Is Mandating Technology Use Enough?

In a recent blog post Scott Mcleod asks the question,

“…can anyone else think of an employment sector other than K-12 and
postsecondary education where employees have the right to refuse to use technology?”

It’s a great question and it provoked some good discussion; however is mandating technology use enough? Will it create the pedagogical changes we want, if put in the hands of educators whose personalities are not conducive to the classroom transformation we’d like to see?

Will simply requiring teachers to use technology tools transform teaching and learning? What real change can we expect when we put technology tools in the hands of these teachers?

Mr. Total Control
Miss Overly Structured
Mrs. Entertains from the Front of the Class
Mr. Blame the Kids
Miss Low Expectations
Mrs. No Confidence No Control
Mr. Content Is All That Counts
Miss NCLB Scores
Mrs. Teach to the Middle
Miss Boring
Mr. Lack of Preparation
Miss I Don’t Have Time for Questions
Mrs. Because I Said So
Mr. I’m Totally Overwhelmed

Is it wishful thinking to believe that technology, by itself, will change the fundamental dynamic that these personality types bring to their classrooms? Will traditional professional development significantly change these educators’ beliefs, values, and classroom behaviors?


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64 thoughts on “Is Mandating Technology Use Enough?

  1. Pete,

    I was having a conversation similar to this today. We were talking about how often technology integration is used as the lever to attempt to drive what should be staffdev regarding teaching practices. The technology is only really useful because it enables teachers to more easily and powerfully implement certain learning strategies. When you force this technology on teachers who are both resistant and lacking in some fundamental teaching skills/concepts you get a mess with a smattering of expensive computers on top. You get old things that didn’t work done electronically in ways that don’t work. The frustration is increased for both students and teachers.

    In essence, until you have really solid teachers teaching with the right mind set I don’t really see the point of forcing technology on them. Forcing in general is going to go poorly. I’ve been a part of it. I like parts of Dan’s post about getting better at selling the technology. I don’t think that’s a complete answer but he makes some important points.

  2. When I read this post I see the logic.

    Just for fun, let´s insert another profession for teacher and see if we still think the same way.

    I would be willing to bet that in the medical profession we have doctors whom we could label Mr. Total Control, Ms. I don´t have time for questions…

    Would you take your son or daughter for medical treatment if your doctor determined that using 21st century medical techniques were just not compatible with his/her style? Perhaps the doctor didn´t have time for the necessary professional development to use current techniques.

    It´s not about the technology. It is about the collaboration and communication that effective use of technology tools can facilitate.

    It is time for teachers to begin planning lessons for students to collaborate and communicate globally. It just so happens that the tools that enable effective communication are coined as ¨technology¨.

  3. Tom,
    Thanks, I agree that he makes some good points. I believe much of our effort should be on helping teachers become more open, present, and connected to their students and the world around them.

  4. Kurt,
    Good point. You’re making me think about this a little differently.

    I’ll have to sit with it a bit. I’ll get back to you later; I don’t want to answer “off the top of my head”.


  5. I think Heidi has added something important to the conversation on her Thinking Schools blog. You can click on the trackback above to get there.

    I’d be interested in what you all think of her take on this.


  6. Pete,
    I wrote a post related to this discussion a while back. Perhaps it makes some sense in this discussion.

    I think Heidi makes some very valid points, as does Scott. One must expect certain behaviors from teachers. But, how effectively teachers implement those expectations is largely based on their training, their support infrastructure, their personal beliefs, and their own learning networks (or lack thereof). We can have all teachers using technology, but it is so much more than that. To use a math analogy, we don’t need teachers simply pulling out the math manipulatives so that students can play with them (although there can be great value in this) and to feel good about following new curricular policies and expectations. We need skilled teachers who can guide students into powerful discoveries with those math tools via carefully sequenced lessons, powerful questions, effective assessment, and a deep understanding of how children learn. I think the heart of this issue is one we have been struggling with for decades.

  7. Talk about treating the symptom while ignoring the cause.

    Good teachers teach well, whatever that means, and technology can only help. Bad teachers don’t teach well, whatever that means, and technology will only make them worse.

    Technology isn’t essential for teaching. Connecting to one’s students is what’s important. Making them care, and teaching them how to find it is important. The tools we use don’t change substantially what they learn.

