The danger of the hype

A colleague recently emailed me a slick video on 21st century education.  It certainly ticks all the boxes – clear message, simple design, emotive statements, catchy music.  I was impressed but when I watched it again, I questioned whether we are succumbing to the hype of technology?   Are we allowing ourselves to be distracted from the core work?

We know today’s learners can collaborate, share and publish their work on the internet but are we simply skilling students to use the technology or are we challenging them with ever-richer and more complex experiences and opportunities to deepen insights?

As Michael Fullan writes, “Without pedagogy in the driver’s seat there is growing evidence that technology is better at driving us to distraction….the notion that having a laptop computer or hand-held device for every student will make her or him smarter, or even more knowledgeable is pedagogically vapid.”

He’s right.  It’s easy to be seduced by the tools but it doesn’t bring us any closer to answering the question of what it means to be a teacher in today’s world.  As we’ve seen throughout the history of schooling, tools change but the teacher is the constant.  Good teachers have always started with each student, crafting experiences that challenge them.  These relationships are built on mutual trust and respect.

Teachers in today’s world need to be expert pedagogical designers who understand what tools are available and how these tools can support the learning.  Good teachers have always been critical consumers of the next big thing – open to embracing the opportunities and finding ways of embedding the learning.

Videos like the aforementioned are useful in reminding us there is no more relevant a time to re-visit the key questions of what we do, why, how and for whom.  Textbooks are becoming obselete in today’s world but so will schooling if we don’t focus on improving instruction.  That’s the danger of the hype.


4 thoughts on “The danger of the hype

  1. Good teaching is about the relationship and the relationship is based on the conversation. That conversation may be prompted by a simple verbal greeting or something higher tech down the line. Too many EduTechies throw tools out there at conferences, Twitter, etc. without thoughtful consideration of practical doability or learning outcomes and wind up further up the Ivory Tower. Google+ is an excellent example with online explosion of tips and invites to Huddles when it is not in wide release yet. If one does not have the feeling and actual support that the latest thing recreates the Greek Academy, then hold off. Be open to recognize that there are some teachers who use little or no tech and achieve marvelous results and students’ adulation. And there are many students who leave a class to never use the web 2.0 tool from that class again. I believe that we are headed back to the future and the oral tradition will again dominate as the overwhelming flotsam and jetsam of the written word, digital or otherwise leaves us seeking or mother’s voice.

  2. Technology is just another tool to add to our already impressive list of skills in our teaching repertoires. In the world that we live in, and more importantly the world that our students are growing up in, it has become the most used tool and I don’t think that is such a bad thing. Using Twitter has enabled me to collaborate with others and to gain knowledge from others that would have been impossible before. My own professional learning over the last two years has been amazing.
    We just need to keep in the back of our minds always…Why am I doing this? and What will they learn as a result? Every time I do something with my class I ask myself these questions..and if technology can help great..if more “traditional” methods are called for ..so be it. I also judge my “successes” by how motivated the children were to complete the task and there is no doubting that technology use is a great motivator, it’s how you shape it into solid learning that counts.

  3. Cultural literacy, in the sense Hirsch wrote about back in the 80s, is an important, always ongoing issue. There is so much to know and who decides what remains important? I’d suggest that multiple perspectives on our shared Histories – economic, social and political – are essential but that ethics, literature, poetry and art be the glue to hold all this together for our shared humanity.

  4. Learning and teaching is at its heart a relational process, deeply embedded in the cultural norms and aspirations of the society in which it takes place. I agree that story and narrative are critical as is the discourse on cultural literacies.
    I don’t agree that it’s back to the future or that web 2.0 tools are somehow optional accessories to living in today’s world. There were times when power light fire were technologies, they are now indispensible commodities in western societies. They tools to help us live and we have learned how to both use and abuse these tools. The same challenge faces us now with web 2.0 and beyond technologies.
    What I am convinced about is that good teachers know this and use these tools tosupport the critical work they do. In this way they enrich the story and add more chapters to it

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