Technology is not an event!

I recently used Bill Ferriter’s blog on “Technology is a Tool, Not a Learning Outcome” in my presentation with Rich Allen of BrightBytes at the NJECC Annual Conference in New Jersey this past week.  Bill uses this picture to describe his point.

I think about the “wrong answers” a lot because this is what we are helping everyone at #frsd (my school district) understand; including our students.  Most of us struggle with technology integration, but when teachers look at the “right answers” in this picture, I do believe they understand what it is they are ultimately trying to do is what so many of them have been doing for a long time.  Technology is now the tool that allows these teachers to create opportunities for their students to experience the “right answers” in ways that they never could before technology entered their classrooms. That is exciting!  All you have to do is follow #edtechchat #skypeclassroom or join a Google+ such as Community Connected Classrooms Workshop to see the amazing way teachers and students raise awareness, start conversations, find answers to their questions, make a difference, drive change, change minds, and the list goes on and on.

Maybe technology can connect you and your students with amazing young people such as @maggiedoyne who put off going to college to travel the world and wound up starting an orphanage in Nepal.  You can see her below and read about her mission here.

The amazing thing about Maggie’s story is here is someone who grew up in a wealthy community in New Jersey where almost all students go on to college after graduating high school and she chose a different path.  The pressure on these students from their parents, communities and society at large to go to college, figure out what they want to study and do with their lives is immense.  I know because I live in the community next to Maggie’s and grew up and taught for fifteen years in nearby and similar school district.  I do not think our schools, parents, communities, or society do a good job at encouraging our students to see the choices they have.  The Maggie Doynes of the world are unfortunately not the norm but the exception.  They don’t have to be. Not today.

When one’s focus is on making a difference, taking action, raising awareness, or solving problems as opposed to just going off to college, that person can do amazing things; like Maggie.  While I am not recommending putting off college, I am also not endorsing it as the only option for students graduating in our times.  Technology can help us connect us with people like Maggie Doyne and remind us that with technology as a tool for learning, our options to create the life we want for ourselves is better than ever before.  Our choices increase and we can own our learning like never before.

Its powerful and maybe that is what makes integrating technology scary.  If students are controlling and owning their learning with technology, what is the role of the teacher?  What is the role of the teacher with the self-directed learners that technology fosters?

I don’t have the answer to these questions but do believe that maybe that role could be more exciting and invigorating than what it is in a classroom without technology.  This is what excites me despite all the “ed reform” being pushed on us by policy makers who seem to be more interested in “keeping up with the Joneses” on PISA scores than promoting the kind of learning students want and need. When technology is not an event that students experience one day a week in lab, the learning and experiences our children can have at school is like never before.  It’s a great time to be in education.

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