Why “I Don’t Do Technology” Isn’t Acceptable

CSI Miami "Crime Lab" building

The FAA Credit Union building, which stands in for the Crime Lab in "CSI: Miami". Image by Tony Hoffarth.

Imagine an episode of CSI where the main character doesn’t “do” technology:

“Tonight, on CSI: Miami, Horatio Caine investigates a brutal crime wave using only his wits and his sunglasses. He matches fingerprints, tire tracks, and fiber samples…by hand! His new motto: ‘DNA? We don’t need no stinking DNA! Sherlock Holmes got by with a magnifying glass and a deerstalker! Why do I need technology?'”

Imagine the conversation you have with your doctor when he diagnosed you with cancer after a brief examination.

“Aren’t you going to run some tests? Do a CT scan?” you ask.

“No, I’m really not comfortable with technology. I manage just fine without it.”

Ridiculous, no? Then why do we tolerate similar comments from educators?

Arguments go around and come back again about the role technology should play in the classroom. Should it be a subject? Should we have standards? Should it be mandated or optional? Some people argue that technology is simply a tool to be applied where and how it’s appropriate. Others say no technology is neutral and we have to be deliberate in our choices to use it.

In my view, technology can’t be optional and it can’t be an add-on.

Technology, according to my favorite dictionary, is “the practical application of knowledge” or “a capability given by the practical application of knowledge.” For an educator to say he or she doesn’t “do” that seems a little silly.

Of course when we talk about “technology in the classroom” we’re usually being a bit more specific and referring to digital technology. Even so, I think it should be unavoidable.

Everything that we can do using digital technology can certainly be done in some other way. As I understand it, technology gives us three capabilities: to do things

  • More efficiently
  • More precisely
  • More thoroughly

Technology advances give all of us—doctors, forensic scientists, teachers, and students—the ability to make better decisions and solve more complex problems. Do we have the right to say, “I don’t do that”? Perhaps if it were only an individual decision. But educators have accepted responsibility for the growth of the students in their care, and choosing to avoid technology for themselves leaves their students with no choice.

So what am I missing? Where has my logic taken a left turn? How does this play out in your situation?

65 comments for “Why “I Don’t Do Technology” Isn’t Acceptable

  1. July 7, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Bravo, Gerald! I agree, and I like the definition “technology is the practical application of knowledge.” If someone refuses to use or “do” the basic applications of knowledge, how can he/she teach students efficiently, precisely, and thoroughly. Certainly, there are times when being efficient, precise and thorough we choose different technologies over others–for instance, I prefer wooden pencils over mechanical pencils :), but I have working knowledge of both of them in order to choose the most appropriate “technology” for the situation.

    We can’t be experts on every practical application of knowledge available to us because it’s changing daily, but we can have working knowledge of when a wiki or blog is better, what programs are available to create, connect or collaborate. We can also have a PLN to help us when we don’t know what technologies are best.

    If we are willing to learn, unlearn and relearn technologies as they become available, we will have a better chance to serve our students. You are right, it is not an option to say, “I don’t do technology.”


  2. July 7, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Gerald – don’t take this as pushback, but how would we make a convincing argument to a non-technology using teacher (behind the student information system) that they should use technology in their teaching practice?

    The scenario I have encountered is with master teachers who are in the top 10% in student achievement outcomes. They see no reason to do anything different because they are already achieving great results with their students. There are many factors involved here with the educators I’m speaking of, but what would be a convincing angle to take with that group?


    • David Tebo
      July 7, 2011 at 1:00 pm

      Gerald and Ron,

      I have the same question. How do we convince the teacher with no tech and high performing students that the addition of tech will make them even better? I am currently getting this from a number of very good teachers. I use the line that they are “Seduced by Success”. My fear is that as kids continue to change the results will too.

      I also wonder how we are measuring the “success” of these kids? Right now I have been shown standardized test scores. To me those are one type of learning and not a true representation of “success”.

      I would love ideas to create momentum with that group.


      • July 8, 2011 at 2:27 am

        The true success is not measured in the marks / grades that students receive at the end of the year. The true success is to be measured in form of what these students are ‘doing’ after passing out schools-universities…. are they liberal thinkers, are they innovative…. are they able to use their knowledge in practical world – to make difference with their and others lives????

    • Shaye
      July 7, 2011 at 3:09 pm


      A great question and a realistic challenge. I would suggest to you that these teachers exist in many schools. In the conversations I have had regarding this problem, we take the approach that these tests (in Alberta they are Provincial Achievement Tests) can only measure particular outcomes – often knowledge based. I have had the opportunity to work on these exams – they are very well done but have limitations. Using technology can help us to assess different skills and processes that students also need to have… skills and processes that are perhaps more critical than what is being measured on these tests. Technology can allow us to do those deeper level thinking tasks such as synthesizing, analyzing and creating which these tests can often not measure.

