For ISTE 2014 in Atlanta, I will be presenting on the “Myths of Technology and Learning”. As I am really thinking about what I will be sharing at the conference, I wanted to write a series of blog posts that will help myself and others “rethink” some of these statements or arguments that you hear in relation to technology in school. I will be writing a series of blog posts on different myths, and will be posting them on this page. I hope to generate discussion on these topics to further my own learning in this area and appreciate any comments you have on each idea shared.
Myth One; Technology Equals Engagement
I saw the picture below shared online, and I will have to admit, it made me laugh.
Often you hear statements from educators, such as “when the kids are on the computer, they are so engaged”. Sometimes it is true in the initial stages of trying something for the first time. I have even see students insanely excited their first few times on “typing” programs, yet that quickly wears off when the mindlessness of the task presents itself. As educators, we have to be able to differentiate between “novelty” and “engagement”; they often look the same at the beginning, but one will quickly fade.
The other idea that we need to focus on is the notion of “engagement” in itself. There is a strong difference between “engaging” a student and “empowering” them. “Engagement” to me, seems like something that we often try to provide for our students, yet “empowerment” seems to be focusing on having students provide for themselves. Yet the notion of “engagement” is so much better than the idea of “compliance. Thinking about these three terms (compliance, engagement, and empowerment), the following ideas stick out to me on what each represents.
Compliance – Do this because I told you.
Engagement – Do this because you are excited.
Empowerment – Do this because you have the power to do something meaningful for yourself.
So if we want to get to this idea of “empowering” our students, we are not going to have to be the “sage on the stage” or the “guide at the side”, but “architects of meaningful learning opportunities”. Understanding our students, their interests, abilities, and strengths, will help us better design learning that gets them to, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes, a state of “flow“.
Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity
With the world now literally at our fingertips, “engagement” should not be the highest bar we set for our students. If we can develop meaningful learning opportunities that empower our students to make a difference, our impact will go beyond their time they spent in our classrooms. Technology alone will never provide this. We need great educators that think differently about the opportunities we now have in our world and will take advantage of what we have in front of us, and help to create these experiences for our students to do something powerful.