Sunday, October 14, 2012

Is Technology Just a Tool?

This week has been one of those 'perfect storms' for learning. Four days of conference breakouts, five keynotes, the combination of online and face-to-face networks, considering different perspectives that challenged my thinking and making valued new connections to continue the conversations. Also preparing my contributions to conference breakouts can provide some of the most powerful reflection for my own learning even before the conference begins.

This post continues a conversation (with @rachelboyd @annekenn @MtManaia) in response to a tweet I posted after hearing the statement "technology is just a tool", referenced in more than one keynote this week.

I appreciate that this idea may have different meanings in different contexts however, I try to stay tuned to its use in rhetoric. It's very easy to say! What do we mean when we refer to technology as "just a tool" and how might this be interpreted?

If I default to technology as 'just a tool' I don't believe I am recognising the complexities that surround its use to support learning. That is:

  • The professional learning and inquiry educators invest in to improve their ability to integrate new technologies as effective pedagogy. 
  • The increased opportunities for students to learn, create and share new knowledge and thinking when they not only have access to 'the tools' but also the support of teachers who are skilled and confident professionals. 
My analogy to the ukelele was in response to watching a clip of Jake Shimabukuro playing his ukelele in combination with a quote from Jason Ohler when he suggested that technology could be akin to giving bad guitar players bigger amplifiers.

"... although multimedia can act as an assistive technology, it cannot take the place of vision, talent, or skill, whether developed or inherited. We will always need to tell a story with our art and to tell it with honesty, depth, and detail if it is to survive as more than a transient, disconnected thought. For this reason, teachers will become more important as technology increases in power. More than ever, students will need teachers for their wisdom and knowledge to help navigate a purposeful path through the glitz and distraction".  (Jason Ohler)

I originally used the video and quotes as a prompt in a breakout I facilitated at Learning@School in 2006.  I had been wondering what might result if we explored this statement as a question and considered the actions of the teacher or the student, and how these actions might impact on the concept of technology as "just another tool".  

In the hands of Jake Shimabukuro the ukelele is an amazing instrument. What does this say about his approach to learning?

What does your use of technology say about your learning?

"The ukulele itself, and those like Jake who play it so insanely well, represent both the struggle and the inspiration and delight that comes from blowing away other people's low expectations of you through your own hard work, unbridled passion, and dedication to excellence." (Presentation Zen, 2010: Jake Shimabukuro wows TEDxTokyo)


annekenn said...

Hi Fiona, This blogpost really touches me. Not only because I get a mention, not only because I learnt to play the ukelele, not only because I think of technology as a tool but so much more... It challenged me in many ways and made me think why can one learner make an iPad sing and dance and connect with anyone, anywhere and another learner uses it like a book, or a clipboard, or an app fest game station? Why is it that some learners use a tool to open the world and others use it just to poke around and dig? Like never before, I agree we need to be there to guide, to model, support, empower, enable and celebrate with our learners and most importantly learn with and from our learners... Technology is a tool, but so so much more than a tool. Just like Jake's ukelele, you have to own the tool, work the tool, use the tool and make the tool sing...
The MAGIC of teaching is in removing barriers and being there as our learners develop their wings and fly...
Anne K

Fiona Grant said...

"...make the tool sing" I like that Anne. Thanks again for the conversations last week...good ones are never over. Have a great term.