I posted this today in an online forum our district technology director facilitates for teachers in MyBigCampus. It’s a closed community / walled garden so I’m posting my response here instead of linking to it.

I’m not sure we need to “teach technology.” Do we “teach pencil?” Technology is a term we most often use for tools that are new. I agree we need to use new, digital tools for communication, learning & collaboration. But I think a lot of teachers get hung up by thinking, “They (the district) want me to teach technology, but I don’t know technology.”

I don’t think we should expect teachers to “teach technology,” instead I think all learners should use technologies as appropriate to further learning goals. We need to all develop our communication skills, both with written words and spoken words. Technologies can help with this.

As I continue to teach, I grow less enchanted with the idea of “teaching technology” and more enthused about “using the tools I need to learn what I want to and/or have to learn.

Hat tip to Doug Johnson (in his classic 2005 post, “Rules for Pod People and a Proposal for Banning Pencils“) for reminding me about helpful analogies to pencils when it comes to “new technologies.” Also thanks to David Warlick a couple of weeks ago during his keynote for OTA/EncycloMedia in Oklahoma City, reminding audience members, “…we should stop integrating technology and start integrating literacy.”

What are your thoughts?

'Programming a robot' photo (c) 2012, Tim McCune - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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On this day..

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  • http://twitter.com/bwasson Brian Wasson

    I sort of agree … and disagree, Wes. I think we do teach pencils. How to hold them, sharpen them, write with them are all skills taught by a kindergarten teacher, or sooner. Some students will also learn how to use  markers, colored pencils, and other artistic type tools throughout their elem grades either with regular classroom teacher or art teacher. Simply look at the photo in the post. Who teaches the students to get those cubes in the screen view? If you take the tech out of that picture, the students are not learning how to place those 3-dimensional cubes on a computer screen.

    I think the point you are trying to get at, perhaps, is that we need to move away from teaching technology separately from the rest of the curriculum. However, we are far from true integration where both teachers and students can come to class ready to use any tech tool possible to complete the task. Right now, my 2nd grade son can’t even choose which writing implement/tool to use for his work and to complete his tasks. He is told to use a pencil, or crayons, etc. How the heck is he supposed to figure out which tech tool to use when the school environment is that controlling?

    Teachers must become familiar enough with a variety of tech tools to be able to see the value in choosing the appropriate one for the right job. So for now, I think we do have to continue teaching technology tools and continue to do so until their use is as commonplace as using pencils.

  • http://twitter.com/bwasson Brian Wasson

    I sort of agree … and disagree, Wes. I think we do teach pencils. How to hold them, sharpen them, write with them are all skills taught by a kindergarten teacher, or sooner. Some students will also learn how to use  markers, colored pencils, and other artistic type tools throughout their elem grades either with regular classroom teacher or art teacher. Simply look at the photo in the post. Who teaches the students to get those cubes in the screen view? If you take the tech out of that picture, the students are not learning how to place those 3-dimensional cubes on a computer screen.

    I think the point you are trying to get at, perhaps, is that we need to move away from teaching technology separately from the rest of the curriculum. However, we are far from true integration where both teachers and students can come to class ready to use any tech tool possible to complete the task. Right now, my 2nd grade son can’t even choose which writing implement/tool to use for his work and to complete his tasks. He is told to use a pencil, or crayons, etc. How the heck is he supposed to figure out which tech tool to use when the school environment is that controlling?

    Teachers must become familiar enough with a variety of tech tools to be able to see the value in choosing the appropriate one for the right job. So for now, I think we do have to continue teaching technology tools and continue to do so until their use is as commonplace as using pencils.

