Dear Administrator,

Scott McLeod has a call out to folks to “blog about whatever you like related to effective school technology leadership: successes, challenges, reflections, needs, wants, etc.”  It was due two days ago, but I am pretty sure I can change the time stamp on this post and sneak it in 😉 After reading many of the other #leadershipday09 posts I think you will find mine…ummm…a bit different.  I am one of those people who could cut the electric wire leading to my house and live happily ever after.  I could easily live in a shack with an outhouse 500 miles from the nearest road.  I could go 3 months without ever opening my cellphone.  That usually surprises people because we infuse technology into every unit that we do.  While my post might seem a bit anti-technology, between the lines it is very pro-technology.  I am for using it to make things, not do things.  I am for giving it to kids to improve learning, not to improve teaching.   As I look around, I see too many people recommending using technology to make things more interesting so the kids will be engaged and more interested in “learning.”  It’s how Juan Bobo would use technology if he became a teacher. For a list of other #leadershipday09 posts please see Karen McMillian’s list that she has complied.

Dear Administrator,

I don’t like being known as the teacher who uses technology to motivate their students. I don’t like people looking at the products my kids produce and only focus on the technology we used. I don’t like it when someone suggests that kids like my class because of the technology, or that we are a computer class first, a social studies class second. I have never inserted any piece of technology into a unit to make my class more interesting, engaging, or fun.  I did not start using technology and web 2.0 tools to help my units become stronger, more conceptual, or more authentic. I did not start using technology to put the STORY into our hiSTORY class. I did not start using technology to increase my kids desire to learn, grow, and become more independent.  That was all happening before we started using technology.

I do not use technology to coerce students into learning.  I don’t include a backchannel to make a boring movie more engaging.  I don’t make their presentations more interesting by recording them for a podcast.  I don’t have them blog so that they become excited about sharing their summary of chapter 6 in a post with someone in Fiji.  We don’t skype with people across the world so we can listen to THEM talk to US.

Technology does not change the way I teach or how I plan my units.  Without any technology we were making products for authentic audiences, thinking deeply about solving problems, and realizing that we can change the world.  We dreamed big, walked tall, spoke-up, listened carefully, interviewed professionals and collaborated with one another well before the first computer entered my classroom.  Believe it of not, I don’t need to use technology to get a group of 13 year old digital natives eager to come to class everyday.

Technology is not the answer to the problems facing the educational system.  When it is placed in the hands of traditional teachers in an average school it reinforces the institution.  Spending $4000 in that type of school on a Smartboard will just stunningly reinforce a unit that has no concept, no goals, no connection to the kids life, and is not authentic, problem based, or performance based.  Moving to 1:1 laptops will improve teaching, it just won’t improve student learning.   It is not about what kids are doing or what is being done to them, it’s about what they are making and creating.  It is not the “answer” to why my kids leave at the end of the year ready to build a better future. 

I don’t want to be known as the class that uses technology because technology is not the not the answer to raising test scores, motivating students, and creating “life long learners.” Technology is just tool. If you give a tool chest to someone who can’t build a house, they are still not going to be able to build a house. We can use technology to build a solid foundation of learning for our kid’s future, but first we must recognize that it has to be put into the hands of folks who know how to use it, or how to let their kids use it. Technology must be used to get the kids to be more independent of the teachers, not increase dependency.  Where I live, new building technology is being used to create massive areas of McMansions. I hope with all the technology being infused into education that we don’t find in ten years that all we have built with it are massive numbers of McSchools.

So before you go and invest all those 1000s of dollars in IT, maybe first send a little bit of it to “PD.”

Yours truly,

Paul