Less Do, More Think

I am very concerned with how technology is used and even more concerned with how technology is talked about in education.  Many people will have us believe that more technology is the way to improved education.  What I have seen is that more technology leads to no fundamental change in teaching.

What is even more concerning is that as technology becomes more and more “pushed” the biases of the technology will become reflected in our teaching practices.  Instead of valuing deep engagement with ideas, we’ll start to value compilation of information.

Our tools reflect our goals.  If our goal is to make students into information compilers, than we should continue on our merry way.  If our goal is to make our students discerners of information, then we need to re-evaluate our trajectory.  Google does not discern, it sorts based on popularity. Prezi doesn’t discern it adds a layer of entertainment.  Twitter doesn’t discern, it removes layers of nuance.  Blogs don’t discern, they give equal voice to novice and expert.

I’m not anti these technologies (use them all the time in my teaching).  I am against the anti-intellectualism that pervades discussions about educational technology.  It is time we stop pretending our tools are neutral instruments.  There is a reason a shovel is used for shoveling.  So what are our “new” technologies designed for?  I don’t think deep learning and wisdom are built into the designs.

I’m not saying get rid of technology – I’m saying teach our students about these issues.  Teach them to be critical consumers of technology.  Teach them how the technology causes them to lose important aspects of themselves.

I’m also saying we need to stop for a minute and think about teacher use of technology. Right now, we have a lot of people saying “do”, we need more people saying “think”.

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23 Responses to Less Do, More Think

  1. Vicki Cobb says:

    Terrific post. I represent a group of people who do nothing but sit and think. We write award-winning nonfiction for children. We are using technology, specifically videoconferencing to speak to teachers about content and about writing so that they will love teaching to the curriculum and bring back the joy of learning to the classroom. Check out our website. Read our blog Interesting Nonfiction for Kids: http://inkrethink.blogspot.com

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  2. I have recently come to the conclusion that many of my students want to get-r-done when it comes to class work. I think teachers have not only fostered this attitude, but we have also modeled it. It is going to take a real shift in thinking before this can change. Until then, the digital tools will simply be the most expedient way to get-r-done.

    As you say, we need to do less and think more. We also need to require our students to do the same.

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    • jerridkruse says:

      Exactly!!!! Our technology use largely reflects our own values. However there is another layer there: our technology design reflects our values. So in many ways if we change our thinking, the current technologies won’t satisfy our new value systems.

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  3. Normally I agree with the spirit of your arguments about the use of technology in education, though not with your same vehemence. In this post, however, one line is bothering me:

    “What I have seen is that more technology leads to no fundamental change in teaching”

    Really? I agree that the thoughtless implementation of more technology simply for the sake of implementing technology leads to no fundamental change in teaching. But across the board?…no, I cannot agree with this.

    There are certain technologies–utilized appropriately and with care–that have fundamentally changed the way we teach. My document camera (back in the days when I had one) was one such device. It changed the way I taught, allowing me to make pedagogical decisions which I could/would not have made previously. I would argue that graphing calculators are another good example, but since I haven’t taught without them I am speculating.

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    • jerridkruse says:

      The document camera made easier something you could have done another way – making transparencies of student work, handing out copies to students etc.

      What I have found is that traditional “worksheet” teachers continue the same strategies when using technology – the worksheet is just on a screen and the textbook becomes the internet.

      Teachers who were already focused on student thinking continue to do so when using technology. i have yet to witness an instance where the technology fundamentally changed a teachers attitude toward teaching/learning. If the attitude is not different the teaching is likely to not be different. Importantly, my argument would claim that good teachers pre tech, continue to be good teachers post tech. However, I do have some concerns that tech can actually erode good teachers.

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  4. Jerrid, what do you think of this post: There is Nothing on The Internet That Is Not In Your Heart?

    I have a lot of energy around your generalizations, so I apologize in advance if my questions seem untoward. I ask them, anyway, in hope of learning what you think discerning technology use is.

    So here are a few questions:

    1. Why is “new” technology to blame [quotes mine]? Information collection and dissemination has always been biased. Libraries curate. Textbooks proselytize. Teachers, and the victors, write lessons.

    2. What in your heart is so resistant to “new” technology? Which platforms bother you the most? Why?

    3. Why is it anti-intellectual to consider tools to be neutral, at least morally? Obviously something like Twitter has built in constraints, but so do all communications platforms. Moreover, no one is forcing us to use Twitter, and we’re free to use it in conjunction with thousands of other tools. Why give the tools so much power over our agency in using them? Can’t a sophisticated argument be made that a tool is morally neutral, even if biased in the kinds of communications it favors? If we’re forced to adopt a particular tool, isn’t that a human systems problem, rather than a technological one?

