Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Learning or Technology First?

I am fascinated with inconsistencies between concepts and talk in terms of learning and technology. I have conducted many interviews about learning and technology in classrooms with K12 teachers.

I have noticed that many educators say that technology is only a tool and that learning is the true focus. I often hear statements like “I concentrate on their classroom learning not their technology use” or “I don't care about the technology, I just want them to learn math.”

Then the educators go on to describe what their students do in terms of learning and technology. I usually hear statements like “My students use PowerPoint to show the decline of Spain,” “They searched the web for information on plants in space,” “I have my students take digital pictures to show the steps in their lab,” or “My students use email to exchange math problems with students in France.” Their words show a different focus. I notice that in each statement the technology comes first and then the learning. “My students use PowerPoint to show the decline of Spain” has a different focus than “My students show the decline of Spain through PowerPoint.” Often the educators' words show that they are still fixed on the technology.

The vast majority of teachers place the technology in the front part of their sentence and then the learning afterwards. Frequently, when I ask about learning and technology in their classes, I just hear the technology such as “My students search the web” without any indication of the specific subject area learning. I do not feel an educational focus in such statements about technology.

Sometimes I hear myself talking about learning and technology and I notice that I have put technology first. I usually stop and rephrase it instantly. I want to focus on student learning. Listen to how other educators describe learning and technology and see where their real focus is. Listen to professional development presenters or professional speakers and hear where they focus really is. What is first in your statements and theirs – learning or technology?


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