    Emphasizing it so much in credential programs, for example — I can speak for that, at least — wastes class time that should be better spent teaching how to teach, rather than teaching how to teach the material. Consider that this training is distinctly a waste because so few schools our new teachers will teach at actually have more than half of a classroom set of Tech 2.0 gear?

    Who cares about LCD projectors if students have just as much trouble remembering how the Balkan Wars and The Great War are related, or why the importance of understanding the powderkeg that was Europe at the turn of the 20th century?

    We need to teach. We need to teach well. In time, technology will come and will be fully integrated, but for now it’s remains an expensive distraction.

  8. I agree with part of what awaitingtenure is saying. The focus has to be on creating competent teachers first. I disagree that technology will magically be integrated as time goes on. It doesn’t happen that way.

    What people often seem to miss is that technology can play a key role in enabling really sound, research proven teaching methods (including connecting to students). It shouldn’t be taught separately but as an integral component of sound practice. Technology has the potential to make it possible for teachers to use certain learning strategies that would otherwise prove impossible due to a variety of constraints (time, schedule, location, materials, etc).

    While many schools lack technology, you’ll find it in most every home and with the move towards cheaper mobile platforms and web based applications things are changing even more rapidly. To fail to fully expose future teachers to these options is negligent. Expose them to as many tools as possible but do so in a way that reinforces the power of the teaching methodology. To do otherwise IS a waste of time.

  9. Hi,
    I’ve been reflecting on this “energized” conversation.

    I think Scott is right that it is legitimate for leaders at all levels to set expectations for our teams. So, if we believe that the world of the 21st century is different than the last century, if we feel the kids have changed, that literacies have changed, and that the tools of work and learning have changed…I believe it is important to create the expectation that what goes on in classrooms should reflect the best of those changes, also.

    In addition, (not either/or) I believe we need to have revolutionary new staff development programs that focus on opening teachers so they are more present and connected to their students, so that we don’t let our personalities get in the way of their learning.

    These programs can re-inspire even the most jaded educators. In my experience, if you get just below the surface with most teachers…you’ll find a deep passion for service, professionalism, and doing what’s best for kids.

    It’s our job to create programs that are not just focused on technology, curriculum, and pedagogy; but focus on developing the human beings that spend most of their lives interacting with our children.


  10. Wow! I just read “eyeontenure’s” trackback “Classroom Technology as an Expensive Distraction”. I replied on his/her site but thought I’d also share the reply here:

    “Well, I strongly disagree with your post. For me the central question isn’t about teaching at all…it’s about learning. We need to do whatever is necessary to insure that kids have a great learning experience.

    The 21st century and the skills its marketplace demands is very different from the 20th. The literacies of today have changed dramatically. The kids have changed in some ways also. Finally, the tools of work, socialization, and learning have changed. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to think that maybe our classrooms need to change also.

    Technology and the pedagogy that empowers students to be more active, connected to their own interests, at their own levels, as well as the rest of the world, (in and out of school) is what we are talking about. We are not talking about enhancing lectures.

    I believe it is not an either/or question. Yes, we need to have programs that focus on helping teachers become better teachers AND we need to transform our classrooms to places that are more student centered and with the rich experiences that “well-used” technology can offer.

    Kids would have a much easier time “remembering” (lowest on Bloom’s taxonomy”) if they were actively engaged in creating things rather than passively listening or just reading and taking notes. There are other ways and technology is a key to those other ways.

    With a national dropout rate of almost 40%; Math, science, and literacy rates that are way below standard, and many of the more successful kids just “playing school”….we need to take a hard look at what we are doing and how we are doing it.


  11. I guess the key issue here is this: is technology an actual part of the curriculum in its own right?

    If not, it doesn’t matter how a teacher chooses to convey the curriculum, just as long as it is done well.

    If technology IS a desired part of the curriculum, then of course teaching it should be mandatory.

    So which is it? Is technology a tool for teaching other, more “real” subject matter, or is it something “real” all by itself?

  12. My response is that it is both a tool to help students learn and something to learn about.

    The part of your comment I’d like to explore is the statement that “it doesn’t matter how a teacher chooses to convey the curriculum, just as long as it is done well.”