    4. Would you like to stick with a computing platform that limits students to reading and writing apps for thinking? What apps would be on a Jerrid-endorsed netbook or desktop or mobile computing device?

    5. You complain that different platforms don’t “discern.” Are you calling for technologies that discern or students that do? It seems to me that you’ll never really help foster the latter if you don’t let them evaluate the former for themselves. “Discern” sounds like a gatekeeper argument – like democratic technologies are bad. Are you looking to keep the rabble out of your classroom?

    6. Is it possible that technology doesn’t lead to changes in teaching, but that it does lead to changes in learning, which pisses off us teachers something fierce?

    If you’re for thinking, as opposed to not thinking, I’m with you. I don’t think I’ve heard an argument against thoughtful technology use in the classrooms. I’ve heard many arguments against classroom technology.

    Regardless, I remain a bit puzzled by your editorial stance towards technology. If it can be used thoughtfully, why not provide us with specific examples you endorse rather than general arguments you employ?

    Awaiting discernment,
    C

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    • jerridkruse says:

      CHAD, I’M NOT YELLING, I’M USING CAPS TO SEPARATE YOUR WORDS FROM MINE:

      Jerrid, what do you think of this post: There is Nothing on The Internet That Is Not In Your Heart?

      THE POST BELIEVE TECHNOLOGY IS NEUTRAL, I DO NOT. WHILE THE EVILS ARE INSIDE US, THE MEDIUM ENCOURAGE US TO LET THOSE EVILS OUT.t.

      I have a lot of energy around your generalizations, so I apologize in advance if my questions seem untoward. I ask them, anyway, in hope of learning what you think discerning technology use is.

      I AM NOT CALLING FOR DISCERNING TECHNOLOGY USE, I’M SAYING WE SHOULD BE TEACHING OUR STUDENTS TO BE DISCERNING, USING THE TECHNOLOGIES I MENTION DO NOT PROMOTE DISCERNMENT IN STUDENTS.

      So here are a few questions:

      1. Why is “new” technology to blame [quotes mine]? Information collection and dissemination has always been biased. Libraries curate. Textbooks proselytize. Teachers, and the victors, write lessons.

      YES, ALL TECHNOLOGIES ARE BIASED, I CHOOSE “NEW” TECH BECAUSE EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT HOW GREAT THEY ARE AND NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT THE NEGATIVES. SINCE OTHERS ARE IGNORING “OLD” TECH, SO AM I.

      2. What in your heart is so resistant to “new” technology? Which platforms bother you the most? Why?

      NOTHING BOTHERS ME ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY, BUT PEOPLE’S STANCE TOWARD TECHNOLOGY. I USED TWITTER, BLOGS, EDMODO, YOUTUBE, & NING (TO NAME A FEW) IN MY CLASSES. HOWEVER, THE MESSAGE ON MOST BLOGS IS “TEACHERS JUST HAVE TO USE TECHNOLOGY – THIS WILL MAKE THEM INTO GREAT TEACHERS”. THIS MESSAGE IS CRAP AND NEEDS TO STOP. TECH DOES NOT MAKE A GREAT TEACHER. A GREAT TEACHER CAN USE TECH IN INTERESTING WAYS. I ACTUALLY BELIEVE THAT IF TEACHERS AREN’T AWARE OF THE PROBLEMS WITH TECH, A GOOD TEACHER CAN BE FOOLED IN TO BEING A BAD TEACHER BY FOCUSING TOO MUCH ON TECH USE AND GETTING DISTRACTED FROM STUDENT THINKING.

      3. Why is it anti-intellectual to consider tools to be neutral, at least morally? Obviously something like Twitter has built in constraints, but so do all communications platforms. Moreover, no one is forcing us to use Twitter, and we’re free to use it in conjunction with thousands of other tools. Why give the tools so much power over our agency in using them? Can’t a sophisticated argument be made that a tool is morally neutral, even if biased in the kinds of communications it favors? If we’re forced to adopt a particular tool, isn’t that a human systems problem, rather than a technological one?

