Last night I listened to Dr. Gary Stager on a live Webinar presented by #Edchat, and The Educator’s PLN. As I often do after attending such presentations, I latched on to one statement by the speaker and began noodling and reflecting for the purpose of further exploration. Dr. Stager took issue with the term “Device” in regard to it being used as a term for a specific computer used as a tool for learning. He made his point by explaining that people do not walk into an Apple Store and ask to see a device. If that is true, how did we, as educators, arrive at a place where we use such a generic term for any form of technology that we want to use in the classroom?
From my point of view I find technology to be an integral part of learning for today’s learners. Of course not every educator agrees, and I recognize that. I also acknowledge that there are many times where technology does not fit into a lesson. No educator should use tech for the sake of using tech. If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it. However, for the purpose of collection, collaboration, communication, or creation of content, technology beats out the old school methods. Of course, there are some who would not accept that.
That resistance on the part of some educators might very well be a contributing factor in the use of the word “Device” as opposed to the word “Computer” in education. I am always amazed that a profession filled with so many people holding advanced degrees can be so resistant to a tool, or apparatus, or a “device” for learning. There, I did it as well. I called it everything but a computer. Why? (Actually in this case it was to make the point) The idea of a computer is similar to garbage dump. Yes, we need it; yes, we must have it; No, I do not want it in my backyard. As long as somebody else is using a computer in some other class, educators can say that kids are using tech in education.
Many believe that the best way to engage our kids in learning and preparing them with the skills that they will need in the world in which they will live, requires a computer for each student. That idea however, is a hard sell. Once we recognize that as a fact, it commits every community to a goal that many are not willing to pay for in either intellectual or monetary currency. It would require that all educators immediately become media literate, and communities would be required to fund a computer for every child. Those commitments will not happen. The plan then becomes, “If they don’t buy into computers, let’s try to get them to accept devices.” The word itself sounds cheaper and less intimidating.
More and more schools are committing to a laptop for every student. This scares a great number of people. The costs involved initially go beyond just the cost of the computers. It requires training teachers in the use of the computers, as well as new methods in teaching while using computers as a tool for learning. This is a big commitment. Many educators have been educated with limited computer use and now they are being asked to put that aside and learn a different, less familiar, and less comfortable way of teaching. The idea of “devices” may be a baby step way of getting there. If we can use the smart phones that kids are familiar with as a “Mobile Learning Device”, that could be a baby step forward. If an IPod is small enough, and cheap enough that is another device that takes us a baby step forward. A tablet with an Interactive White Board is a cute device, and it may also take us a baby step forward. My only problem with any of this is that we are not babies. We cannot settle for baby steps.
All of these devices are great for what they do, but we need more of a total commitment, if we want real education reform. There is no way to expect reform without having to change something. Band-Aids and baby steps over time are expensive alternatives to a thoughtful commitment. If we are not yet ready for the financial commitment, we can at least claim a computer for every child as a goal. The professional development of teachers can then be focused for that in preparation of reaching that goal. “Devices”, at that point, must be recognized as stop-gap measures, and not the end goal. They are all parts of the bigger picture of technology integrated into curriculum. Technology designed to support the curriculum without replacing it. Technology should empower the teacher to do more not less. Technology should remove boundaries of time and space for students. Technology should enable learning to take place anytime and anywhere. Technology should enable life-long learning for teachers and students alike.
Your comments are welcomed