    Who determines whether it is “done well”? On the surface that sounds reasonable; but there are a lot of people teaching who think they are doing their jobs well and somehow national statistics are indicating that something is “off”.

    78% of students say they do the bare minimum when it comes to school. Only 21% of students find learning interesting. We have a 35% national dropout rate. I’m not even talking about the poor test scores. By these measures, which are important indicators, some things, in some places, are not “being done well”.

    This is not a finger pointing exercise. If our classrooms were operating rooms and more than a third of the patients died; certainly we would be asking about how we might improve survival rates.

    To do otherwise would be saying that, “The operation was a success; but the patient died.”

    Perhaps using new technologies might help. Why not be open to the possibility?


  13. Respectfully, I didn’t see the comment on the site.

    To respond, though, teaching and learning have a distinct cause-and-effect relationship. The success of the former depends on the latter, so improving one improves the other, by the definition of improving. That’s a semantic issue.

    The marketplace and the workforce have changed, sure. In Silicon Valley, in the Greater Houston area.

    What I see every day is a school district where the workforce hasn’t changed. Welcome to industry, construction or Barnes and Noble if you don’t have a college education. Here, the tech industry is underdeveloped.

    Moreover, it isn’t like the highest-paying jobs — programming, R&D, tech manufacture — will be filled by high school graduates.

    The immediate needs of our students must be filled before the secondary needs. I’m more worried about illiteracy, for one, and technology without pedagogy won’t fix that issue.

    Technology as a curriculum is misguided, and technology as a tool doesn’t improve bad teaching.

  14. For those not following along, there’s another excellent rebuttal. I’d provide the link, but I don’t want to put up another plug. (Just click my name.)

    I felt that I should at least note the following at least once: as militant as I sound at times, that’s just the way my writing comes off. I respect everyone here as much as a human being can respect strangers with screennames and 160-by-160 pixel faces.

  15. I have been watching the postings go back and forth. I have to throw in my comments and agree with all of the posts. At this point we have been integrating, integrating, integrating. 1000’s has been spent on staff development, equipment, resources, infrastructures etc. There are times when I wonder if we would have been better off decreasing class size and redesigning what education should be for everyone. What a concept. 13 students in a classroom, building community and providing support for families and teachers. Now I am not promoting that. But I will say forcing anyone to do anything will just alienate and promote teachers using technology for an “extra” activity or distraction as it was noted above. And I also feel we have all been struggling with so many of these issues and I look back and see that we have made some progress but not as much as expected.
    I think we should take the word technology out of the conversatoin. As stated by Steve I believe it is about solid teachers and teaching strategies. Peter referred to Blooms, we have initiatives in our school that include Smaller learning communities, Project based learning, International bacceleurate which invests in teaching and learning. Technology can become a natural fit. I believe that many districts have “instructional technology staff developers” that work in isolation and are not integrated into curriculum and instruction. We have tech directors that don’t have classroom experience etc. Are we approaching this correctly.

    I have to say that eyeingtenure is really hitting hard basic needs and for some of us that have a population of students that are living in poverty and don’t have those basic needs taken care of that there needs to be an emphasis on this. Students that don’t have hope don’t have any vision and without that they don’t see any value at all in learning. I assume that is what is meant by basic needs.

  16. Smaller classes work for students. Smaller classes don’t work for a balanced budget.

    Halving class sizes as is ideal means doubling how much the state has to pay for teachers. Unless we can get the cash flowing again, don’t expect smaller class sizes to be a viable policy for some time.

  17. Technology is a threat to job security which is a key motivator in any unionized environment. So one question to ask is, will technology make teachers better or will it make teachers obsolete. It’s part of the question about the future model of education.

  18. Steve,
    I’ve noticed that we keep injecting “either/or” scenarios into this discussion. “Either technology will make teachers better or it will make teachers obsolete.”

    Technology may make teachers more effective, learning more interesting, more differentiated, more relevant, more rich, more self-paced, more self directed (the list continues); AND it may make some roles the teacher plays obsolete.

    It may also increase the value a teacher brings to learning because everything that teachers do that can be outsourced to technology becomes “commoditized” and trivialized; and what is left becomes what makes teachers special. I believe this will tend to elevate the profession and educators in general.