      IF THE TECHNOLOGY IS BIASED IN THE KINDS OF COMMUNICATIONS IT FAVORS, IT ISN’T NEUTRAL. WE ARE NOT EVER FORCED TO ADOPT A PARTICULAR PLATFORM, WE CHOOSE THE PLATFORM, BUT OFTENTIMES FOR THE WRONG REASONS AND WITHOUT CRITICALLY THINKING ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES. TECHNOLOGY ALWAYS HAS A BIAS – IT IS DESIGNED FOR A PURPOSE THAT PURPOSE/GOAL CREATES BIAS – AND YES I THINK TECHNOLOGY HAS MORAL BIASES. I BELIEVE THE ANONYMOUS NATURE OF THE INTERNET ERODES DECORUM AND I BELIEVE THE FOCUS PRODUCING CONTENT (BLOGS, TWITTER, ETC) INCREASED SELF-CENTEREDNESS. NOW, IF THESE BIASES ARE IDENTIFIED, THEY CAN BE WORKED AGAINST, BUT THEY ARE RARELY IDENTIFIED.

      4. Would you like to stick with a computing platform that limits students to reading and writing apps for thinking? What apps would be on a Jerrid-endorsed netbook or desktop or mobile computing device?

      AN APP IS INHERENTLY LIMITING – GIVE ME NOTHING AND I CAN GET KIDS TO THINK IN WAYS THEY DIDN’T THINK THEY COULD (YES, I’M SHOWING MY ARROGANCE, BUT IT IS NECESSARY). YOUR QUESTION GIVES AWAY THE PROBLEM – THE BELIEF THAT WE MUST USE TECHNOLOGY. ONCE IT IS NO LONGER A CHOICE, WE HAVE A PROBLEM. IF THINKING IS WHAT WE’RE AFTER, WE DON’T NEED THE TECH. NOW WE CAN USE THE TECH WHILE ENGAGING STUDENTS IN THINKING, BUT THE TECH IS NOT NECESSARY.

      5. You complain that different platforms don’t “discern.” Are you calling for technologies that discern or students that do? It seems to me that you’ll never really help foster the latter if you don’t let them evaluate the former for themselves. “Discern” sounds like a gatekeeper argument – like democratic technologies are bad. Are you looking to keep the rabble out of your classroom?

      1) I’M NOT COMPLAINING, I STATING. 2) THE WAY WE HAVE STUDENTS INTERACT WITH INFORMATION SENDS POWERFUL MESSAGES TO THEM. IF WE LET THEM GOOGLE EVERYTHING, THEY LIKELY BELIEVE POPULAR = TRUE. WE HAVE NOT PREPARED THEM TO DISCERN. MY POINT WAS TO POINT OUT THAT THE TECHNOLOGY IS LIMITED, SO WE MUST AUGMENT BY HELPING STUDENTS BECOMING DISCERNERS – SORRY IF THAT WAS APPARENT. 3) STUDENT OUGHT BE GATEKEEPERS – NOT ALL INFORMATION IS CREATED EQUALLY. I’M SORRY, BUT IF YOU THINK ALL GATEKEEPERS ARE BAD, PLEASE STOP USING YOUR COMPUTER BECAUSE THE KNOWLEDGE THAT HELPED CREATE THE COMPUTER WENT THROUGH A HIGHLY KEPT GATE.

      6. Is it possible that technology doesn’t lead to changes in teaching, but that it does lead to changes in learning, which pisses off us teachers something fierce?

      IT DOES LEAD TO CHANGES IN LEARNING, BUT I DON’T THINK YOU AND I WILL AGREE ON THOSE CHANGES. :) OUR CURRENT TECHNOLOGY VALUES POPULARITY, BREVITY, EFFICIENCY, AND DECONTEXTUAL INFORMATION. EACH OF THESE THINGS HAVE NEGATIVE CORRELATIONS TO WHAT I CONSIDER LEARNING – SO YES, IT DOES PISS ME OFF – BUT NOT BECAUSE I’M BEING REPLACED. IT PISSES ME OFF BECAUSE I’M BEING REPLACED BY SOMETHING THAT ENCOURAGES STUDENTS TO DO ALL THE THINGS I KNOW WILL SET THEM UP TO BE SHALLOW THINKERS SUSCEPTIBLE TO THE WHIMS OF GROUP THINK.

      If you’re for thinking, as opposed to not thinking, I’m with you. I don’t think I’ve heard an argument against thoughtful technology use in the classrooms. I’ve heard many arguments against classroom technology.

      YES, THOUGHTFUL USE OF TECH IS KEY, BUT I HAVE FOUND VERY VERY FEW THOUGHTFUL USES – MOST ALL OF THE DIALOGUE I SEE IS “USE IT, USE IT, USE IT” THE ARTICLE YOU LED OFF WITH ATTEMPTS TO BE THOUGHTFUL, BUT MISSES THAT TECHNOLOGY IS BIASED – A PRETTY FUNDAMENTAL ASPECT OF TECHNOLOGICAL LITERACY. MOST OF THE ARGUMENTS I FIND ON TECH USE COME FROM A TECHNOLOGICALLY ILLITERATE STANCE.

