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EdTech Update




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BFTP: Old folks and technology

We’re so far behind our students. How do we catch up and move past them so that we can then teach them things they don’t know?

When I read this quote from a teacher in Dangerously Irrelevant, I was just plain saddened. How has it come to pass that teachers no longer recognize that there are values, skills and understandings that they already bring to the classroom that are far more important than technology skills?

I think this old column still holds up pretty good...


Old folks and technology
Head for the Edge – Nov/Dec 2002

John Lubbock, a 19th century astronomer, once wrote:

There are three great questions which in life we have to ask over and over again to answer:
   Is it right or wrong?
   Is it true or false?
   Is it beautiful or ugly?
Our education ought to help us to answer these questions.

I think of those words often when I hear educators worry about kids being more adept and comfortable with technology than those of us who were growing up when the earth was still cooling.

It’s hard not be humbled when a situation like this occurs as related by Monica Campana of Palm Coast, Florida, on LM_Net:

Last month Google was blocked by our district because kids were doing image searches and actual pictures loaded on Google image search hit page that aren’t blocked by our filter. Safe search in Google can be turned off by the kids. I vented, fumed, researched, emailed Google, but finally gave up and taught the kids how to use a few other search engines. One week later one of my seventh graders pulled me aside and whispered that we could still use - the Canadian version of Google, as of yet still not blocked. I had to laugh because I should have asked the kids in the first place. 

Many of us turn to those younger than us for technology help. (Older I get the more it seems like the more young people there are around all the time!) When I need help editing a digital movie, I turn to my 16-year-old son. He downloads movies, burns CDs, and uses IM to visit with folks around the world. If I need help getting the networked printer to work in the office, our 20-something network coordinator is the one I ask. When her fingers fly through the control panels they are a blur. Hands down, kids can do the technical stuff and are more comfortable with much of this stuff than I will ever be. And my VCR DOESN’T blink 12:00 either.

In Growing Up Digital (McGraw Hill, 1999) by Don Tapscott calls the kids who have grown up with a mouse in their hands the Net Generation. Of these Net-Geners, he writes, “For the first time in history youth are an authority on an innovation central to society’s development.” I am not exactly filled with hope for the future when I think that the young, spiky blue-haired guy with more studs than a Minnesota snow tire is leading cultural change. (Darn, that sounded just like something my grandfather might have said!)

What I hope we don’t forget is that the same great issues of education that Lubbock identifies are still with us today and are perhaps more important than ever. When our students download music, we need to be there to ask if there is a copyright question involved (right or wrong). When they find sources of information on the Internet, we need to be there to ask them if the information is credible (true or false). When they put graphics into their presentations, we need to be there to ask them if those visuals contribute to the message they are trying to get across (beautiful or ugly). I like to think the questions we can help answer are more important in the long run than “How do you create a new background on a slide?”

We need to help make sure our students not only know how to use these new electronic marvels, but use them well. A short list of tools is below with some of the sensibilities about their use with which we geezers can still help:


No matter how sophisticated the N-Geners are technologically, in matters of ethics, aesthetics, veracity, and other important judgments, they are, after all, still green. By virtue of our training and life experiences, we can apply the standards of older technologies (the pencil, the podium, the book) to those which are now technology enhanced. And we’d better. Given the choice of having Socrates or Bill Gates as a teacher, I know which one I would choose.

Increasingly the teachers and librarians who can survive and thrive in schools ever more permeated by technology will need to view themselves as “co-learners” in many learning experiences. Remember that “life-long learning” applies to us as well as the kids.


So after re-reading this, I am asking myself "What in the hell are we doing in our staff development efforts in technology that is so belittling to teachers?" Have we truly lost sight of the fact that the end result should not be using technology well, but using technology to teach well?

Good grief!

And just remember...

 Original post December 12, 2009

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