What’s the big deal about technology?

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I am out of town this week. My bosses graciously approved my attendance to the SXSWedu conference in Austin. I am surrounded by gurus. Everyone is good (or great) at some skill, aspect, or theory on the state of education and the imperative role of technology to become the transformative source that it has been in so many other areas of society. And, while I am techy, I still turn everything off on a regular basis. I also ask the question, what’s the big deal anyway?

I think about Facebook, and remember that honestly, sometimes Facebook ruins my day. On those days, I hide my account then I delete the app and log out of my computer’s bookmarked page. For days on end, and sometimes only minutes, I power off my phone. I find myself rolling my eyes about my robotic, compulsive check for new texts, so I force a disconnect. Technology annoys  me. Mostly, it annoys me because of who I have become: someone dependent on technology. I often find myself questioning why I need any of it at all. Don’t get me wrong, I love my computer. I did painstaking research on the kind of memory and graphics card I wanted to run the video games I play. But, when it comes down to it, it’s just for fun. It is a toy. I don’t need toys, I only want them. And what’s more, I don’t want to be dependent on them.

This brings me full circle back to the question, what’s the big deal anyway? Can technology really be something substantial in the classroom, something worth using, or is it just another toy for centers? Is it just a way for teachers to disconnect from the students after a long week of testing? And while I have a love-annoyed relationship with my tech, I still come to the same conclusion, it can be a an effect tool to promote real learning but there are conditions.

The conditions truly depend on you, the teacher. If you drop a tool in their lap without considering, planning, and creating an effective use of the tool, we both know it’s useless and just burns time. If we show a student how to do something using technology but never ask them to explore and create with it, then what’s the point? Sure, your admin will love to see students working on the device that they paid for, but we all know what it looks like on the outside doesn’t always reflect what’s on the inside.

So what should we do? Pick one tool. Learn it. Then plan to use it. Once you have integrated it, expand with it. Google search what others out there are doing with it. Go to the teacher’s lounge and talk about it. See what your coworkers think even if they aren’t using the tool yet. The best ideas come from collaborating WITH people, not from creating a safe bubble in your room where you are the center of knowledge, where you are the end- all-be-all of your curriculum. There is a world wide web with ingenious tools waiting for you to be a guide for your students. Teaching students to be dependent on technology  is in all reality teaching them to be dependent on themselves to find answers, to find others, and in the end, to find themselves.

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