      Good luck with this challenge. I would be interested to hear the wisdom of others.


    • July 8, 2011 at 12:58 am

      @Ron, see part of my point here is that I think we are beyond needing to argue or convince someone. Digital technology can no longer be a supplement or an enrichment. I believe it is now an essential component of education, on par with earlier technologies like books and pencils.

  3. July 7, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    I agree Gerald! Neither is it accepatable for a teacher of 21st century kids to say, “I can’t even open my email!” or any other inane “technology” remark, as if it’s a badge of honor.

    • July 7, 2011 at 12:58 pm

      AMEN!!! Thank you for posting this! Those “I can’t even” comments from fellow teachers send me right over the edge. Where else can you get away with not staying current in your field and still keep your job – but to BRAG about it?!?!? Ahhhhh!!!!

      • July 8, 2011 at 1:00 am

        It’s the functional equivalent of an adult saying, “I don’t even know how to read!” or “I refuse to learn how to drive!”

  4. July 7, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    I think educators shy away from technology because it becomes another area they need to be an expert in or make expert decisions. The fear of going with the wrong technology or God forbid making a mistake. However if an educator seeks out the right people to consult with, ones that listen to what the needs of the district are, rather than “here’s the 2012 models right form the factory. Yes, sir available in black blue and tan!”.

    I believe my company Innovations in Onlline Education is such a company. We pride ourselves on offering custom solutions as regards offering LIVE online instruction witha NJ certified content instructor. Our original focus was to offer live instruction strictly for home instruction applications. Then we had a client (Northern Highlands Regional High School) that needed us to “pipe in” a LIVE French V course directly into their computer lab during school hours. In addition to that they needed us to follow their block scheduling. We adapted to our clients needs. Currently we are providing Warren Hills Regional High School a summer remedial program.
    All of this developed from listening to our clients. What are their needs. If the educator approaches technology from this perspective rather than a mandatory perspective of incorporating technology I think they will be pleasanntly surprised.
    What are your needs. I’d like to listen. Let me know. Maybe I won’t come up with a solution. But I will tell you that- not ” Yes sir, black blue and tan, right form the factory”

  5. Sister Geralyn
    July 7, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    I totally agree!!! Educators MUST use technology on a daily basis within their teaching, not only for their personal use. The real question should be … How do we get those who are reluctant to either leave teaching or bye into the shift?

  6. Matt Montagne
    July 7, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    I’d go so far to say that this attitude is anti-intellectual. To deny young scholars access to digital environments where modern, scholarly work takes place is, I would say, anti-intellectual.

  7. Rob
    July 7, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Gerald and Ron,
    The question that iediately comes to mind with teachers who don’t use but have good scores is, “Are we preparing kids for good test scores or preparing them to be successful in a global society which obviously uses technology everywhere?”

    • July 7, 2011 at 3:20 pm

      @Rob – Thanks for the reply.

      That is one of the points I make often, that we as educators need to be preparing our students for their lives not our own. I’ve observed that some of our educators forget about that point; that a growth and future-facing mindset should be present in much of what we do, versus the fixed/static mindset.

      Additionally, I try my best to convey that our teachers need to facilitate learning instead of playing the role of an ‘information supplier’.

  8. July 7, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Test scores don’t measure applications of learning across content areas, problem solving skills, the ability to effectively use technology, work on teams or collaborate with others. If we are preparing our students to live and succeed in the real world, we must include and teach our students to be responsible and effective users of technology!

  9. Joe
    July 7, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    “I don’t do technology” is a way of our peers saying I don’t know how to integrate this new stuff in a logical and meaningful way into my already tried and true pedigogy. That’s the best part of being a principal – building professional learning communities around the messy work of designing lessons for learning that combine both traditional and new technological advancements.

    Appreciating the post.


  10. Ryan
    July 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    “Where has my logic taken a left turn?”

    You can’t perform a CT scan without technology, so far as I know. As other commentators have pointed out, it is possible for students to reach learning outcomes without tech. I believe this left turn is referred to as the “false analogy” or “comparing apples with oranges.”

    Gerald, what follows is pushback.

    This argument that it is “unacceptable” to avoid tech does not help. For one thing, you are clearly wrong suggesting that this is unacceptable since teachers are able to get impressive results without tech. Whether or not they get high test scores is irrelevant; whether teachers are meeting curriculum objectives is relevant. The comments in this post indicate that some teachers are meeting objectives without tech. There is nothing unacceptable about that.

    Worse, your argument that your teachers’ practice is “unacceptable” is not going to build your team. Instead, it’s going to create a population of highly trained and motivated people that will go out of their to prove you wrong. And because you’ve blogged this, you may have made the lives of other tech advocates — teachers and principals — harder.

