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A response to Rob

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, could be accomplished alone; therefore, we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our own standpoint; therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness. Reinhold Niebuhr

Rob at Edging Ahead posted a distressing, but thought-provoking entry that questions why one should be concerned about technology in schools when it seems there are so many other immediate and serious concerns in his (and our world).

He poignantly asks:

Should I continue to obsess about flavor-of-the-week technological wizardry, or should I concentrate on rubber-meets-road learning skills that will transcend “the long emergency”,  when being able to learn, from a technology not dependent on electricity, how to purify unsafe drinking water, will be a skill more prized than knowing how to assemble a cloud-based mashup of irrelevant extrivianza?

Doug Jamison offers an easy, cynical "out" for those who prefer not to think about such matters. He calls it, "The Nine secrets to happiness." the first of which is to "dumb down." Like most wicked satire, it is far too close to the truth for far too many people.

I have no illusion that understanding a Ning or learning to use Skype will directly impact the conditions that appal Rob - local denigration of his Bangkok environs, climate change, and a consumer-driven social philosophy that creates waste and ignores basic survival needs in the developing world.

It has always been my contention that the ONLY solution to our world's problems lies in a truly aware and engaged population. And such awareness will only come by way of education that requires, not believing, but dispassionate thinking and robust problem-solving abilities.

And in as much as technology has the (yet unmet and even undiscovered) potential to educate more people, in more powerful ways, I don't see the contradiction that Rob poses. He wants immediacy in the impact of what he is doing. So do, I suppose, we all. But I think we also need to consider Niebuhr's observation about hope - and that little truly worth achieving is fast, simple or easy.

Have a great school year, Rob. My best to you and your colleagues. Thank you for making me reflect and please continue to do so on a regular basis.


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Reader Comments (6)

I see his point. It's been frustrating lately because our district just got a large, expensive technology upgrade and at the same time, we've had teacher furloughs and slashed library budgets. I love these new toys and use them regularly, but would be happy with a fully paid year and more books in the library. I realize the money often comes from different sources but it's hard to get motivated when they cut teacher work days due to lack of funds yet keep adding on expensive test after expensive test. All I can say is the pendulum keeps swinging back and forth and you're tight--we need to hope. Thanks.

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterteacherninja

I am thrilled that you picked up this thread and a conversation is ensuing at your level that begins to address the paradox of technology within the context of global environmental issues. Technology was both the boon and the bane of 20th century "western" society. It promises no less as we settle into the 21st.

September 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRob Rubis

Web 2.0 is not about teaching students how to do bells and whistles. It is about using the bells and whistles to MOTIVATE and INSPIRE students to engage with the content we are trying to teach them. It is also about teaching students to think through problems and learn to create their own solutions to those problems.

It does not seem to me that these skills are in any way opposed to the skills needed to survive, say, nuclear winter. Rather, these skills enable our students to not blindly memorize material that they won't be able to recall in the midst of collective starvation or the trauma of apocalypse, but rather to be able to network with others and use ingenuity to solve basic and complex problems. However, I hope my dark humor is evident: Rob's comments do reveal a fatalism about the fate of 21st century civilization that does not seem completely realistic. Or perhaps my exposure to Web 2.0 has somehow kept me ill prepared to embrace the pessimism necessary to survive what's coming our way.. ;)

September 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeather W

Hi Ninja,

Yup. I think the public also asks many of the same questions that you do. Decreases credibility of the schools since it is REALLY hard to help people know about the strings attached to funding sources.

All the best,


Hi Heather,

Thanks for the thoughtful counter to Rob's concerns. I suspect that any educational approach that requires original thinking and problem-solving would support your argument - and that technology is helpful, but not really critical in the effort.

All the best,


September 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

You are right, technology is not critical to developing problem-solving skills. But on the off chance that our civilization does survive for another generation or so, the upcoming generations will need to be trained in meaningful uses of technology anyway, seeing as they will need to work and thrive within a culture that thrives on it.

On the other hand, if Doug is right and the civilized world does come to an end soon, then hopefully some of the skills learned will still transfer in some form or fashion into more primitive contexts :)

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeather W

Hi Heather,

Yup. I suspect one best prepares for the current world, not that of some post-apocalyptic place. Interesting post of Robs though!


October 4, 2009 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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