Happy Thanksgiving! Please Pass the Purpose

Once again, I have the pleasure of posting at Tech Learning on Thanksgiving Day. So, I'd like to start with a "Happy Thanksgiving" to all my American friends, and a "Happy Turkey Amnesty Day" for all of you who aren't celebrating the American tradition.

In honor of all those who are busy cooking up a storm in the kitchen, getting ready for the great feasts for friends and family, I thought I would keep this post short and again invite others to add their thoughts to it in the comment section below (hey, I've got my own T-Day preparations to make too!)

Last year, in my Thanksgiving post, I asked people to share what they were Thankful For (whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not). So please add your "Thankfuls" in the comment section below.

This year, I want to state my gratitude for the after school Tech Club that I and two other adults help facilitate once a week. Our group has grown significantly since last year (we're up to around 16 students already). It is wonderful to witness the "elder" members (students from last year) help get things going without needing the adults to really do much. (Once in a while, we jump in with our thoughts and help guide the direction of conversation, but so far, the students have been charting the course).

Here's what I'm most Thankful for: the students have met 3 times already and have yet to really talk about TECHNOLOGY. Instead, they've been working on identifying the PURPOSE(s) of their group. Technology is secondary. So far the only technology they've incorporated has been learning Google Apps so that they can record their thoughts and communicate with each other.

Technology is not the reason that they've come together. In other words, I haven't heard one student say, "I want to learn how to make movies, that's why I'm here." Instead, they've identified local and global needs first, before even identifying the technology that will help them achieve their goals.

I ask all of us: is this the norm for teachers, schools, districts? Do we always clearly identify the PURPOSE before making our technology purchases? In my travels, I have often heard something similar to the following:

"Okay, we just bought 500 iPod Touches (or other technology) for our teachers/school/district. Now what do we do?"

This is, as the saying goes, putting the cart before the horse.

I firmly believe purpose should be clearly defined before we even begin to talk about what we need for technology, and I am thankful to be able to witness that this is how the Tech Club students are starting their journey.

I'll include the list of what they've come up with for what they want to work on:

Local:

  • Animal Abuse
  • Food Pantries
  • Core Values/Kelso Assemblies (*my note: this is a school curriculum need)
  • Help Homeless People
  • Make nursing home more like home
  • Set up lemonade stands to raise and donate money to a worthy cause

Global:

  • Dominican Republic
  • Africa
  • Disease in other Countries
  • WWF/Save Endangered Species
  • Drought/Famine
  • People with Cleft Lips
  • Haiti’s needs
  • Better Education in Different Countries
  • Step towards peace

Both:

  • Oil Spill
  • Writing Books
  • Animals
  • Cancer
  • Medical Needs
  • Birthday Boxes
  • Environmental Protection
  • Recycle
  • School Supplies for Africa
  • World (everyone, even us) hunger

Looking at this list, it really doesn't look like it came from a group called "Tech Club." The students will eventually start looking for ways to accomplish some of the above with technology, but it is clear that it isn't shiny new Tech toys that are motivating their work.

So, thank you Tech Club students for demonstrating great practice of identifying the important part of Technology Integration: it must all be driven by the Purpose rather than the Technology.

What are you Thankful for?