One of the bits of conventional wisdom we keep hearing is “It’s no about the technology; it’s about the pedagogy.” This is only a half-truth: you need both.
I can understand the thinking behind such statements:
What’s the point of having great technology if you use it for tasks that could be better executed without it? A good example of this was when a teacher told me that he had decided he was going to modernise his lessons by using computers. We didn’t have a bank of laptops in the school, but we did have a room with stand-alone computers. He asked me if he could have one of them in every desk in his classroom. I wasn’t sure where he thought they would be plugged into, or why he couldn’t take the pupils into the computer lab, but I didn’t address those questions. Instead, I asked him what he wanted to use the computers for. He told me that instead of giving the pupils a printed worksheet, he would give each of them a usb stick with the worksheet on it, so they could look at it on the screen instead.
Good technology will only go some way to compensate for poor pedagogy.
What’s the point of investing in technology if you don’t know what you want to do with it? Fair enough. It would be good to have at least some idea of what you might use it for if it is not to a huge waste of money. However, it’s this point that I should like to discuss further.
While it’s true that having a purpose in mind when you buy technology is a good idea, it is also true that until you acquire the technology you don’t know what else you might use it for, or how much you might use it.
For example, I’ve had an ipod for years, but until recently didn’t listen to podcasts as much as I’d have liked to or how much I envisaged when I bought it. I had a video version some years ago and used it incessantly, so the problem wasn’t with the device itself.)
However, I recently bought myself a pair of bluetooth headphones, and since then I’ve experienced a veritable efflorescence of my listening. For example, I’ve been listening to documents on my Kindle Fire, listening to podcasts, audio books and radio programs. It’s embarrassingly obvious (embarrassing because I didn’t see it), but it turns out the problem was that I couldn’t listen and do various domestic tasks at the same time first thing in the morning without either waking everyone up or getting tangled up in headphone wires.
Another example: I didn’t know, when I first bought a smartphone, that I would not only use it for emails and web searching, but also for running through m presentations, reading books or note-taking.
This is why I’m a great believer in trying things out, whether it’s new software, new hardware or a new teaching approach. If you can, try and get an innovation fund going. When I worked in a Local Authority, I set aside £1,000 each year for buying stuff and trying it out. We bought a visualiser, an electronic voting system and a tablet laptop when these devices were in their infancy. We did so not because it was a case of toys for the boys (half my team were female anyway) but in order to be able to advise schools and other departments in the LA whether they were worth investing in and what they could be used for.
“It’s not about the technology” sounds logical, but in my experience it is certainly not the whole story.
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