  19. I guess what I’m saying is that more technology might mean a need for fewer teachers. The teacher classroom model is a very old model which can be threatened by technology and innovation.

  20. This conversation has been wonderful! It’s great to see others’ perspectives on this topic.

    The thing I find about change is that it’s relatively easy to identify that you want to change, perhaps to figure out what you want to change – but very difficult to figure out HOW to change your day-by-day, moment-to-moment actions and thoughts.

    That’s how I’ve seen technology integration fit into educational transformation – it provides some HOW and WHAT to do. Of course, it has to be done right – which to me includes inspirational leadership, reliable hardware, consistent software, a mentor/coach, learning teams AND pro-d (including pro-d around changing teaching practices with technology, changed class management, marking, etc… Not just how to use technology).

    I’ve experienced amazing things, working with teachers to support them from the technical perspective as they venture into new ways of teaching.

    I worked with a grade 4 classroom once – the teacher wanted to try something new, but was nervous. So (coming from a tech support background), I said “let’s just do it – I’ll come in and help with the technical questions.”

    The class was learning about rain forests, so we started them on a HyperStudio project on that topic. The teacher was nervous because she didn’t know that program – but we found out that it was okay not to know everything. When a student asked how to do something, we would sit down with them and try to figure it out – we not only learned how to use the program, the students learned how to research a problem, how to try new things, how to be creative (just by watching us). Sometimes, the students taught each other, instead of learning from the teacher – a powerful lesson that solutions don’t always come from where you expect them, so be open to possiblities!

    And most powerful, for me, was the boy who couldn’t read. This school is 50% French Immersion, and this boy had struggled in French, while his parents refused to transfer him to the English program. Whatever the chain of events, here he was in Grade 4, and couldn’t read. I was helping kids log on, start their HyperStudio projects, answering questions, etc… and this boy was just sitting there, arms crossed.
    So I stopped and asked him what was up? He just looked at me and said “I can’t read, so I can’t do this and you can’t make me.” I sat down and said “You’re right, I can’t make you. But you’ve been sitting in class all this time, listening and learning about rain forests. You know all sorts of things for this project – how are you going to show me what you know?”

    Long story short, I showed how to use KidPix to create pages that could be imported into his presentation, how to find clipart, how to cut and paste, etc… And then he took it from there, often by asking his classmates to help him spell out words for titles or to put into a Google search. When he finished, he was confident enough in himself to present his project to the rest of the class. It didn’t have much writing, but it communicated his knowledge in his own way! And while he started out by refusing to do the project at all, I would guess he was filled with fear of failing AGAIN – he ended it engaged and eager to learn more. He wasn’t reading yet, but he was back in the game and ready to go!

    About half way through the project, the teacher looked at me and said “I feel like I’m really TEACHING! This is what I became a teacher for!”

    Could this have happened without technology? Maybe he could have been encouraged to draw, if he was artistically inclined. Or he could have photocopied pictures from library books – but not without assistance from an adult who could give him access to a photocopier. Or the teacher could have searched out a selection of stickers, magazines, pictures and drawings for him to use in the project. Most of the possible non-tech alternatives I can think of involve adult time & guidance – rather than the child driving their own learning.

    I think that most of the learning that happens when technology is really integrated and classrooms are transformed has absolutely nothing to do with the mechanics of technology use. It’s not about knowing how to use a mouse, how to save onto the server, how to cut & paste, how to turn it on and off, etc… It’s not about knowing how to work iMovie, how to make a podcast, how to run AutoCAD.

    It’s about what they learn during the process – creativity, risk taking, team work, problem solving, critical thinking. It’s about the ability to MORE EASILY support student-driven learning, individualized learning, differentiated teaching. It accomodates a visual learner, an audio learner, a child with written output difficulties, etc… In short, it respects each individual and helps them utilize their strengths, rather than forcing them into a mold that they just don’t fit!

    Isn’t that what we all want? For EVERY learner to be their very best, in their own unique way?

    That’s what gets me all excited about technology integration – the ability to support an enriched learning environment, something more similar to what we’ve seen in Special Needs classes, but was always too expensive to implement for the entire student population. Can it be part of the equation?

  21. Industrial technology has that effect, yes.

    Because class sizes will remain constant due to sociological factors and social development of the children, the demand for teachers will wholly depend on how many more or fewer new teachers there are each year.

