In cleaning up my digital life, I recently stumbled across my notes from when I was an instructor at Temple University’s College of Education in educational technology. Given that I last taught this course well over a decade ago, most of the tools that we discussed have long been eclipsed. Does anyone remember HyperCard or Timeliner? Others like PowerPoint and Excel have significantly evolved from their earlier iterations.
I was going to delete the notes and consign them to digital oblivion when I started looking at my notes. One of the first classes in the course centered around what is technology and defining it. As I read the notes, I noticed the following definition for technology:
Technology is any tool created by people that is not naturally occurring.
So, in other words, a pencil is just as much technology as is the touch screen laptop that I’m writing this post on.
The focus of our initial conversations was not on how to use technology, but what education strategies and tools worked best for the lesson objective in front of us. How we teach needs to be driven by what we want our students to know, understand, or do as a part of our instructional time together.
We often spend too much time as educators being fascinated by the newest piece of educational technology that is supposed to change the face of education. Maybe one day one of these tech toys will do that, but it has to be answering the same questions that I asked my students in ED255, how are you planning on using it to enhance student learning?
As an instructor in a technology class for pre-service teachers, I pushed my students to include educational technology in their sample lesson plans so that they could see how these tools could enhance learning, or in some cases, detract from their learning. Now, when I work with teachers, I can be equally excited by a well crafted lesson using the Socratic method as I am by a lesson that incorporates multiple high tech tools.
I don’t think that I will ever have to teach about HyperCard again, but I’m not deleting these files. For me, these lessons, no matter how obsolete the tech tool is, show me that at the end of the day, it is how you use the tools, not what the tool is.