    (I feel the need to point out that I use tech a lot and am considered an innovator in my community for engaging students in online learning communities or with new software and hardware. I offer sessions to my colleagues to help introduce them to tech as well. I’m writing here, so I’m obviously invested in my PLN as well.)

    • July 8, 2011 at 1:21 am

      @Ryan, I suppose what I should have said better is that new technologies have not just upped the ante, they have entirely changed the paradigm in which we work. Just because we can get impressive learning outcomes for century-old expectations doesn’t mean that those expectations can and should still be the only ones we have for students.

      Part of my concern is exactly that: “My kids do just fine on the state test [or whatever stick you are using to measure learning with] without technology, so I don’t need it.” To me, the proper conclusion to draw is not that technology isn’t necessary. The proper conclusion is that our measurements and outcomes themselves are inadequate. To return to the medical analogy (which is admittedly not perfect), imagine a doctor who says, “Most of my patients recover just fine from dropsy and the grippe, so obviously my treatments are perfectly fine.” But what about HIV? Antibiotic-resistant infections?

      Learning to use digital technologies must be embedded in the curriculum, and they can no longer be relegated to a once-a-week special class.

      • Ryan
        July 8, 2011 at 2:22 pm

        “Just because we can get impressive learning outcomes for century-old expectations doesn’t mean that those expectations can and should still be the only ones we have for students.”

        If true, you need to revise the curriculum that lists outcomes and goals. At that point, it will become legitimate to talk about what is acceptable practice. Until that point, you cannot speak to what is “acceptable.” So long as your audience is teachers and principals, you are building a “grass roots” or “bottom up” movement to embrace the use of the new paradigm.

      • July 11, 2011 at 11:56 am

        “…entirely changed the paradigm in which we work.”

        Really? I’ve been teaching for 15 years. Between day 1, when I was creating my teaching tools by hand (posters, hand written and illustrated poetry pages, games, handouts…) and now, when I still sometimes create tools by hand and sometimes let my students create them and sometimes teach them using digiital storytelling or sometmes with plain old storytelling sans the digital aspect, my paradigm hasn’t changed in any radical way.

        Model caring behaviours
        Be genuinely interested in my students
        Push my students to constantly ask questions, to think critically
        Don’t get too comfortable in what I do because when I do, I may ease up on the 3 things above…

        I’ve mentioned this before in other venues and I still maintain it to be true to my feelings on the matter. When we create and reinforce sides to issues like technology in education we will always have a divide. The higher the arguement on either side the wider the valley in between.

        It isn’t one or the other. It is both and.

    • October 24, 2011 at 4:30 pm

      5hsrQe hnnenplrhlgz

  11. July 7, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    I have to agree with Ryan’s principle, if not his tone: the doctors and teachers analogy is not a good comparison. Teaching students how to find the main idea of a paragraph is not equivalent to diagnosing someone with cancer.

    There are many, MANY effective ways to teach. Some involve technology. Some do not. If teachers are able to meet curriculum objectives without it, where is the argument to use technology? And if teachers are NOT meeting curriculum objectives without technology, then the problem lies far deeper than whether or not they’re willing to learn to operate a SMARTBoard.

    Don’t want to use technology in the classroom? Not a problem for me. Having an attitude in which you’re unwilling to learn new things or improve your practice? THAT’S the real problem. Tech-resistant teachers are usually resistant to every new mandate. So I think the better focus is, how can we inspire teachers who are apprehensive about technology to WANT to integrate it?

    What Joe said above is powerful: “’I don’t do technology’ is a way of our peers saying I don’t know how to integrate this new stuff in a logical and meaningful way into my already tried and true pedagogy.”

    • Ryan
      July 7, 2011 at 6:24 pm

      “I have to agree with Ryan’s principle, if not his tone.”

      I was going for authoritative, but it must translate as combative.

      Apologies and thanks.

    • July 8, 2011 at 1:26 am

      @Angela, that’s where I disagree with you. I don’t think it can be an option any longer. If a teacher in your school said, “You know, I don’t really think it’s so important to teach dividing fractions, and I’m not that comfortable with it anyway, so I’m just going to skip it,” how would you respond? Is it OK to say to that teacher that it isn’t acceptable for them to just skip parts of the curriculum they don’t feel like teaching? Then why can’t we start setting an expectation that our teachers will have certain fundamental skills and abilities in technology?

      • July 8, 2011 at 1:34 am

        @Gerald: I guess my question in response is, what’s the point of setting those expectations for teacher tech proficiency? To punish those who don’t meet bare minimum standards? That’s probably what proficiency expectations would amount to. To change the way teachers teach? More mandates aren’t the way to do that–real change can’t be mandated, it has to be inspired.

        I think in education right now, we have bigger fish to fry. Leave the effective teachers alone, and address the underlying problems of the ineffective teachers. Ultimately, I see the refusal to use technology as the symptom. not the problem.

