The problem with #edtech debates —Technology isn't always the solution, but isn't the problem either

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Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation.

Pseudo intellectual guff

Listen to his royal highness Tom Bennett bad-mouthing iPads in his likeable Scottish lilt. Hear the knowledgeable David Didau proclaiming confidently that the only tech we could ever possibly need in our classrooms is – at a push – a visualiser. Read the always thought-provoking Martin Robinson inveigling you eloquently into turning off everything that can be turned off. Or follow the numerous trendy twittering trads who profess 140 characters at a time that great teaching and effective use of technology in teaching are somehow mutually incompatible.

It’s easy to conclude, isn’t it, that it has become almost faddish to espouse anti tech sentiments of late. As if the more vociferously anti tech one is, the greater expertise in education one is seemingly able to demonstrate.

The debate (from dis- battere, Latin for fighting the opposite) around the use of technology in education is often reduced to binary nonsense. One’s either a happy-clappy, app-smashing, iPad-wielding technology zealot or a technology-eschewing, chalk-wielding, iPad-smashing Luddite. If, like me, you can see opportunities as well as the challenges and are neither in one extreme nor the other, this debate is probably boring you to tears and has been for some time.

Nevertheless, think what you may, this debate is worth having. You see, to suggest that technology changes everything is just as daft as to suggest that it changes nothing. So it is only by having this debate that we expose the unreasonableness of dogma and the foolishness of positioning oneself in the extreme.

But let’s make it an informed, intelligent debate, devoid of pseudo intellectual guff whenever possible. Yes, children still need to learn stuff, despite Google. No, the internet is not making us stupid. Yes, digital natives are a myth. No, social media does not cause us to be ‘alone together’. Yes, we do use a lot of technology. No, relying on technology is not an ‘addiction’. Yes, great teaching doesn’t require technology. No, great teachers don’t eschew it. Yes, interactive whiteboards are expensive and often under-utilised. Yet I would like to keep mine, thanks. Yes, iPads can be a distraction. But no, they don’t have to be.

Technology isn’t always the solution, but isn’t the problem either. Let’s have an informed debate. Over to you.

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  1. I would invite anyone to visit my special school and then tell me tech is not necessary or is a distraction. To see children as young as 3 operating an iPad for speech or an eyegaze to share a book is a sight to behold. It really is.
    Great post Jose.

  2. Well said Jose

    I think there is a bit of an issue that those who are a bit OCD about “teacher centred” and “teacher talk” tend to see no use for technology. Those who have a more eclectic and flexible view of learning tend to see opportunities to use techology to support the proces. I could be wrong but I feel this is source of disagreement among professionals.

  3. Thanks for this José – yes in many educational debates the “shouters at the ends of the line” get more publicity than the “considerers in the middle” not surprisingly as they are more committed to and certain of their positions.

    I think I would go back to the definition of technology – we tend to be more critical of “new technology” as we probably should and less critical of embedded technology – which we don’t generally even think of as technology (e.g. pens, paper, furniture, boards (chalk or white), TV, film etc … However there will need to be teachers who are willing to try out the new in order to see what “makes the cut” to the embedded.

    I am interested in developing and refining criteria for this process – how do we make decisions about what is useful, what criteria do we apply – and whilst I would say that “pupil progress” is one, though it is very hard to determine causal links, there other others around teacher workload, classroom efficiency, access, autonomy (pupil and teacher), administration etc… would be interested to discuss this with interested others p.hopkins@hull.ac.uk or @hopkinsmmi.

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