  22. eyingtenure,
    Forgive my ignorance because I need more explanation to understand what you’re saying.

    Industrial technology = commercially supplied tech? As opposed to research or non-commercial tech? Not sure if you are, but be careful not to equate profitability to value – that is closing our minds to possiblities.

    Which effect of technology are you referring to?

    So class sizes will remain constant (and too large, presumably) because of human nature and the system. What, in your opinion, has to change, and how can we work to change it?

    If you’d prefer to continue this conversation by email, please feel free to contact me – heidi (at) iwasthinking (dot) ca

    Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts & beliefs!

  23. I can see in this discussion that there is a lot of discussion at the micro level. Classroom by classroom, teacher by teacher. There is an effect and a question about technology at that level.

    However, my points are more at the macro level when you look at how do you improve or change whole systems of education. Technology will have different uses and effects at that level such as cost cutting, gathering data, sharing best practices and improving quality.

    At that level, you can rething the role of the teacher and the role of the classroom and look for broad sweeping improvements. This type of thing is happening everywhere technology is embraced, slower in some and faster in others. But eventually this is where technology will have it’s greatest effect.

  24. I can see in this discussion that there is a lot of discussion at the micro level. Classroom by classroom, teacher by teacher. There is an effect and a question about technology at that level.

    However, my points are more at the macro level when you look at how do you improve or change whole systems of education. Technology will have different uses and effects at that level such as cost cutting, gathering data, sharing best practices and improving quality.

    At that level, you can rething the role of the teacher and the role of the classroom and look for broad sweeping improvements. This type of thing is happening everywhere technology is embraced, slower in some and faster in others. But eventually this is where technology will have it’s greatest effect.

  25. For clarification: industrial technology — the car-making robots who put car-making people out of work.

    Teaching students cannot be done by robots, due to sociological factors and the

    A too-large classroom sits at 40. My senior classes are all 40 students.

    Ideal, to my understanding, is about 22 students or so per class. Some put that number as low as 16 for normal students.

    RSP and special education students have different needs, and so their class might be as small as 8 students, assuming just one teacher.

  26. Technology doesn’t mean just robots. And it’s not necessarily putting people out of work, it means changing the entire way education is delivered.

    Education in a classroom setting with an instructor is just one model. Technology opens up other models.

    The major sociological factor is resistance to change and a 200 year old habit. Since it’s a governmental system that is risk averse, it protects this “old fashion” way of doing things.

    What will happen is the same thing that happened to the electronics industry and the automotive industry. Someone, somewhere else will innovate and get superior results and at a lower cost. That will start to change things.

  27. I agree with Steve – the way I see technology in the classroom doesn’t (and shouldn’t) replace teachers.

    That would be like saying “we’re giving kids pencils – now we don’t need teachers.”

    It does, however, facilitate a different way of teaching – one that allows students to work to their strengths and to drive their own learning in a different way.

    Rather than teachers being the single source for all knowledge, they can be mentors and counsellors that help our children to navigate their own learning.

    There may be bureaucrats that think we don’t need as many teachers because of computers – but it’s up to all of us (parents, teachers, administrators, etc…) to use our voices to protect what our children need – they need human contact and guidance to show the way.

    Do not underestimate our power!

  28. You bridge exactly my point with his, however.

    Steve advocates, I assume, models of education based on learning that are, as you say, mentorships.

    But teachers will always be needed to serve as mentors. Actual people, providing actual human interaction, are essential to the learning environment. That’s my point.

    Respectfully, what Steve suggests — if I read him right — is that teachers will face a sudden loss of job security due to interconnectivity and communication.

    Nope. Even if the teaching profession — as mentoring — starts to approach the technologically savvy e-mail collaborators paradigm, it won’t happen quickly. The system is against it. In my opinion, rightly so.

    For my money, the old fashioned way is usually the right way. For many things, it’s what’s worked since not too long after the primordial sludge. While civil rights a notable exception outside the realm of what we’re talking about, traditional arithmetic algorithms are still the best.

  29. “Technology is a threat to job security which is a key motivator in any unionized environment. So one question to ask is, will technology make teachers better or will it make teachers obsolete. It’s part of the question about the future model of education.”