      Regardless, I remain a bit puzzled by your editorial stance towards technology. If it can be used thoughtfully, why not provide us with specific examples you endorse rather than general arguments you employ?

      EDITORIAL? I DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS. PROVIDING YOU WITH EXAMPLES EASILY SLIPS INTO – “LOOK AT THIS GREAT TECHNOLOGY”, INSTEAD OF THE NEED TO THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT TECH USE. DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD HAVE ENGAGED THIS DEEPLY IF I HAD SIMPLY GIVEN EXAMPLES? I THINK NOT.

      BUT I THINK USING BLOGS AND HAVING STUDENTS COMMENT ON EACH OTHERS’ BLOGS IS A GREAT ALTERNATIVE TO WRITING A REPORT. HOWEVER, WE MIGHT BE SENDING KIDS THE MESSAGE THAT GETTING COMMENTS IS MORE IMPORTANT THE INTRINSIC BENEFIT OF DEEP THOUGHT/REFLECTION FOR YOUR OWN BENEFIT. FOR EVERY PRO, THERE IS A CON. I’M NOT SAYING GET RID OF IT. I’M SAYING WEIGH THE PROS AND CONS AND MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION. MOST PEOPLE AREN’T EVEN TALKING ABOUT (AND LIKELY AREN’T EVEN AWARE) OF THE CONS.

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  5. Chad Sansing says:

    I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE WITH THE CAPS.

    Frankly, Jerrid, not to be arrogant, but many of us can help students have new/deep thoughts with or without technology. What I object to the most at this point is your Straw Man attack on early adopters – the “do, do, do” crowd. There are plenty of ways to use Google (or whatever) and its products discerningly, but without people using them, those ways won’t be found. Program or be programmed, you know?

    If what you are saying is that because you do not see any discerning applications for popular applications, they are evil AND anti-intellectual, then I’d encourage you to find incredible provocative and reflective uses for them. I wholeheartedly believe that you’re capable of illustrating a discerning use of technology, and I’d encourage you to help us find those ways because when you and I are dead there will still be new technologies in new schools and workplaces. Let’s prepare the ground for a brighter future instead of resisting it all together.

    For the record,

    A) You’re projecting a lot on to my argument in question 4 and on to me. Aaron, we’re limited by biology and experience. Moreover, we’re limited by habit. Furthermore, for many students in many schools suffering through a limited curriculum, social media can provide a way out into a larger world that states’ tests don’t value in any real way.

    B) We’re the one’s sniping at each other’s beliefs here; it’s not WordPress that makes us people with a difference of opinion, and no one is forcing us to be anonymous. I believe you know my name, email, Twitter ID, and URLs.

    C) We can wait for the products that are meant to replace us, or we can find the technologies that allow for the learning we most admire and use them in collaboration with students.

    I do, however, ultimately agree that CAPS LOCK makes us look like we’re yelling. Damn bias. Rip the key from your keyboard, PLN.

    Best,
    C

    PS – My commenting here is reflection for my own benefit. Blogging, commenting, thinking, doing – these things are not exclusive unless our biases make us act and program in a manner that reinforces those biases. Why does technology get such a bad rap when our biases are clearly on display here?

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    • jerridkruse says:

      You are right, the best teachers can do good things with or without technology – so why are so many people saying we have to use technology to be good? I want to be clear, I use tech in my classes – I am “known” for it, but i think too often our rhetoric turns into more of a sales pitch than a philosophical or research based discussion about learning and teaching.

      I don’t think i am setting up a straw man. I think the straw men are out there – you may not be one, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I’m obviously not going to “name names” :)

      We are coming at this from two different philosophical stances you are an instrumentalist (its all in how we use it) while I am a determinist (tech uses us), so we will likely not ever agree (which is ok). You say program or be programmed. I say the choice to program is a choice to be programmed. Our programming by our technology is unavoidable, but I hope we can choose what will program us. Right now I see our culture (and our schools) starting to be programmed into an individualistic mindset.

