What Message Are We Really Sending About Learning and Technology?

After many technology driven initiatives and false hopes of technology as a silver bullet, there is a new mantra in education today: “It’s not about technology, it’s about the learning”. This is the message that has begun to sink in as people recognize that technology alone will not change learning for the majority of students.  For me, this message is still missing the point. If you think about it, it’s about both the technology AND the learning and how together we can provide new and better experiences for students.  We can’t do this, however, if we continue to focus on technology and learning separately.  This means that educational technology directors and curriculum and instruction directors (or whatever the respective titles are in your organization) must work very closely to align their work and make sure it remains aligned all the way to the classroom. 

When we have “tech coaches” to support “tech integration”, and of course do “tech trainings”, divorced from curriculum that teachers are expected to teach and the actual learning that we want to see in classrooms, this sends the message to teachers in the classroom is that it most certainly is about the the technology. Especially, when they still have pacing guides and standards they have to meet that they are learning about in different PD sessions, meetings, or trainings (whatever you want to call them) where people rarely talk about technology.  

When teachers see and hear about new technology, apps, programs etc. as separate, and offered in addition to all of these other things, many teachers have shared their struggles of trying to figure out how to make work in their classrooms. Often, many push it aside and revert to what they know- which is not making the most use of the resources at their fingertips. If we really want to focus on creating better learning experiences, that’s what we have to prioritize, model, and support teachers to do.

When I have the pleasure of visiting classrooms, I don’t want to see how many iPads are being used, or the newest program all the kids are “engaged” in, I want to see what kids are learning through the opportunities that now exist because of of the technology and the innovative educators that are designing the experiences for students to engage in relevant, deeper learning. This begins with sending the message that learning is the priority and through technology we can access information, connect with people, and create new knowledge and ideas. 

2 Replies to “What Message Are We Really Sending About Learning and Technology?”

  1. I am a physics teacher appointed technology coordinator at my school and I have had experiences consistent with what you describe. I am trying very hard to make teachers feel like this is not something they have to use, but something they can use when it will improve learning outcomes. At the beginning take-up was slow, but we’ve found that spending 5-10 minutes in meetings having other teachers show what they’re doing is really helping others realize the value of technology. The way I see it, technology enables me to do things I could only dream of before, reaching much higher levels of differentiation in my class and having a better picture of where every student is at. Bad teachers will stay bad, no matter how many iPads they have in their classroom. Good teachers will find ways to use them effectively and creatively.
    I’ve also found that Google Classroom in particular makes subbed lessons much better: the sick teacher can still check students’ work in real time from home!

    1. Modeling is a powerful way to help teachers see new and better way to create lessons through access to technology. Limiting the integration to a few tools and making sure that learning is always the focus is a great way to get teachers to see the value and develop their competency in using certain tools.

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