        • July 8, 2011 at 1:42 am

          @Angela, how are you defining “effective”? This is an honest question–not trying to be contrary.

          • July 8, 2011 at 1:47 am

            @Gerald: That’s a loaded question, LOL! In a broad sense, an effective teacher is one whose students gain an in-depth, meaningful understanding of the curriculum and state standards. To keep it really simple: If students are learning what they’re supposed to, the teacher is effective. I’m not speaking of any sort of effectiveness measurement: you know a good/effective teacher when you see one. And I’ve seen many who are good/effective without using tech. Someone at ISTE commented that their district’s teacher of the year uses no tech integration at all…but his students are actively engaged and learn above and beyond what’s mandated by the state.

          • July 8, 2011 at 1:59 am

            @Angela, it wasn’t intentionally loaded! 🙂 But that’s where I think the problem lies: the curriculum and state expectations aren’t in line with student and societal needs. And to me, meeting those expectations would be the bare minimum of effective. Far more important to me are students who have an in-depth, meaningful understanding of the world they live in, and how they are able to function in it.

        • July 8, 2011 at 2:40 am

          If I could jump in @Angela…I think that teachers can still be effective teaching what students need to know to be successful at school. My concern is, are they effective preparing students for what they need to know to be successful in life. We have to continuously look at the purpose of schools, but I honestly believe that any teacher that only teaches the curriculum, and nothing else, is coming up short. It would be great if curriculum lined up with what is needed for our students to be successful in life, but that takes a long time to develop.

          Teachers need to be the leaders in the classroom right now with our kids and prepare them for what exists.

          Just my two cents on your great conversation.

      • July 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm

        Like George, I’m going to jump in on this interesting conversation. There is a big difference between teaching fractions and using technology. One is the concept, the other the tool.

        If I can teach fractions using pizza or cookies better than other tools, should I try to use other tools because they are digital as opposed to food? In the minds of hungry 4th graders, I’d say that food here trumps technology in the authenticity factor.

        As in any situation – whatever creates the most authentic learning situation for my students is where I will be borrowing from whatever I teach.

    • July 8, 2011 at 2:44 am

      Angela and Ryan,
      One of the objectives of the curriculum / education is to prepare students for the FUTURE. Can we imagine a situation that our kids who learn without integration of technology will get an environment in their life after school where there is no need of technology?
      If students are going to stumble over technology in their life after school, wont they think that their schools were irrelevant? Wont they think that Schools did not prepare them for the future?
      Education ought to be the torch bearer / flagship of the social change. It should not be the last one to change.
      I believe in this and thus I think – to teach in 21st century without integration of technology is not ‘teaching’… its just meeting curriculum objectives – written objectives – and not understanding the ‘spirit’ of the objectives. The Letter Killeth!!!
      Would be happy to read your thoughts.

  12. July 7, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    I agree with the sentiment that great learning does not require technology. As has been explored already, there are lots of teachers still doing amazing things with students while barely touching technology.

    The space I think these teachers should make inroads with tech is in publishing. I push teachers to keep doing the great projects they’ve been doing with students but to simply give students a space to publish what they’ve done. Every student should have a blog and/or digital portfolio, where they can take pictures or record video of the offline projects they’re doing and post them for the public to see, where they can post reflections, peers and community members can comment and help guide learning, etc.

    The simple step of taking an offline project and publishing it online is a GREAT way to get these excellent teachers into using technology in fun, meaningful ways that can lead to greater motivation and student learning.

    • July 7, 2011 at 8:14 pm

      Hey Steve,
      I tried that this year. I told the staff about Kidblog and showed them how easy it was to set up. A handful of teachers took the time to provide their students with this venue. Some of the handful turned it into a chore for the students, no free writing. What do we do? SMH

      • July 7, 2011 at 9:01 pm

        Here’s what I did last year with this and it really worked well (knock on wood):

        1. Talked to whole staff about digital portfolios- what they are, how they empower kids, how they motivate kids to better work, etc. Also reassured them that they would have my full support.

        2. Found out that 7th grade ELA teachers really wanted to do it, so that was my first group. Went to 7th grade, grade level meeting and showed them 2 options for their kids’ portfolios – Kidblog and Weebly. Walked them through each, pros and cons of each, and let them decide which platform they wanted to try. They chose Kidblog for the ability to moderate everything.

        3. I went ahead and did all the setup legwork for them- created their accounts, set up their classes, and imported all students with their same usernamer/passwords that they always use, to have less confusion. Set up links off of teacher pages to get to each set of blogs. I think it’s critically important to help teachers with this if you really want to make it happen for students.

        4. Sat down with all 7th grade teachers (all subjects now, as the rest of them got hooked in…which was cool) and showed them how to operate inside Kidblog, moderate posts, etc.

