February 28, 2013

Washington Post Article: High Tech vs. No Tech Extremes

Last year, the Washington Post featured this article on technology in education.  It's no surprise that there are multiple schools of thought on the importance of instructional technology, and some questions that come up are related to why and how technology can be used to enhance a student's learning.  In the above article,  two schools, only a 20 minute drive apart, are compared by two extreme technology philosophies:
The Flint Hill School in Oakton is ultra-wired. Apple hails it as a model for its embrace of devices. Teachers here believe technology immersion will make their students more excited about learning and better prepared for college and careers. So they’ve given each child a device — starting with an iPad for every preschooler and MacBook Airs starting in the fifth grade.
The Washington Waldorf School in Bethesda is trying its best to stay unplugged. Its teachers think technology is a distraction and overhyped. They believe children are better taught through real-world experiences in the school’s vegetable garden and woodwork shop. Educators here fear that the immediate gratification of texts and Wikipedia threatens face-to-face communication and original thinking, so they ban cellphones, laptops and tablets and require students to hand-write papers until high school.

When I think about how I approach instructional technology, I find that the answer to the big question "To Tech or Not To Tech?" is partially determined by how I envision using technology tools to transform what I am already doing.  If the tool is able to enhance a classroom practice, and if it pushes the instruction to the next level, then the answer is clear.  Without a vision on how the technology can be used, the tool is in danger of becoming an entertaining paperweight. 

In paragraph 12, Michael Rich, director of the Center on Child Media and Health at Harvard, mentions,
“... an iPad is great, but does it really do a better job than a hunk of clay or paper?”  
I invite you to consider this question:  In your own use of technology, what helps you to decide when to use technology and when to use traditional means?

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