    The Steve comment I refer to.

  30. It’s not really making teachers obsolete. It’s changing teachers roles and changing what we think of as a school. We know that the least effective thing a teacher can do is to stand up in front of a class and lecture.

    Teachers are more effective when they are leading and directing activities, giving feedback and personalized attention.

    So you let technology replace in some way what teachers don’t do as well to spend time in what they do better.

    But again that’s on a classroom level.

    Where I think the big advancements are is changing the fact that every classroom in every school is different. Even the same teacher from year to year can be very different. What this gives you is a far large range in the quality of education. Technology can play a role in improving quality by reducing some of this variation. You don’t have to take out much to start to make a big difference.

  31. Lecture is the most effective method of teaching, and getting through material. It simply doesn’t work in large doses, and it must be reinforced with collaborative learning and other strategies.

    Variation is absolutely needed, also. The teacher isn’t the same from year to year, but neither are the students.

    Effective instruction requires sufficiently individualized instruction.

    There’s merit in recycling PowerPoints from year to year, if only because they are such a hassle to put together well. However, the uses of technology in that regard are limited.

    It still takes a teacher to make observation and deliver hutzpah.

    Let teachers replace what they don’t do well with technology? That’s the wrong approach. Let teachers develop what they don’t do well, so they don’t need a bionic crutch of technology.

    A teacher who cannot teach the core subject material without the technology is not much of a teacher at all. Replacing technology with thinking has always been the wrong approach.

  32. “Lecture is the most effective method of teaching, and getting through material. ”

    That’s a pretty sweeping statement and certainly one that could be argued against with any number of studies. (I’m assuming by teaching you mean getting students to learn and understand certain material- teaching and learning aren’t by any means the same thing.) You’ve also got to ask yourself is my goal “getting through material”? That’s a pretty poor goal.

    It’s seems a bad idea to me to throw out tools that assist you in your weaker areas- be that tool technology, guest speakers, or outside materials of any sort. To expect every teacher to be good at everything is naive. To expect them to use the tools at hand and to continue to work hard to improve is realistic although perhaps idealistic. The “bionic crutch” by any other name is just a tool (and now it doesn’t sound so pejorative).

    I would agree that any teacher who can’t teach their subject without technology isn’t much of a teacher- BUT the opposite is true as well. Any teacher who can’t teach their subject better with technology (as opposed to without) isn’t much of a teacher.

    I think you meant replacing thinking with technology has always been the wrong approach. I’d agree with that but I don’t see it as an either or situation. Teaching is like a fight for your life. You’re crazy not to use every tool and option available. You better be thinking and using technology. Lecturing (when appropriate) and shoring up your weak spots while focusing on growing.

  33. Getting through material is a poor goal. But I don’t choose the goals. The district does, and the state.

    I don’t throw out tools. I simply don’t have tools in my sophomore World History class. There’s a half-working projector and a class set of textbooks. That’s about it.

    Get the tools available, and then we’ll talk about how best to use them. Chances are, I disagree with most people on that, too.

    Vaguely talking about how technology will help teaching without specifics doesn’t help, and is in the same dangerous vein of thinking that produces “Technology is God” and “Technology to Exclusion” philosophies.

    Careful with that.

  34. Hi,
    The conversation continues!

    The discussion has morphed from the original question “Is Mandating Technology Enough?” to various other issues “eyeingtenure” has raised, as he has in the post “Technology Is An Expensive Distraction” as well as issues in the discussion thread like will technology cause teachers to lose their jobs?, and questioning how relevant technology is to teaching in general, the role of lecture, etc.

    I want to thank “eye” for his passion around this. I want to thank Steve, Tom, Heidi, and others for their eloquent arguments for the use of technology and advocating for the human element in the classroom at the same time.

    I find that discussions like this help us refine and sharpen our narratives. If we listen carefully we can hear the beliefs and concerns of the other person. If we can find ways to address their concerns it makes the narrative much more powerful and, as we know, a great narrative can make a huge difference in creating change.

    At the same time it’s not uncommon to get in these discussions and spend more time trying to prove we are right than opening our minds to what the other person is trying to say. In some cases we dig in deeper and harden our positions.


  35. hmmm…interesting conversation here.