        5. I met with all the 7th grade students and we talked about digital footprints, how to publish positive stuff, how to leave good, constructive comments, etc. Then I intro’d them to their blog spaces and their teachers and I helped them get started with their posts- “I Am” poems about themselves.

        6. For the first month or so, students were doing mainly just writing and journaling and it was going great! Kids were commenting on each other’s writing, really working to improve their work before hitting publish, etc. I then met with the 7th grade teachers to kick it to the next level…

        7. I showed them how to embed other work into Kidblog. They had already used Glogster before, so we started there. We eventually moved on to Animoto, Voki, and a couple other tools that slip my mind at the moment. The kids were used to it, got the embedding stuff down quick, and the teachers came right along.

        It was a great success- so much so that we’re going to do it schoolwide next year. Our county purchased Gaggle so I’m going to work hard on how to make that all happen for the kids.

        I think the main point I would make is that if you REALLY want to make inroads with tech use among your school, you have to do a lot of the initial legwork. It’s not enough to show tools, you have to support it. Typically I end up handling the vast majority of the first piece of legwork (accounts, setup, etc.), but then show teachers how to do it as well. Once they are hooked on the impact the tool can have, they will have the motivation to do the legwork next time- I’ve seen this a lot. My job gets easier every year as far as setup goes- the teachers run with it once they see the impact, but you’ve gotta put some work in to get them to that point.

        • July 7, 2011 at 9:11 pm

          Hi Steve,
          Are you the tech person or an administrator at your school? I’m not, the teachers just think I am, I have my own class, but I am willing to share. We have a tech person, he is in the library with a class set of computers. He sits at his desk all day and lets the kids play games. Other teachers approach him about what I do in my class, unfortunately, he has no interest, only excuses.:(

          • July 8, 2011 at 12:03 pm

            Lisa –

            I am the tech person at my school- our county is very lucky to have a certified teacher serving as a technology facilitator in every school (except the tiny schools have to split a TF this year because of budget cuts). I’m sorry your TF person sucks. =(

        • July 7, 2011 at 10:35 pm

          Steve, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Many tech lovers want to introduce the tools to teachers and have them immediately run with it and take full ownership. Then when the teachers don’t follow through, the techies moan about how they “tried” but no one “wants to” use technology.

          In my (admittedly short) career as an ed tech coach thus far, I can think of ONE instance in which I introduced a tool to a teacher and it stuck immediately. After a few minutes of informal PD on Glogster, she created an entire project around it and taught the kids to become proficient in using it to showcase their learning. This was an ideal outcome and therefore far from the norm. In every other instance, teachers have needed modeling, follow-up, account creation, follow-up, demo lessons conducted for the kids, follow-up, trouble-shooting, follow-up…did I mention follow up? If you don’t continue to generate conversations and enthusiasm around a tool or technique, it will die out before teachers have a chance to full integrate it into their teaching practice.

          There is a LOT of legwork that needs to be done to help teachers use more technology, and the people who do it have to have a good attitude about it, rather than constantly lamenting how teachers “should be” doing the legwork themselves.

          Steve, I’m very excited about what you’ve accomplished at your school. Thank you for sharing the process, because what you wrote is EXACTLY how it works. It would be fantastic if every school had a tech specialist/coach to work with teachers in that way.

      • July 8, 2011 at 1:30 am

        Steve, you’re talking about a specific tool. I’m talking about a fundamental attitude. I’m not suggesting that every teacher blog, or that every teacher should have an interactive whiteboard.

        Plenty of learning can take place without technology. Plenty of learning can (and does) also take place without books or classrooms. Or teachers, for that matter. But we’re involved in an enterprise which has the aim of providing all of our children with certain common skills and knowledge that will give them the opportunity to contribute to the society in a variety of ways. In 2011, some of those commonalities must involve technology.

        • July 8, 2011 at 12:00 pm

          Gerald –

          I’m not really talking about a specific tool either- just an example of what I believe needs to be done for reluctant teachers. It’s all about building relationships and providing support. I’d say the vast majority of classroom teachers simply don’t have what is needed- a full-time, certified fellow teacher whose job it is to support the other teachers in their efforts to use technology with their students.

          I’m not saying the right kind of support will turn EVERY reluctant teacher around- but I can definitely say that over the years I’ve been lucky enough to have been very pleasantly surprised by some classroom teachers that, without a lot of support, would never have been hooked on technology’s power to enhance learning environments.

          And, as Angela pointed out above- I think too many techie’s do too much shallow showing of tools without the follow-up and really hard work of doing the legwork, sitting down and planning one-on-one with teachers, being there to co-teach with teachers when they dip their feet in the first time, etc. I really think this is a vital component to think about for any tech department that wants to be serious about technology integration.

