Technology literacy: More than just how to use.

I very lively discussion is going on over on Scott McLeod’s blog about teachers’ responsibility to use digital technologies.  I feel this responsibility goes far beyond using technology.  I left the response below:

OUR WORLD has changed and will continue to change.  We cannot predict how it will change.  Because we cannot predict what technologies will be of use to students in the future, preparing them to use specific technologies is a pointless goal.  Our goals should be focused on student thinking and habits of mind rather than the simple use of technology.  Only by preparing flexible thinkers can we hope to prepare students for an ever changing future.
TOO MUCH focus on digital technology may actually limit students flexibility.  Consider how too much focus on textbooks limits the flexibility and creativity of “traditional” teachers.  Might we be setting up students and future teachers for “lock in” in which they are not prepared to flexibly adapt, but only to make use of today’s technologies.
SOME MIGHT say the only way to learn to “flexibly adapt” is to actually use technology.  I would agree, but there is an important caveat.  We must help our students think critically about technology.  We must help students identify what the technology does for us and in what ways the technology limits us – what improvement technology brings and what negative impact technology has.  If students and teachers can’t philosophize about technology, they cannot make informed decisions about technology use and will be doomed to “follow the crowd”.  This following the crowd is what I see promoted in this post.  The only rationale offered for using technology is because “everyone is doing it”.  Shame on us for ever doing something because it is popular.
PERHAPS MORE important than engaging with philosophy about technology, we must help our students be better learners.  I don’t mean help them learn better by using technology, I mean help them learn how to learn.  Importantly, principles of learning apply to learning with or without technology, they even apply to learning ABOUT technology.
LET’S BE honest.  If you want to prepare students for the “real world” do you really think “glogster” is used by most adults for their professional lives?  How many professionals out there today were taught how to use email in their schooling?  For those over 35, probably none.  Yet, they are capable of using email.  Teaching a technology should never be the point.  If we focus on helping students learn how to effectively learn, they will be prepared for any technology advance that comes along.  If we focus too much on the technologies themselves our students will be in the same rut many teachers are.
ONE FINAL point that must be raised.  Yes, technology is changing our world, but we assume all of this change is for the better.  We, as teachers, must wrestle with what is worth conserving about “traditional” teaching alongside of what must be subverted.  Imagine if Socratic dialogue was no longer used in classrooms because it is antiquated.  Also, consider the harm Powerpoint has done to higher ed and by trickle down (its not just for economics) has done to k-12.  A technology almost single handedly caused a focus on efficiency in education rather than on deep learning. Sad.  (Yes, i know the shift toward and efficiency model is more complex than the introduction of powerpoint, but it became the vehicle in which our classrooms were changed).  We have to admit and then figure out in what ways new technology might be changing our classrooms for the worse as well as for the better.
PS. Before I am dismissed as a Luddite (as often happens).  I teach an education technology course for preservice teachers, used technology often in my middle school classroom and qualify for the “geek” category when it comes to gadgets. :)  However, technology literacy runs much deeper than knowing how to use technology.  Just as science literacy must include some knowledge of the philosophy of science (not just facts), technology literacy must include some knowledge of the philosophy of technology (not just the hardware and software).
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7 Responses to Technology literacy: More than just how to use.

  1. Tony says:

    Teaching a technology should never be the point.

    I agree 100%. This applies not only to the “web 2.0” flavor of the day, but also to the established MS Office apps. Technology should be integrated, not taught as an end result.

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  2. Bonnie Faust says:

    well said! while I occasionally use powerpoint for ‘efficiency’ reasons (I share more than one classroom during the day and it saves me from constantly rewriting the same thing) kids are bored by it…keep it short and sweet. what i really find useful is assigning creative projects utilizing technology. even the most ‘reluctant’ student will participate in such an assignment if for no other reason than to check it out and see what the fuss is all about. but I compare some of the bells & whistles in some classrooms to those early websites that were so heavy on the use of Flash animation that your computer slowed to a crawl online. I’m not impressed by sparkly things. Show me something useful and valuable!

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  3. Some good points in here… but regarding Glogster EDU – It is a platform designed to improve digital literacy while adhering to UDL principles. There is absolutely nothing wrong with technology that ENGAGES otherwise lazy and disinterested students. With Glogster EDU, students have the ability to create multi-media “digital collages” – a much more exciting and current alternative to poster board assignments (also ecological). It is dangerous to swipe at the tech-ed space with a broad brush, as many technologies like Glogster are designed to be differentiated learning tools that incorporate elements of our increasingly more “wired” culture.

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    • jerridkruse says:

      1) you must work for glogster so it is hard to take your criticism seriously.

      2) you can’t read in context as I did not criticize glogster itself or even it’s use in the classroom. I criticized people who say glogster is a technology students will need in the “real world”. Sorry, but making a digital collage is not a real-world skill-except for perhaps a select few who would benefit more from learning Photoshop than glogster.

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