Are there educational lessons that require the use of technology because they can't be replicated without it? by Scott Meech

My daughter is 4 1/2 years old, and she amazes me every day. Watching her learn, explore, and grow has been a fantastic experience that is beyond description. In many ways, I have learned more from her than she from me, and I don't think these learning experiences for me could have been replicated in any other way. Art activities are currently a priority for her, and she wants feedback every time she switches to a different colored marker.

This past weekend she colored a picture for her grandfather who she has given the illustrious title of "Paw Paw". After completing her masterpiece, she had to get it to Paw Paw immediately. See, Paw Paw was coming out to the house later that afternoon, but she could not wait that long. She decided that we needed to mail the picture to Paw Paw immediately. She went into my home office and grabbed an envelope which we addressed together. She then proceeded to stamp it and place it into the mail box after raising the red mail flag. This was a fantastic learning experience as she learned all about mailing something via snail mail that led to discussions on money for the stamp, etc.

Ten minutes after mailing the picture she began to talk about how excited she was that Paw Paw would get this picture before coming out to our house later that same afternoon. I obviously broke the news to her that he would not receive it for a few days because of the delay in the mail system. After being distraught at first, she quickly devised a new plan, "Why don't we just scan it and email it to him?".

See, I had scanned a picture of hers sometime back and emailed it to all of our relatives, so she knew what the process meant, but she had not immediately transferred that learning to her current "Paw Paw" dilemma. It took a specific need to get this artwork out immediately to hammer home her understanding the fundamental difference between snail mail and email.

Of course, I could have told her immediately how to get the image to Paw Paw, but I don't think the lesson would have hit home as well as it did. I don't buy the whole "digital native" label that kids are given these days, and I think this label is harmful in many ways. Too often, we assume students are going to learn how to use technology well because they use it so often in their personal worlds. Kids are not connecting technology with their learning as well as many of us adults assume.

Obviously my daughter's age is an important factor, but my experience is that students at all ages are not utilizing technology well to foster their own learning without guidance from their teachers. As she develops and ages, will my daughter use technology well to enhance her learning simply because she has learned how to scan an image, email, and communicate with family members via Skype and iChat? Teachers do not have sole control of "knowledge" as they once did as we all know that any fact or piece of information is just one click away. Teachers' greatest strength lies in their ability to "connect" knowledge and enhance student learning. Educators need to connect technology with their students' learning at every opportunity when it is fundamental to the learning process to help foster this connection.

While many schools' mission statements include "lifelong learning" as an essential component, what are we really doing to foster this ability? We need to identify sound educational activities that foster connections with technology, students' basic learning skills and the classroom's content.

Basically, I believe there are fundamental learning experiences utilizing technology that can not be replicated as well by traditional education methodology without technology. and electronic mail.

  1. Digital Storytelling
  2. Blog Commenting - See Example at "The Edge of Tomorrow"
  3. Blog Writing -
  4. Digital Collaboration
  5. Logic via Programming Skills
  6. Media Literacy
  7. Visualizing Text - Hank Thiele's Presentation (PDF format)

Do you think there are fundamental learning experiences that can't be replicated well without technology? Do you agree with the experiences I quickly referenced? Are there certain experiences when using technology that are important learning lessons that should be considered fundamental to one's learning? What specific tech skills should we focus on to truly provide students the skills to becoming a lifelong learner?

Take at look at Mike Elgan's blog at Computer World as an example of what some others outside the "Edublogsphere" think about education and where technology fits into schools. Is Mike correct? Are there fundamental uses of high quality technologies that are important to consider for the sake of learning with and from the best technologies available? Mike says, "The students are already immersed in these technologies and services." Should education leverage these technologies better in schools or continue to force poor quality and safer technologies?

Mike's point should go one step further in my opinion. If we don't leverage these tools in schools, are students really going to connect their technology with their learning well enough? Are we giving our students the best experience possible to truly become lifelong learners?

Most of the lessons my daughter has taught and continues to teach me would never have happened if I hadn't been blessed with becoming a father. I feel as if my experience of being a parent has made me a better person and a better teacher. No matter what others told me about parenting, I would never have learned many of the most valuable lessons without that experience. Shouldn't we start looking at some aspects or experiences of learning with technology in a similar fashion? Are there educational lessons that require the use of technology because they can't be replicated without it?

... Scott Meech