relevance into your lessons.  The internet and technology 2.0 tools can be used to encourage thinking, synthesis, writing, and building a deeper understanding by creating activities that develop those skills.  To stick with the coco puffs analogy, some technology tools have been fortified with vitamins and whole grains, like the SCAN tool that has built in higher level questioning, and some technology teachers will need to fortify the activities themselves with tools like 
Do we idolize technology? 
One statement in the deeper learning debate declared that we tend to “idolize technology.”  Do we think that just using technology will help prepare our students for the 21st century?   Have we put the purchase of technology for technology's sake as first in our school budgets?  I would like to think that we consider our learning objectives and select and purchase the best tools for the job.  I do not believe that technology should replace hands-on activities. It is far more valuable for students to build a robot, than to simulate the building of one or to look through an actual microscope at their own cheek cells rather than find a jpg on Google.  I don’t think the choice should be between science equipment or computers.  I would hope that we could see the value of both in the science room. There is no doubt that there are some who idolize technology, but the majority of classroom teachers seek to select and provide engaging and thoughtful activities for their students, be it with technology or with good old fashioned pond water.   It would be nice to have both available!

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