      As I said, my intent is not to provide examples or ways technology should be used. My intent is to raise awareness of the deep ways in which technology changes us – oftentimes in unexpected and undesirable ways. There are great ways to use technology – but as with anything we do, a choice to do something someway is a choice to not do it another way, so we must carefully consider which way better promotes our goals for students – much of the edtech dialogue is on the default setting to “use tech” as opposed to actually thinking the options. Again, your desire for me to find useful ways to use tech demonstrates this default setting – the questions we should first ask is, how does the technology “want” to be used? If I use it that way, what do I give up? If I use it another way, what do i give up? Do i want to use the technology at all? Right now, we skip the last question and just right to “how should i use it?” This default is dangerous – and illustrates what I mean by “anti-intellectual”. We think we are thinking critically about the technology because we are thinking about *how* to use it, but we miss the issues around *if* we should use it.

      I’m sorry if I am projecting, I am only trying to make a point.

      You are correct, we are sniping at each other, but the medium is the message. I guarantee that if we were face 2 face or on the phone, the “conversation” would be going differently. The technology has bias.

      Your comment about waiting for the products that replace us is interesting. I think that if we take your stance of “find the technologies that allow for learning” is off-base. We should look for the human components that encourage learning. If we keep looking for the technology to do things for us, we will actually end up bringing the replacement on ourselves – 1984 was wrong, it is a Brave New World.

      PS: I enjoy your comments and your blogging, but our biases get built into technology, therefore our biases get exacerbated – the bias of technology does reflect our collective bias, but this has a magnifying effect – to think technology is mirror is ok, but I think it is a stain-glass window. Technology doesnt just reflect us, it has it’s own colors, designs and bias.

      I’m sorry if you feel as though i’m projecting. I was only trying to make a point.

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  6. A bias requires a decision, tools can’t make decisions for us. If there is bias, it comes from our choice of tools, not the tools themselves :)

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    • jerridkruse says:

      now we’re getting into some nuance! Awesome. Once we make the decision to use X technology, X technology as certain limitations – so subsequent decisions are made for us.

      Example: I choose to get my news from TV. Since TV is biased toward keeping my attention, the TV makes the choice that my news is superficial.

      Now we could say the bias of TV is result of a human choice. ok, but it wasn’t MY choice to make TV about attention. So now, the choice that someone else made is made for me by the technology.

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      • But you have the option to make a different choice, the ball is still in your court. The limitations of the tool is not the same as the bias from a person’s choice. BTW, have you read this? http://attheteachersdesk.blogspot.com/2010/11/edcampkc-rather-painful-reflection.html

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        • jerridkruse says:

          ah, but we don’t always have a choice. There is something called lock-in. What happens with the newspaper dies? Because so many people “choose” the TV or the internet, some people no longer have a choice as to where to get their news. (and internet news has it’s own bias as well, so do newspapers).

          Your reflection is exactly what i’m talking about. There are a lot of people who wont ever have your moment of epiphany – they will believe that online is as good as face to face. They will continue to push us toward making school online and wont consider the consequences. Politicians and businesses will be on board because it is cheaper and “standardized” and lucrative. I worry we are going to wake up one day and find ourselves locked in to a new kind of educational paradigm (a bad one)….that is when the bias of the technology takes hold.

          You’re right, we do have choice (for now), but most of us continue to ignore the negatives of technologies and so we creep closer and closer to lock-in. We can debate whether technology has a bias or whether we have bias, that is not the point. The point is the negative bias (ours or the technologies) is going unquestioned.

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  7. Chad Sansing says:

    To avoid trolling, I’ll withdraw with this assertion:

    The wolves of instrumentalism and determinism and a hundred of their brethren play in my heart, romping in the possibilities of reaching each of my kids.

    Best,
    C

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    • jerridkruse says:

      you do not need to avoid trolling with me.

      I now that I might be coming off as a luddite (you know I am not), I’m ok with that because these issues need to be raised for they have long term consequences.

      I’m not sure what your quote means, but I suspect it means that the issues of determinism and instrumentalism don’t matter in the greater scheme of reaching kids.

      I agree to an extent. Reaching kids today, in the now, is a pragmatic issue, it is not so much a philosophical one.

      However, our society will be shaped by our tools just as much as our society shapes the tools. So the little decisions we make today to entertain (masquerading as engagement) our students will shape our future.

      I’m not concerned about what teachers do today, I’m concerned that what our teachers do today will give us a future we don’t actually want. These discussion should have been happening pre-industrial model. Maybe they did.

      I’m well aware I will lose this argument in the long run, but sometimes a fight is worth fighting, no matter how futile.

      I enjoy the back and forth. I’m about to start a book chapter on this issue of technological bias and its impact on education. The pushback is 1) helping me know the counter arguments and 2) forcing me to wrestle with how to achieve clarity in my ideas.

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