    • July 12, 2011 at 5:36 pm

      I agree with Steve! I am a veteran teacher. I have been teaching since 1979. There were no personal computers to use at that time.
      I have had a great team including principals and computer teachers encouraging me and helping me the past four years to update my skills and bring technology into the classroom. I find publishing the children’s projects to be an exciting way to do that. My second graders are thrilled to see their work on line. At Open House and parent conferences they could take their family to the computer and show them their projects, if they hadn’t already done so. They begin writing on paper. It is edited. Then typing the corrected copy using an Alpha Smart Word processor. Then we upload it to Word. Then they edit it and publish it on Glogster. I have linked their glogs to their photos on my class webpage. If I can do that with help and encouragement, then anyone can!
      Encourage and excite your veteran teachers! Keep offering help and classes. Excitement is contagious!

  13. July 7, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    I think the key questions are “What technology would enhance my practice?” and “What are the costs of learning this technology – how long will the implementation dip be?”

    Using technology because it’s unacceptable not to begs the question of what specific technology you see as mandatory. No one uses as much tech as they possibly could – there’s always something newer and more advanced – so it’s a question of educational ROI.

    For many people, new technologies don’t build on each other, and they take serious effort to master. If people perceive that the tech du jour will be replaced before they reach the end of the implementation dip, it will be a net negative for their students.

    Dismissing technology with a blanket statement like “I don’t do tech” implies a specific technology that the person doesn’t see as necessary or worthwhile for doing their job well. If we want people to adopt something new, we need to help them see the value for their practice and their students.

  14. July 7, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    One of the teachers in our bargaining unit posted the link to this blog on facebook. Because a different member of our collective professional organization just was in our office today talking about how his building is having “Smart Boards” (or their technological equivalent) installed, my curiosity was piqued. My colleague, nearing 60, was using his discourse to elaborate on both the bureaucracy of our profession and its embedded “out with the old, in with the new” culture.

    The district has purchased an interactive white board (IWB) for each classroom in the district. The district is installing each IWB in such a way to ensure that “each student can access it.” The access emphasis is on the ability of the students to physically reach the technology, but doing so actually circumvents their ability to SEE the display on the Board. The teacher laments a technology that is effectively impractical for how he would use it and said that his principal agrees that he should continue with the OLD technology, the overhead transparency or document camera, in order to be able to project the images to which he references in his whole class presentations. This is an experienced, award-winning, well-regarded teacher, who will likely retire without ever having used an IWB in his class with his students.

    Making blanket statements about pedagogy is ridiculous. There is NO right or wrong way to teach, as evidenced through the years. It serves our students to offer them multiple ways of experiencing lessons and multiple ways to demonstrate their learning. Hopefully by utilizing a diverse pedagogy, we will address the learning needs of our diverse learners.

    For every student, whose best learning mode is in the technology arena, there are likely learners, who would learn best in a less-stimulating, more physically engaging manner. As teachers, our goal should be to meet the students in the places that stimulates their learning, not impose what structures we think they need on them.

    Regarding the medical and teaching professions analogy, it’s a bit weak. But given that, let’s play it out in a different context: If a patient came in complaining of a bleeding laceration, the best physicians would simply stitch it up with old-fashioned cat gut or with staples, depending on its location and depth. Some folks would call that low-tech and insurance companies would squawk if CAT were used in such cases. Remember that it has only been very relatively recent that our medical professionals have started to keep digital health records.

    In today’s teaching profession, I doubt that any educators are completely “tech free.” While some may give the semblance of being luddites, in their lack of use of some technologies, we can’t jump to conclusions about why that is, and judge those teachers as being anything other than professional in our assessment about their pedagogical decisions. Neither can we make assumptions about general reasons or attributes that non-implementers have. To each generality we make, we can always find exceptions, and good, sound, pedagogical reasons for our choices as educators in classrooms. What it takes to convince us that a technique is good, is that we need to see others use it, be intrigued and attempt to use it ourselves, and perceive that it had a positive impact on kids’ learning. Absent those, and couple it all with our lack of non-instructional time and educators’ fear of risk, and it’s no surprise that successful, experienced teachers sometimes attempt to sit out rather than ride on any new waves of pedagogical reform. Our fear of risk is healthy to our profession, because if our attempts at implementing new pedagogy are wrong-fully implemented or minded, then we must reconcile ourselves with the idea that we’ve denied students a learning opportunity. When our curricular content, for which we are held accountable, is already over-laden with standards and objectives, and so much of our instructional time is constrained by assessment, we don’t want to risk experimenting with our students’ learning. It’s a catch-22 for folks in classrooms, and so many stay static with their version of the tried and true.

