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EdTech Update




« Generational cowboys | Main | Important, but not urgent »

These horses are out of the barn

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. - Arthur Schopenhauer

There are some educational "truths" that we can't change, even if we wanted to. These educational technology resources, annoyances, and conditions are here to stay despite some educators denial, resistance and fast grip on the status quo. The sooner educators, especially tech directors and administrators, accept that these things are a permanent part of the educational landscape, the sooner attention will be paid to using them positively and productively.

Here is my short list of things that just are not going to go away...

  • Cellphones/Smartphones in schools
  • Student-owned netbooks, laptops, PDAs in schools and their distracting qualities
  • Deficiencies in Internet filters
  • Web 2.0 tools - wikis, blog, Nings, Flickr, Delicious, etc...
  • Wikipedia
  • GoogleSearch
  • Term paper mills
  • Filter work-arounds for Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Tasteless websites loved by middle school students
  • Gaming in education
  • Demand/expectation for public wi-fi access by students, staff and visitors
  • E-books, especially e-textbooks
  • Music downloading
  • Open source software
  • Texting short hand
  • Off site applications - ASPs and cloud computing
  • Computerized testing
  • Budget inadequacies, budget scrutiny, budget justifications
  • Online classes and online schools

These horses are gone, boys and girls, and there's no putting them back in the barn.

Get over it.

Figure out ways to saddle the horse and ride it.

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Reader Comments (17)

Do you mean "are not going to go away"?

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

Add a "not" to "Here is my short list of things that just are [not] going to go away..."

Then delete this comment. ;)

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJim Randolph

My proof reading is terrible. I fixed it. Thanks for the catch!


November 25, 2009 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

So maybe it's time we educated educators accept that shift happens and we adopt these tools as tools of learning and quit fighting the wrong fight. If we start to use these tools for learning they will stop being any more of a nuisance than the sharpened pencil that makes for a great dart in the ceiling.

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergitsul

What are we doing to get the teacher educators on board?

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDana Woods

Doug, this week I introduced Saywire to a group of 6th graders and their teacher. She stood in the middle of the lab dumbfounded as the students jumped in and began the first assignment. When I asked the kids if it would be helpful if she loaded her Powerpoints into Saywire one student blurted out, "We could use that to study!".

I live for the light bulb moments from the teachers because if I waited for the district to saddle the horse I would have already given up. How are we are supposed to be teaching students to be creative critical thinkers when so many educators, administrators, and ed. school professors aren't?
If it weren't for the time I spend with teachers and students in the classroom I would have run away screaming a long time ago.

November 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous

Great list Doug! I have come to realize that instead of running around trying to catch students using their cell phone, I just tell them to go outside (our school policy "prohibits" inside use). I also allow student a save zone in my room where we have a old Nintendo system and a couple of computers that are almost exclusively used for games. And they can use their cell phones. I have only had one student forget he had a class becuase he was playing games - and he paid dearly for it - from the teacher who's class he missed.

I will be placing all of my materials, grading, assignments, and pretty much everything but class lectures on line next semester. Mostly I am tired of students saying they saved something when they haven't. I am also going to spend less time on the standard office applications and try to teach the students how to use all of their technology - becuase they really do not have any idea. And if I don't show them, they certainly are not going to read theose on their own.

My favorite question I ask my student is "How many of you read the manual?"


November 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

Hi Dana,

That's a good question. What role is there for K-12 educators in preparing new teachers? Too many of our post secondary institutions are behind the curve here too.


Hi Dorothy,

Yeah, I get the sense many teachers are more ready for these changes that are administrators and tech directors. Could it be the admins tend to listen to the most reactionary teachers rather than the most progressive ones???


Hi Kenn,

Glad to hear some folks actually are accepting and using these resources. Probably more of us than one might think.

Hope your Thanksgiving was truly joyful!


November 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

I think there's an increasing disconnect between what old generational teachers think about the Internet, and what is actually there. I also think that there's an increasing disconnect between what students want to learn, and what we try to teach them.

For example, my school has arranged its history curriculum in such a way that World War II and World War I ... pretty much the entire 20th century, in fact ... is a huge black hole. It's supposed to get taught in the spring term, but so late, and with so many interruptions in the last weeks of school, that we hardly ever get to it in any classes.

In an anywhere, anything, anywhen sort of environment, and with the full range of tools available to them, I think that schools are suffering from this <A HREF="">Mythic America syndrome that <A HREF="">Ira Socol discusses in his blog — every child has to learn everything in the school's established curriculum...

Maybe it's time to throw out the idea of Curriculum entirely. Maybe it's time for us to think about the Braid. I think you've just given me an idea for my next post on my blog.

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew B. Watt

The quote below sums up how many administrators, teachers, librarians and society in general feel about change. There is an old saying too "the devil that you know is better than the one you don't"

One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea. It...makes you think that after all, your favorite notions may be wrong, your firmest beliefs be ill founded. Naturally...therefore, common men hate a new idea and are disposed more or less to ill-treat the original man who brings it. Walter Bagehot

Happy weekend!

December 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermusings

Hi Andrew,

I agree that it is past time to review the standard curriculum. This emphasis on math and science right now - at the expense of electives like business, tech ed, art, music, etc - is very dangerous. Seems like every child needs an IEP driven both by aptitude and specific career goals. No one size fits all school anymore.

