Learning With Technology: Leading By Example

technology is all about the right tool at the right time

I admire Bill Ferriter’s blog, especially the graphic he created to summarise his beliefs about technology in schools. Few educators would argue with the items he places in the right-hand column of his chart. Of course, he should not need to ask, “what do you want student to do with technology?” … rather than ask … “what kinds of learning do we want students to engage in?”

Bill Ferriter

Ferriter has also noted on Twitter that, “we lose the confidence of our kids and communities when tech, instead of teaching and learning, stands at the center of our change efforts”. There is an obvious tension in schools around this notion that schools need to be transformed and that technology is going to be the mechanism to make it happen. Change, quite naturally, unsettles people, and when we lay the blame for the impetus for change at the door of technology, then we all-too-quickly identify the enemy in the equation.

Many writers on – and advocates for – meaningful technology integration in schools, among them George Couros, Todd Whittaker, Will Richardson and Scott McLeod, go to significant lengths to point out that deep and authentic learning opportunities for students are not about technology, but student-centred, innovative (improves student learning and instruction) practices that can be amplified by using the right tools. Couros reminds us that almost all educators agree that we should learn from each other, while many of the same people will describe a tool like Twitter as “stupid”. It is in instances like these that these educators, ironically, make it about the technology and forget their oft-quoted beliefs about the supremacy of pedagogy.

Accordingly, we should be careful not to simply focus on technology or the need for change (with its implicit, undeserved criticism of teachers), but more clearly on the learning activities that will support deep, authentic learning and provide opportunities for meaningful, student agency. To do this, we need the mindset of school leaders to also shift from the tech activities to the learning outcomes and to actively model these. Couros represents this well in his adaptation of Ferriter’s original graphic:

George Couros

As Couros points out,  this “is not about measuring one’s ability with technology; if [leaders are] able to use Twitter or write a blog post. It is about something much deeper. If the purposeful use of technology can enhance or accelerate those ideas above, shouldn’t more leaders look at how these tools can be used in their own practice?”

It’s not about the technology, it’s about the most powerful learning experiences for students and the tools that will make it meaningful, transferable, and useful in their lives. If there are powerful ways of doing this without technology that fulfill these needs, by all means, use them.