It’s Not Just a Tool

6/1/2011 By:

The following is an adaptation from a blog post by T&L advisor Dean Shareski and a selection of responses from readers. To see the conversation in its entirety, go to: www.techlearning.com/blogs/38944


Saying technology is “just a tool” can be dangerous. The problem with this thinking is that it can get us used to seeing technology only as a means of automating or of making current practice more efficient.

Believing that technology is just a tool allows people to use technology to perpetuate bad practices and more testing, and to seek efficiency and simplicity instead of the messiness that comes from personal connections to passions and interests. While I advocate for the use of technology to share and make connectionsConnecting learners in itself is a powerful new shift, add to that the , our ability to use it to create meanimgful projects and works of art and it should change they way we think about learning.

I worry sometimes about efforts to “infuse” technology into our classrooms. Much of this infusion is just about continuing on with current practice, sprinkling technology on top, and calling it innovative. This is when it’s just a tool. When technology transforms the way we learn and offers us new, uncharted experiences and opportunities, it’s much more than a tool; it’s a whole new environment.

Of course, we currently aren’t using technology to create learning environments. At best we’re embedding them into our current system. This isn’t about some Utopian world of learning. With new possibilities come new problems. But these new problems have to be viewed and addressed in new ways.

So the next time someone says technology is just a tool, I’d encourage you to probe to find out what that means. Too often it’s a way of downplaying the significant potential of emerging technologies and their power to effect change.

Readers respond:

Yes, technology is not JUST another tool — I’ve been saying that since the 90s. Digital tools can take learning to a whole new level. BUT they do not replace educators making instructional decisions and they do not replace curriculum designed to teach the whole child. A new kind of tool — not the answer to all the changes we need to make in education.
Posted by: Walter McKenzie

The truth is, the way we conceptualize technology is a major determinant of how we use, and will use, it for heuristically meaningful purposes. Kudos on the content and presentation.
Posted by: Rabbi David Etengoff

I would agree that technology resources expand the classroom experience — but in no way replace educators. I am concerned when the resource becomes the learning objective. Learning should not be developed around using a piece of technology that was purchased — especially when purchased without teacher input. I argue the starting point should always be the learning objective (good old backwards design – what do I want my students to achieve and how to I facilitate the journey).
Posted by: Jen LaMaster

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