  • http://twitter.com/dgrice Dennis Grice

    If we don’t want teachers to “teach” technology, then we should also discourage them from “grading” technology. If a student gives a presentation in History class, then the teacher should base their grade on how well they demonstrate that they know how to use Power Point, it should be how well they demonstrate that they know and understand history.  My hope would be that teachers start to design projects and assignments more generically. For example, rather than assign a project that requires kids to “Make a Power Point presentation about _______.” They should assign a project that requires kids to, “ Make a presentation about _______.” The teacher would be responsible for designing a rubric to evaluate that project based on their educational goal. The student would be responsible to choose the best tool – one that allows them to demonstrate knowledge of the content. 

  • jan

    Thank you for addressing this!  Sometimes we can forget about the essentials of education-like pencils- and go directly to technology.  Your thoughts were a great reminder to not get too engrossed in technology.

  • Justin Hardman

    Do we “teach pencil” no, but we do teach students how to write with a pencil.

    Technology tools and technology products involve different modalities. 

  • Janet Abercrombie

    My thoughts exactly. I wrote a similar post: http://wp.me/p1Dq2f-lK

    Cheers,
    Janet | expateducator.com

  • Patrice Whitley

    I sharply disagree with publisher of this article.  We should be encouraging the integration of technology and traditional learning resources.  Students don’t need handwriting lessons because coursework is  computer-based.  Eventually, bound textbooks will be  non-existent.  Students can download materials to a handheld device.  Technological education is a must from ages 9-99.

  • http://www.speedofcreativity.org Wesley Fryer

    Patrice: I (Wesley Fryer) am the “publisher of this article” and I’m certainly not an advocate for cursive writing in schools.  I’m a very vocal and prolific advocate for thoughtful and appropriate technology integration.

    My main purpose in writing this article is to suggest we should be USING technology tools, not teaching technology like it’s a separate subject. Part of my experience in schools in the past year has been when a “technology course” is offered, other teachers feel and act like they don’t need to learn about, model the use of, or ask students to use technology. I disagree with that approach. I think all teachers, to varying degrees, should be utilizing and embracing technology for learning. Not doing so is like insisting people should still ride horses as a primary mode of transportation when internal combustion engine vehicles are available.

  • Garreth Trawick

    This was a good post! I want to start by saying I am a student at the University of South Alabama and I am taking a class called EDM310. It is a class that is revealing a lot to me about the advancements of technology in education. Part of my assignment this week brought me to the Moving at the Speed of Creativity blog. Mr. Fryer, you seem to have the same approach as my professor, Dr. John Strange, who the first day of class stated numerous time about how he hates “burp back education”, memorizing facts and spitting them back out just to make a good grade on a test. How research shows conclusively that facts learned are forgotten in almost exactly the same amount of time that it took to learn them unless you use them. Through this class he wants us to understand and take advantage of all the technology tools and resources to enhance our education. Understanding as future teachers we must also be learners. We must be eager to learn. Because if we are not excited about learning ourselves, we are preparing for the wrong profession.  From his syllabus he states, “This course is project based. It is not a burp back course. You will be required to learn how to use current communication tools that are largely technology based. And you will be required to use those tools in projects. We will emphasize Google tools throughout the course, but we will not limit ourselves to those tools alone. When you enter teaching in one or two years the Google tool set will, most likely, be very valuable to you.  The tools available to you will change, however, and you will have to continue to learn if you are to become a tech literate teacher.” This class has really opened my eyes on how technology is changing the face of education and how important it is to understand and use the resources in technology for educational use as a future educator. For example, in some of my other projects it has been fun to see small rural schools, much like one I attended, make good use of technology connecting the students with others all around the world. I think, technology in the classroom is a great motivator for students to learn and put to use. Much like my EDM310 class where technology is used as the curriculum. Thank you for sharing your post.  

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  • Aimee

    I agree! Technology should be part of the learning process not a separate subject. The amount of teachers who still think we need classes to teach students how to save a file or make a PowerPoint staggers me!

  • Mary

    I agree that technology should be part og the learning process.  My guess is that the people opposed to this article are older in age( I am older so I can say that).It is their discomfort with technology that stops them.  When you ask kids to do a project, it is amazinzg how technologically savvy hey are at age 12.

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