There I said it. I am working on it.
This is probably a strange statement to see coming from me. I have hundreds of blog posts that might suggest just the opposite. I have been a regular cheerleader for the power of digital tools in the classroom. I have hundreds of emails coming and going each day and get jittery when my iPhone battery falls to 20%.
Maybe it is age, maybe it is complacency, or maybe it is easier to just fit in with the crowd – but too often recently I have taken a jaded, and sometimes cynical view of technology, and that needs to change.
My friend and colleague Dean Shareski made a great presentation early in the summer at a conference hosted by the BC Principals’ and Vice-Principals’ Association where he argued that sometimes actually it is about the technology. A regular line in most of my talks over the last few years, and one that gets repeated over and over again by many others is “it is not about the technology”. And Dean is right, it is kind of about the technology sometimes. And just like I know I am about to be mightily disrespected when someone starts a sentence with “No disrespect intended” many of the awesome examples shared after someone says, “it is not about the technology” really wouldn’t happen without the technology.
The distinction being made is that the goal is the learning and the technology is there to support the learning. It is an argument that Michael Fullan has been making for a number of years focused on the right and wrong system drivers. I think we can let people off the hook when we too casually say “it is not about the technology” – because sometimes it is about the technology. Whether it is new portfolios, connecting with students across the world or getting feedback from a public audience, to some degree, it is about the technology.
Another interesting point that Dean made was that all the talk about technology disrupting communities – the same could be said for books and newspapers in previous generations. With books and newspapers, people no longer had to connect face-to-face to receive information. There are many photos like this one circulating on the internet that we romanticize as the good ol’ days:
While at the same time when we see a family like this, we shake our heads and wonder why they can’t just be “present” with each other:
And if Dean hadn’t done enough to make me come to grips with my growing anti-technology bias Pokémon Go came along and I felt like an old man wanting to yell at the neighbourhood kids to get off his lawn and stop making so much noise. I went out for a walk at 10 PM and the community was full of mostly young people searching for Pokémon. I was shaking my head – great – another example of kids wasting time on their phones. It took me until the following day to actually realize how awesome this was. Young people were out walking, exploring, connecting and having fun. If they had clipped a treasure map out of the local newspaper I would have thought it was awesome. But there was my bias on display.
I have been reading a lot from Peter Diamandis, Clay Shirky and others lately to challenge my complacency. Their thinking have helped me get back on course. I am an unapologetic believer that the future is exciting, and that technology plays an important role in opening up amazing opportunities for our schools and beyond. And so I will spend a little less time shaking my head at those on their Smart Phones, or playing the latest online game.
It is easy to slip into a “glass is half empty” mindset.
I know, everything in moderation – but sometimes it is about the technology and there is a lot to be excited about.