Technology for it’s own Sake?

Jim Heynderickx asked an important, though not entirely simple question as a comment to one of my recent workshop survey postings. Here are his ideas, and I’ll add my comments below.

A simple question: like email, will we soon be providing internal blogs or profile pages for all faculty, staff and students, but in a more protected manner? For example, profile pages that were only accessible by other school community members? This defeats the “world wide” aspect of blogs, and initially kids may not use them. However, a few years ago it was said that kids wouldn’t use the email accounts we created for them, but over time quality differences have lead to their school accounts being important and “serious” for their work.

I recently worked with a school district in Arkansas, where they have provided students with e-mail for a number of years. The instructional technology director explained that, during the first years, there was a significant amount of abuse by students. However, the consequences, when caught, were relevant to the offense (I do not recall specifics), and not a blanket, you lose your rights to the network for violating any of the AUP items. She said that the second year, there were fewer offenses and the next even fewer. She said that she could not think of any abuses for the 2004-2005 school year.

They did not achieve a successful integration of e-mail into the teaching and learning process by teaching students to use e-mail. They achieved it by integrating a need for the communication that can best be achieved with electronic mail. The focus was on communication, on the information skills, not on the technology skills.

North Carolina has had a state-wide computer skills curriculum for more than 10 years. But it is just that, a computer or technology skills. The State Department of Public Instruction just revised the curriculum, but it continues to be populated with standards aimed at technology (The learner will demonstrate the ability to sort rows with a spreadsheet program).

It makes more sense to me to wrap these standards around information skills (contemporary literacy), asking students to draw a conclusion or solve a problem from a sizable collection of digital data, and then the student utilizes the most relevant and efficient technology and skill to accomplish the goal. This approach, would encourage students and teachers to constantly explore emerging technologies in light of information problems, rather than contriving information problems around specific technologies identified by the state — years ago.

When we expect students to access digital networked information, evaluate and select pertanent content, process the data, and then compellingly express their conclusions and solutions with an authentic audience, all within an ethical context, then heated discussions of emerging technologies like blogging, wikis, IM will fade. In addition, if we effectively help students to integrate into their world the skills to access, use, and communicate information to accomplish relevant goals, they may be less inclined to abuse the technologies.

Just 2¢ worth!

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.