All the best,


December 4, 2009 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

As a technology expert that provides consulting services to many schools, the biggest issue I see is not the curriculum but the teacher’s lack of willingness to adopt new technologies. As an example, a school started a one-to-one project that was supposed to provide a notebook for students to go digital. However, we still needed to provide a way for these computers to print instead of pushing work digitally around. The students were more than willing to send homework digitally but the teachers still wanted hard copies. The lack of willingness to change was very apparent at this point. I think we’re applying new technology to current curriculum which I no longer think it can be bridged that way and I agree with you on that point.

However, if we change curriculum then we change the way teachers think and teach. There’s a comfort level on the teachers part that we’ll be pushing. Many teachers are just not ready for this and if we push it on them the students will be the ones to suffer. There’s just too much to learn (and truly understand) in technology if you haven’t been exposed to it over your lifetime. Even more so, technology changes so fast that people using it must embrace and be enthused about using it in order to stay current. There’s a fine line here on what can be supported and what should be supported with staffing at schools. I personally know many schools that are very understaffed to support everything that’s out there. You need to consider a big picture here, not just a desire to operate new technology because it’s cool. There’s always a cost associated with man hours for support, security, and ensuring that everything works. When I see the technology staff or administrators decline a new technology sometimes it’s not because it’s a good idea but the budget not only to purchase the technology, but to support it, is the issue. Or perhaps there’s an issue where not everyone can adopt that technology. I can think of many reasons why to not adopt new technology that schools use; all of which have some validity. However, I have run into many technology champions in schools which is great and it sounds like you are one of them. Having someone push technology will help adoption on all sides. However, you also have to take a step back and understand the big picture. This is hard to do when you're at the front lines and that is where you need to get everyone involved and his includes the student, teacher, TIS or a teacher with technology experience, administrators, and IT personnel. This will help you understand where the hurdles exist and these questions can be answered:

1) Do the students need this to learn what they need to know or is it a distraction?
2) Should the students be learning and using this technology on their own since they are generally enthused about new technology.
3) Do you want to teach a brand or teach a technology. (eg. MySpace, Facebook vs. social networking websites)
4) Do the teachers have the ability to feel comfortable teaching the technology?
5) Can the current curriculum be changed to support the technology or is it a complete re-write?
6) Does the budget allow for this software to be purchased? (and this is not a simple question that should be asked; there’s a lot of metrics that should be taken into account here)
7) Do you have the IT resources available to support the technology?
8) Is this the best technology that should be used? Will it really be around in the future? This is a difficult question to answer, rely on your tech people here.

This is a good list to start talking about, but I feel there is a much bigger issue that may not be worked out in the short term. This will hold true until teachers are willing to embrace technology as a whole and participate in the “staying current” process as things are changing rapidly. However, there will be a cost to teachers in this process as they will be asked to do learn more while not in schools.

As a final note, technology changes so fast that some of these horses may end up in the glue factory as fast as they can be adopted into curriculum. Using current technology will come at a cost in man hours and at a possible cost in student learning. The key here will be to either teach the technology and not the brand or choosing to ignore the technology. I’ve been around in IT for 30 years and have seen many technologies come and go and the rate of which seems to be accelerating. Think about this, just over a year ago myspace would have been in place of facebook on your list.

Technology is a tool but not a fix for all.

Thanks for the article, I’m doing a presentation next week on best practices for IT in education and this gives me some more ideas to discuss. There’s a serious disconnect between educators, administrators and IT personnel and I'm hoping to start bridging that gap.

December 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScott

Hi Scott,

Thanks much for your thoughtful comments. I don't think there is a thing here we disagree on.

My biggest frustration has always been that we get a new technology and then run about looking for problems it can solve rather than starting with problems and trying to find solutions - technology-related or otherwise.

I would argue that the technologies and conditions on my list are already present in society and in schools and we need to figure out how to use them well. We didn't GET to start with the problems in this case.

All the very best,


December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

As I mentioned, I'm working on bridging this gap. I know you're not alone in your thoughts and these are hotpoints for people I consider technology champions in education.

As practice, would you be interested if I set up a forum to discuss these issues as well as others one by one to see if they can be put into practice, what the cost would be, implementation strategies, curriculum changes if any, etc..

I know the technology side very well and have seen over many years how technology effects education as a whole in both higher education and K-12. But I would like to invite a small group from each of the categories (teachers, administrators, IT) and maybe even students.

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScott

"These educational technology resources, annoyances, and condiions are here to stay despite some educators denial, resistance and fast grip on the status quo." Please add a 't' to the word condi(t)ions.

I'd like to say that I fully enjoyed reading your article and the responses of others. We need to continue moving forward in the classroom and embrace the technological advancements and greater access to information that we are so lucky to have. Even though I had to use 'old-school' encyclopedias and card catalogues doesn't mean that my education had more meaning than my students current learning experiences with high technology and greater ease.

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Litberg

Thanks, Lisa, for your sharp eye and comment. Change has been made!

All the best,


January 8, 2010 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Definitely time to hunker down by the fire. Personally, I love tech. Bells and whistles are exactly the things that work in Special Education. If a student is invested, there's a chance for learning to occur. Plus, the quality of available materials is excellent. I am so happy not to be searching through workbooks and managing all that paper. It's all good, as far as I can tell. My biggest problem is to keep up with the new tech....but I always have at least one student who knows much more than I do and is willing to teach me. problem.

June 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbarb harris

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