    I read a lot of either/or – EITHER teaching OR technology. either lecture OR other modes.

    And I have heard this type of dichotomy in other teachers I have worked and spoken with.

    I agree with what has been said about the relationship between student and teacher. Learning happens best through strong interpersonal relationships, where we feel cared for and safe.

    I do not see why this is trumped through the use of technology. I use technology in my teaching on a daily basis. My students blog, we have a class wiki, some use audio tools to record their ideas online. Some need to word process their work. I use technology because, in getting to know my students and how they learn, I have learned that it enhances their learning experience and helps them to develop the skills they need to be successful learners.

    This year I don’t lecture much, if at all, because my students don’t learn best that way. I know this because of our relationship. So, no, lecture is NOT the most effective method of teaching all the time. It may be the most effective way of covering material, but is my goal covering material or ensuring that my students know, understand, and are able to do something with the material? The latter, by far.

    About 4 years ago I had a class with so many different kinds of learners. About a third of them learned best by hearing (through lecture), but there was also about a third who needed to see the material, and another third who needed to manipulate it. I used technology to enable me to reach all of them in one way or another.

    I recorded my lectures and allowed those who needed to hear it to do so while another group organized the material into graphic organizers with Inspiration software, and still another created a play based on the stories from history by reading them in their textbook.

    Relationship + curriculum + solid understanding of different learning styles + technology = ability to reach more students

  36. Hey Pete – I think we were posting at the same time! It took me a few minutes to write that tome 🙂

    I wanted to add a little note…

    I was lucky that year because I did have the available computer technology. However, I could certainly do all of that even without computer technology.

    I could use a tape recorder to record my lectures and students could use pen and paper (or paint, coloured pencils, images from magazines) to create their graphic organizers.

    But with technology it a) makes things easier for me to keep track of and even create and correct from home since everything is accessible online, and b) makes it more interesting for students who live with technology every day of their lives. Why not hijack their ipods for history lectures?

  37. Ahem.

    “Lecture is the most effective method of teaching, and getting through material. It simply doesn’t work in large doses, and it must be reinforced with collaborative learning and other strategies.”

    Lecture is simple, easy to engage students — be provacative, but not so much you get fired — and, if reinforced by other methods, it’s a quick and dirty way of getting through material.

    Lecture is overused, and it’s rarely used properly. That doesn’t mean that it’s a bad way to teach.

    As well, technology is overused, and is rarely used properly by the few new teachers I’ve seen attempting it. That doesn’t mean that it’s a bad tool to use while teaching.

    Ideally, cooperative learning groups are the best way for students to retain information, but it takes lecture to emphasize the key points. Of course, cooperative learning groups are nearly impossible to keep on task.

    Lecture is easy to do, easy to reinforce. Just be sure not to skip the reinforcing part. Most teachers — from personal experience — do.

  38. I agree Steve. Lecture is easier on teachers than students.

    Why should I talk about something I already know when I am trying to get my students to actively participate in their own learning?

    During a lecture the only one who is active is the one lecturing.

    In my experience a ‘good’ lecture is rarely a lecture, per se, but rather a conversation that is led by an instructor. In that case, the instructor is a facilitator of learning rather than a holder of learning.

    Is that what you mean, eyeingtenure?

  39. I think that’s the ticket Tracy.

    Good lecture is not a lecture (at least in the way the majority of the world thinks of the term).

    I think eyeingtenure may be over simplifying how easy lecture is or how easy it is to keep students engaged. So many factors come into play- audience, topic, culture, time of day etc.

    For me it all comes down to this. There are very few black/white issues in education (or most anything else*). Technology, lecture, homework, etc. aren’t good or bad. They’re just things that can be used well or used poorly.

    It’s pretty pointless to argue about these things. Passion often seems to overcome thought on both sides leaving us farther away than where we began. Maybe that’s the nature of blogs or of arguments. Pete’s point about furthering a discussion is key. I’ve been, essentially, arguing with eyeontenure. It’s not a discussion and as such probably has little or no value to either of us.

    I’m tempted to move back to NY and try to get a job working for you, Pete. You remind me of a guy I worked with in the Boys & Girls Club who could do some amazing things with conflict mediation. Situations where I was sure something violent and bad would happen and he’d start in with things I’d read about and thought of as BS but he’d made them work. It’s really interesting to see people like the two of you work.



