Don’t Integrate Technology Into the Classroom

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Surprised by the sentiment expressed in the title of today’s post?   So was I when I read it in David Warlick’s book Redefining Literacy 2.0.  (See the accompanying wiki here.)  Since I became my school’s Technology Coach earlier this year, I’ve been concerned that we aren’t doing enough to equip teachers to successfully integrate technology into their classrooms.  So I picked up David’s book at the SCASL Conference last week, and here’s what he says in the introduction:

There is one call to education reform that will not be used in this book, a mantra that attendees to technology and media conferences often hear, that we should be integrating technology into our libraries and classrooms.  It is an idea that is not without its usefulness.  Integrating technology is a simple and inclusive way to describe the modernizing of our schools.  However integrating technology misses the point that technology has no special place in re-examining the pedagogy of teaching and learning.  It is merely a tool – the pencil and paper of our time.

So what should we be doing?  Read on:

…information is a far more central element of our process, and the changing nature of information is more fundamental to what we do in our reform efforts.  The skills and habits involved in using information to accomplish goals – literacy – are much more appropriate to our efforts as educators than practices in operating machines.  Educators should seek to integrate literacy, rather than integrate technology.  If we can think what it is to be literate in today’s information environment, and integrate that, then the technology will come.

Okay, let me mull this over for a moment, because I need to determine whether this is just semantics, or whether embracing this idea requires a real shift in my thinking about the necessity of using technology in the classroom. 

I agree with David’s statement that technology is merely a tool.  I’ve never been a proponent of using technology just for the sake of using technology.  If a job can be accomplished perfectly well using low-tech methods, there’s no need to drag in technology just because you can.  But in the same way that students in the 20th century were expected to know how to use a pencil, so students in the 21st century are expected to be able to successfully use common web 2.0 tools when appropriate. 

Take the simple fact that most research is conducted online these days, rather than from print materials.  For this reason, students must be proficient users of the internet, and that means going far beyond a simple Google search or a quick peek at a Wikipedia entry.  Another example is that students must also be able to synthesize the information they retrieve in order to communicate it.  A typical finished product used to be a report of some sort, written or typed on paper, but today’s students can go beyond that to present videos, slideshows, glogs, PhotoStories, podcasts, online scrapbooks, and more.  As educators, we have a responsibility to help them learn how to do it effectively, or at the very least, to model it in our own communication.

I’m going to think about this some more, and tomorrow I’ll take a look at what David means by the term literacy.

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  1. Pingback: What Is Literacy? | The View From Here

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