I’m sitting in the main hall of the Holiday Valley Yodeler Lodge, where I’ll be talking to about 200 high school teachers about contemporary literacy — in just a few minutes. At present, there is a horn quartet playing on the floor above and a string quartet on the floor below me. Interesting, but hard to concentrate.
I do want to say something about the two polls I’ve been running over the past few days — in which I’ve used the word technology more than I typically do during any given three months. One reason I try to avoid the word is clear when reading through the comments on those posts. People, rightly, want to clarify exactly what is meant by the word technology, qualifying their answers based on this perspective or that. Still, it’s not a useless term, and following Alan Kay’s definition, that “Technology is anything that was invented after you were born,” I’m talking about computers, the Internet, software, and devices that you can connect to your computer — things that didn’t exist when I started teaching 33 years ago.
My first poll question asked us to consider whether a teacher could be a good teacher without using technology. The results were just a tiny bit less than an overwhelming, “Yes!”
As I wrote yesterday, I had a few “good” teachers when I was in school, and this was long before the appearance what we now call technology. I agree that some teachers, today, depending on their subject, can teach it without using technology, and teach it well.
But this brings us to the second question, “Is that teacher, who is not using technology, doing his or her job?” The answer here was a fairly resounding, “No!”
I use to say that you should use the tool that was appropriate to the job. If you can do it with a paper notebook and paper encyclopedia, then those are the tools you should use. I’ve changed, though. Actually the world has changed. Today, our prevailing information landscape is increasingly networked, digital, and abundant. Information behaves in new ways that are impossible in an exclusively published, print-based world.
When I was in school, you waited for the 6:00 news, or the morning paper for the latest about the world. Today, you don’t even go to CNN.com for the latest. You go to Twitter, where citizen journalists are constantly reporting what’s happening around them. I learned about the plane crash in the Hudson River from Twitter, and saw the first pictures on Flickr, uploaded from the cell phones of passers-by — before anything appeared on CNN.com.
This changes what it means to be literate. It changes what it means to be a learner. Today, being able to read and write and pass a test are not enough. They are not nearly enough. Today our students must become information artisans, able to learn, work, play, contribute, and prosper in a new and constantly changing and enriching information environment, and do so in a way that conserves the planet — rather than consum it. We can not do this today by scratching and printing on pulp-based paper. Teaching and learning must be digital.
If you don’t want to do technology, if your not good at technology, then find another calling.
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