    I’m an old girl, and have seen lots of technology add to the learning environment, but I hold no one’s teaching choices in judgement, as if I, as an outsider, really have the best judgement of what occurs in others’ classrooms. What I argue against here, is not whether using technology is right or wrong: what’s wrong is judging others with a metric stick that isn’t calibrated, and can’t be calibrated, in our current profession. For example, to say that a writing teacher needs to and SHOULD have students compose and post online rather than simply write in longhand in class on paper, is truly as short-minded as are those who maintain that no technology will ever infuse students’ learning in their classrooms.

    • July 8, 2011 at 1:38 am

      @Ranae, I think you have actually reinforced my argument. Many districts treat technology as the “stuff” that gets placed into a classroom. It’s the hardware, the website, the tool or the device.

      I completely agree with your point about a bleeding laceration. In fact, many critics of interactive white boards argue that they are simply complex, expensive replacements for a simpler technology that can do the same job just as well: the chalkboard.

      But there are things that we cannot accomplish without certain kinds of technology and which I believe are critical pieces of what students need to learn: e.g., how to collaborate and communicate with people around the world, and how to access, analyze and think critically about the constantly growing deluge of information that is now available literally in our pockets. Our existing curriculum doesn’t address these in any way, and yet they are going to be absolutely necessary skills for our students when they set foot outside of our classrooms.

      • Ranae Beyerlein
        July 9, 2011 at 3:39 am

        @ Gerald,
        Our district has those things in our tech curriculum, but like most curricular content areas, it’s expected to be both woven through the students’ experiences in other classes, but taught explicitly in their media courses (required by all in grades K-9).
        I agree with your points.

  15. paul
    July 7, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    I appreciated your comments as well. As a principal, I am constantly challenged with what new technology is best for our curriculum needs, what will enhance our teaching/learning community AND what’s in the budget.
    I have been a recent “semi” convert to some of this technology. Twitter for example which I used to think of as nothing more than a social network to let someone know that I’m going out for a gallon of milk (and what I think about milk prices) I now have seen as a powerful tool for the educational community. But it’s like everything else……lots of junk but filter through it and you find invaluable resources. Now I’m on a crusade to convince our instructors of that. But ultimately, I still believe that the minds of our youth need to be able to function without keyboards, projectors, or mld’s. Not absent of them……just in harmony with them and using technology to do things more efficiently.
    As one of our English instructors pointed out, she still wants students to walk into her class and “have a thought, verbalize that thought intelligently” without the aid of technology. Ironically, she was one of the first to set up her AP class on line for the summer!

  16. Bethany Cagnol
    July 8, 2011 at 7:42 am

    Technology. Does it take time to learn how to use? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes.

    If I were to look at this situation from the student’s point of view I would expect my teacher to spend some of their out-of-class time on learning about the latest approaches in methodology (which are of course becoming more and more digital).

    Moreover, if my teacher, who looks me in the eye and says, daily, “Study this. Learn this. Use this,” I would be quite shocked to witness their unwillingness to do the same (regarding technology in this case). Here! Here! to your post!

  17. Jacqui Hills
    July 8, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Thanks for the lively debate

    I think there are two fundamental questions I have about the position taken on demanding that teachers get on and use technology in their teaching and if they don’ then they are somehow old school, less than or the poorer for it.

    Firstly, you seem to have simplified the issue and positioned it from a very economically advantaged position, you describe teachers using technology as if it is a given in what would be a very well-resourced educational system. I really think many teachers would embrace technology more if they had adequate and consistent access to internet broadband, technical support and good internet speeds. The idea of casting teachers who choose not to use technology as luddites applies to a smaller group than you seem to realise – I can’t imagine a teacher in a small disadvantaged school if they had access to technology, not using it. It is in those environments where technology is usually only available within the school room that students from particular socio-economic groups, in economically disadvantaged schools, regions or districts, get to use technology. The idea of teachers choose to not use technology and still get great test /exam results is to speak of a particular strata of advantage that not all teachers and their students work within. The creating of blogs and using technology regularly in a classroom remains for well over half our school populations, a technological pipe dream. I think many teachers who are in technologically unsupported areas and districts remain in the ‘dark ages’ because there is no economically viable technological enlightenment for them and their students, as much as we would like to believe otherwise.

    Secondly, you assert that technology is adding something to our teaching, and that what it is adding is good, really good.

    Your CSI example is interesting – it made me consider an earlier technology and crime example from popular culture where the need to be specific, analytical and clear in our questioning and have an understanding about what it is we want to find out before unleashing the wonders of the “CSI crime lab” (technology) onto the DNA or the evidence of the crime (learning) is the most vital aspect , not the technology that is available to us in itself…

    On a radio show called the “Goon Show” in one program the murder weapon had been discharged – a sound effect of a gunshot was heard then the weapon was discovered by the Chief Inspector who gave the order to “quickly get this to the lab” then sound effects of footsteps running away and then back again within seconds an announcement is made
    “I have the lab results”
    Chief inspector replies “Yes, yes , yes – quick now …what is it?
    CSI guy says deadpan; “it’s a gun”.