    *I’m sure there are examples where there is blatant right/wrong but the majority of things are housed in context.

  40. Yeah, I guess. It always ends up in semantics.

    Good lecture is never straight lecture. By the description I had offered, I realize, then, that reinforced lecture isn’t the same lecture most people tend to think of.

    Nonetheless, the 20-minute lecture is essentially the building block of every activity. How else do you explain major group projects, or classroom procedure, or the intricacies of battlefield tactics?

    Or, how else do you debrief the class after an activity, explaining the big idea, emphasizing the essential lesson of the day when students are completely on the wrong track?

    Lecture gets a bad rap. That’s all I’m saying.

    I don’t know if anyone noticed, but I took exactly the opposite position on the technology question.

    They’re all just different modes of teaching. It all falls flat when you don’t know you’re doing.

  41. I can’t believe that so many people are still talking about teaching knowledge and content – filling empty vessels instead of showing them where and how to drink.

    Teaching must move to teaching children the how of learning. How to seek and find, how to question, how to analyse and synthesize and create.

    To do this without “technology” in today’s world is short-sighted, naive and an educational dead end.

    Try this for starters –

  42.’re idea of moving from “what” to “how” is a good first step, but ultimately the best jump is from “what” to “do”. In other words, what will students be able to do with the knowledge once they find it. Analyze and synthesis are great skills but what’s the purpose or outcome. Being “capable” is probably more important that being “educated.”

  43. Hi Steve, after analysis and synthesis comes creation and sharing. What learners choose to do or create is ultimately their decision, but without knowing how there is no do. Of course this doesn’t exclude using “do” as a vehicle for teaching the “how”.

  44. seems you still talking about education for education’s sake. After you create and share..what are you going to do with that?

    You model focuses mostly on knowledge which has value but it’s only a small part of the total equation.

    Where is the immediate application to something meaningful?

  45. Steve and Michael,

    Allow me to jump in on this, it is something in which I am very interested.

    “We are now at a historical transition in which it is crucial that learning be placed in the context of action, as a way of being in the world, instead of being simply intellectually smart.” Richard Strozzi Heckler from the Learning Dojo

    I think this quote might be one of the most important we, in education, need to examine and discuss.

    As we look at new models for educating our children, we would do well to expand our definition of learning from accumulating information, to being able to do something with that information; to be able to take new actions.

    Reform models that overlook this exciting and emerging definition of learning, may find themselves simply repackaging what they seek to transform.


  46. “Mr. Content Is All That Counts”

    There may be other professions where mandating the use of technology just isn’t enough, but education is such a huge one. I think that of all the personalities, Mr. Content Is All That Counts is the most common and I think, ironic. If that was really what these types of educators were after, accurate content, they would be surprised to know just how much more accurate and efficient their classroom content could be with the use of technology. Not only is it important that students are given the chance to learn about technology in such a technology rich culture, it is important that they know about aspects of technology that can enhance their learning experience both in and outside of the classroom.

  47. I agree with Emily in that lots of teachers and schools are so focused on teaching the standards and to the test that they forget that technology can be a very effective way to teach kids. I don’t think that lecture is the best way to teach kids. I remember all the lectures in hight school and college as well and I could never remember too much from the lecture but when the teacher had a hands-on activity for us to do or an investigation of some sort, I never forget those. I remember clearly what the purpose was and what we learned and also we never really got tested on it but yet I still remember it clearly. Discovery learning and construcivist classrooms are much better with regards to retention, I think. In a lecture and teacher based classroom the students might learn a lot of material and do well on a test, but studies have proved that these students don’t remember what it was that they learned a couple months later and certainly not years later.

  48. Emily D and Mel,

    There is no argument about the importance of technology and engaging pedagogy for me. The challenges are how to get teachers to adopt them. There are 3 shifts that I see need to happen:

    1. Shift from lecture/talk based pedagogies… to constructivist/project based pedagogies. (with or without tech)

    2. Shift from paper and text… to using technology in the classroom. (more powerful if combined w #1.)

    3. Shift from students as vessels to be filled with content… to building relationships, connections, and trust with students. (makes both #1 & #2 more effective)


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