Friday, October 3, 2014

Moving Beyond Tech as an Add-on

You know that phenomenon of buying a new car and then noticing that everyone has the same car as you; but they didn't before. Or, you just learned about something and now you hear about it everywhere? That phenomenon is called Baader-Meinhof and must be what I am "suffering" from lately. 

I read a blog this week ( about schools punishing students for attendance by taking away their laptops. The next day, I read another post from the same author that was related talking about the message we send when we discuss the use of technology in education. Since then, I have heard multiple instances where teachers and schools are treating technology as an add-on that can be taken away as if it doesn't matter. I've heard of students getting detention because they upgraded to iOS8. I've heard of students who won't be able to take their iPad home because they
were playing a game in class. I've heard of a teacher opening up student email in class and reading those messages that were sent outside of school hours "because it is not for their personal use." I've heard of schools shutting down a secure messaging system for students because they are using this "tool" like Instagram or Facebook and it is not school related. The reasons I have heard for taking the device away: "It's the hook we have in the kids" or "They are so into social media we'll take this because we know it will 'mean something' to them." Ugh! We are supposed to be embracing technology in education, but this week, I have heard so much to the contrary that I think many educators still see an iPad or laptop as a "bonus" for students instead of the wonderful thing that it is.

Devices are also not tools; they are devices. A textbook is not a tool. It is a textbook. A pen is not a tool. It is a pen. Therefore, an iPad is not a tool. It is an iPad. Technically, if you want to call all of them educational tools, I see your point; but do you see mine? If we continue to see mobile computing devices as tools and not essential components to schooling in a digital age, we are not going to move our students forward and prepare them for a digital world. As Eric Shenninger states in his book Digital Leadership, "Technology is not just a shiny tool that can increase engagement, but a conduit to endless possibilities that can enhance every facet of what we do in education" (pg. 45).

I don't know what causes this mentality. Is it a fear that our students are going to do something wrong? Is it a fear that our students are going to do something that we won't understand? Is it that we are trying to protect our students? Or, is it more irrational such as a fear that our students are going to know something we don't? If that is the case, it is time to pull our heads out of the sand and realize THEY ALREADY DO! Taking their devices is not going to stop them from knowing. Would we stop a child from reading an "advanced" novel because we don't know what the novel is about? Of course not! We would encourage the child to keep reading! Reading is fundamental. I argue that so is technology.

Let's keep technology moving forward in education and not backwards. I am a proponent that when a disciplinary infraction occurs involving technology, that the technology can be part of the consequence but not just because "we got those pesky students right where we want." I also believe that ALL educators need to embrace the technology. We may not know all the answers and we may not know how to use every app and program the students want to use, but we should not let those who know get left behind because of our insecurities. Let's not hold students back because we don't know everything. Let them teach us. Let them be pioneers. Let them try and succeed. Let them try and fail. Just let them.


  1. This is an awesome post, Bill. Thanks so much for extending my blog posts over here and sharing your thoughts.

  2. Thank you Bill - well said! What a great time to be an educator! We are off the hook from having to be content experts. After all, "the smartest person in the room, is the room." Instead we get to focus on relationships with other learners, some are children, and some are adults. Nevertheless, it's technology that brings us together, at any moment, in the learning room.

    1. Thanks for the comment Robert! I love the quote and you're right, it's about the relationships and technology should bring us together.