    I think this example, more so than the CSI example is apt in any discussion about technology in education. We have to be very sure that the we understand what we want the technology to do and that we still direct what it can do as teachers in the classroom. Technology won’t do anything more than what we ask it to, and we have to be very careful that what we are asking of it to do, as it may be only doing what we already know and what students can do anyway.

    Finally, as to the assertion that “technology gives us three capabilities: to do things
    • More efficiently
    • More precisely
    • More thoroughly”

    yes – but it is also true that this has to include the ability to ‘stuff things up’ more efficiently, more precisely and more thoroughly ….than ever before.

    As teachers we must ask what does technology add to my teaching and learning in my classroom and …..what might it be taking away …


  18. July 8, 2011 at 3:11 pm


    Fascinating discussion but I think a student subgroup is being overlooked. Students who struggle with traditional methods of learning and demonstrating their learning are not mentioned at all. How are we meeting their needs? If we are honest, we need to ask ourselves, are my methods of teaching and instruction helping EVERY student in my classroom to learn, to be engaged and to view themselves as an independent, successful learner?
    The reality is effective technology implementation is the game changer, the barrier remover and empowers kids for success. I am not taking about SmartBoards but alternatives for kids; when students have choices to overcome their learning challenges, they can achieve success.

    Do we want to ensure we reach every learner in our classroom? Then we must use available technologies thoughtfully, with students needs in mind. I’ve blogged about this many times. (These technologies include methods to access the curriculum independently in the face of reading challenges, methods to bypass output challenges using alternative methods to demonstrate learning, methods to replace assignment notebooks, when they are the disability. Too often paper is the disability for some students. Heide Hayes Jacobs declared “Paper is dead.” at the ASCDSC this past weekend in Boston. It can’t happen soon enough for students who struggle with paper use (for numerous reasons, including can’t read their own writing, poor spelling and poor visual spatial skills).

    So, the question becomes, do we willingly and intentionally choose to leave our struggling learners behind by avoiding technology use? I honestly believe to do so is educational malpractice.

  19. July 8, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Great discussion going on–I tossed my thoughts here–they were a bit too rambly and tangential to slog on a response here.

    To be fair, though, Jacqui Hill’s succinct response above might have saved me a bit of time had I seen it earlier.

  20. Bill
    July 9, 2011 at 1:44 am

    It seems to me that an educator who doesn’t do technology might gain some insight by reflecting on this question: by not using technology and setting the example, am I preparing my students to do a job that mo longer exists, in a way that is no longer supported, in a world that no longer exists?

  21. Stuart
    July 9, 2011 at 3:06 am

    Great article. I’ve been tasked with developing ICT programs for teachers for use in the classrooms, but have found at my school that 99% of teachers just don’t bother with use of these programs and as most now know of the DER Notebooks for students in NSW schools, students are being berated for not bringing them to school, when in reality, who would want to bring another weighty object to school each day if the teacher didn’t want to utilise the use of these Notebooks.

    I find the teachers who don’t want to learn the use of technology for the benefit of the students in today’s climate in dereliction of their duty. This may be harsh, but if I was a student in today’s classroom then I’d be very disillusioned with that teacher and that subject.

    I think Principals need to yield their power in coercing the teachers at these schools to take up the technology and use it in the classroom so the students can be students of the future and held back in the 20th century.

  22. Ian Carmichael
    July 9, 2011 at 5:11 am

    I rather think the case is different between excellent teachers who are succeeding and continuing to succeed without the need to adding in or transforming their classrooms with tech and the teachers who won’t use technology come hell or high water – essentially because they don’t want to use any themselves, and neither are they keenly interest in ‘growing’ their classrooms. I would be wanting to show the second category exemplars of excellent technology-using classrooms. I would be wanting to observe those in the first category, to see what I can re-learn about traditional teaching!

  23. July 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Gerald, thanks for this post. My next Voices piece relates to this exact topic. In addition to the fact that admin can use technology to streamline communications and work more efficiently, we have to consider our most important role is that of instructional leader. I don’t think it’s possible for an administrator to proclaim to be the instructional leader of a school and not have any knowledge of how technology can be used to optimize learning for students.

  24. July 11, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Something I am noticing in these conversations – here and in other places. They revolve around how the teacher is, essentially, committing malpractice by not integrating technology. That her students will suffer from not learning with technology because they will not be prepared for life after school.

    Is there an assumption here that the classroom is the end-all for learning for children? That students will be technologically illiterate if a teacher misses out on a technological component? That children are not exposed to and using technology out of school?

    And ‘technology’. I cringe each time I type that word. It’s just way too big, encompasses way too many things.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *