Is institutional technophilia preventing (even damaging) learning?

20 08 2009

Those who follow me on twitter will know that I posted the following quote a few days ago from Andy Carvin’s blog –  (originally from Mike Wang)

It’s better to have a good teacher teaching by candlelight than a mediocre teacher surrounded by technology

This was immediately branded as convoluted by @digitalmaverick – who replied with

…a Good teacher doing ANYTHING is better than a mediocre/poor one doing ANYTHING but Tech still has a place

As it happens, I absolutely agree with this. The reason I tweeted Mike’s quote was in response to some schools’ attitude towards their technology.

Danah Boyd has just published a blog post on technophilia in which she really hits on some of the cultural issues that seem to exist in some institutions.

It’s really easy to get in the habit of seeing a new shiny piece of technology and just assume that we can dump it into an educational setting and !voila! miracles will happen… Dumping laptops into a classroom does no good if a teacher doesn’t know how to leverage the technology for educational purposes. Building virtual worlds serves no educational purpose without curricula that connects a lesson plan with the affordances of the technology. Without educators, technology in the classroom is useless

This is demonstrated particularly well by the use of interactive whiteboards, the likes of which lots of teachers seem to use as merely a projector screen. As Boyd proclaims, perhaps we need to invest more time and money in training educators to use the technology they have in new and interesting ways. Innovative practice and excellent learning is not the product of technology, but of the educators use of that technology.

Boyd also goes on to say that students use technology in a very different way to ourselves; do they use social bookmarking sites, or twitter for instance? Can it be assumed that students will want (or even be able to) use these tools to develop their own personal web? She also says that using Web 2.0 tools in classrooms (such as social networking sites) may cause the students to experience

…severe cognitive collision as teens try to work out the shift in contexts

I had not previously considered that using tools that force students to review their social norms could have a detrimental effect on their learning. This said, if we invest enough in educating those teachers and institutions who are going to be using this type of technology, I am confident that we can overcome any and all of the problems Boyd describes.
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