DAILY INSIGHT: Learning with Technology vs. Teaching with Technology

By Rob Mancabelli, CIO Advisor

From Texas to Wisconsin, school budget cuts dominate the news, and technology funding is frequently the first item on the chopping block. Tech tools and personnel are the first to go because often they are seen as something extra – a piece not critical to student achievement. To change this dynamic would require that technology be perceived as an indispensible part of an education instead of something “nice to have.”I’d like to suggest that this might be the distinction between “learning with technology” versus just “teaching with technology.”

What’s the difference?

Well, many of our tech initiatives center on teaching with technology. When parents look at their kids’ classrooms they see the ones that they remember, but with an interactive board instead of a whiteboard, a computer on the teacher’s desk and a couple of desktops in the back of the room. Sure they see their kids typing their papers and doing online research, but they also see them listening to lectures, carrying home textbooks and filing out worksheets. It’s the same stuff students have always done. Most people outside of schools sense that although we are spending money on technology, it’s not radically changing the way that students learn.

If that’s true, it’s because using technology to change learning is an exponentially harder nut to crack. It means asking teachers to rethink their classrooms and the way they do their work. It means requiring personnel to participate in professional development and telling them they need to learn new skills every year. It means inviting into our classrooms lessons that will fail and having lots of conversations with parents that won’t understand what we are doing. It means explaining to board members that learning is different now. It means replacing the old standbys in the budget -- copy machines, calculators, paper textbooks and dozens of others – with new line items that give every student a computer and access to the Internet. Most of all, it means admitting that none of us has all the answers and that we need to figure it out together as we go.

In short, learning with technology is really hard.

But if we have the courage and the vision to take it on, here’s the payoff: students experiencing excitement and engagement as they build personalized, global learning networks that they will have for the rest of their lives ... classrooms connected to talented people from around the world participating in collaborative learning and getting real-time feedback on real-life projects ... teachers that are energized and informed each day by an international web of connections and ideas ... parents who look forward to engaging with students and teachers every day because of the systems that link them to the work of our classrooms ... and a local community that is proud of the learning that takes place at their school. And, if we really get it right, a truly uncutable technology program.

Rob Mancabelli is a speaker, writer and consultant in the fields of technology and learning. To continue the conversation, visit his blog at http://www.mancabelli.com/.