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December 5, 2014

I am sick of talking about technology

by Dr. Eliezer Jones

I am sick of talking about technology. I want to be talking about education. Yet, the current discussion around “21st Century Learning” always seems to revolve around the technology when it needs to be focused on the teaching and learning. Don’t get me wrong. I feel strongly that technology can and should be integrated meaningfully into the classroom. However, for it to be integrated meaningfully it has to be ubiquitous. When it becomes a focal point of the learning experience, the driver of the class or the educational outcome we have failed. We have missed the point of educational technology which is that the word “education” comes first.

I showed this video below during our General Studies staff meeting this week and asked what it meant to them.

The reason I showed this video was to spark a discussion about the fundamental role of the teacher, which has nothing to do with whether you can use a smartboard or an iPad. As the author of the video states, a great teacher guides the social process of learning with an ability to excite, challenge and inspire their student to want to learn. Their goal to is help each student think and to make every student feel that they are important. This can be done without technology and there are times when it must be. That is why I suppose I am sick of talking about technology.

A great teacher should be driven by the above values and know when and what technology can be used to engage students and help them think. In the 21st Century, more than ever we need to be talking about the fundamentals of great teaching and then how to integrate technology to support those fundamentals. When we don’t do that we run the risk of what many teachers often state they are afraid of, which is that technology is being touted as a teacher replacement. I do not share that fear because I believe strongly that technology can never replace a great teacher. However, I put the emphasis on the word “great.” As said in the video, if the goal of a teacher is just to transmit information than we have much more efficient ways to do that with technology.

In an open letter to her colleagues, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Powerful Learning Practice and author of The Connected Educator states:

I am often asked as I travel to various places to present why I would spend so much time talking about technology knowing that with outsourcing and such that I am undermining job security in that computers could replace teachers. To that I respond,  If you can be replaced by a computer then you probably should be! The truth is that technology will never replace teachers, however teachers who know how to use technology effectively to help their students connect and collaborate together online will replace those who do not.

She is correct that technology will never replace teachers, but only when teachers understand and are proficient in their fundamental role. I also believe that when they understand that, as do our teachers at Valley Torah, then they will also understand the value of technology in the classroom and are not intimidated or defensive about it. The technology is not the educator, but rather the tool that supports the engagement, inspiration and challenges that help our students to think and connect to the learning. It is a tool. I would add that I think it is “the tool.” As Adam Bellow says “Ed tech is not the icing on the cake; it is the dough.”

On that note, I would like to share Mr. Bellow’s keynote address at the 2013 ISTE conference where I heard that line for the first time and was inspired by his words, his presentation style and the actual presentation slides themselves. Enjoy!



Read more from Boys, Dr. Jones

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