Students, not Technology

A short piece published in the November, 2012 issue of EdJewtopia, a monthly newsletter on complementary Jewish education published by PELIE, the Partnership for Effective Learning and Innovative Education. It followed up on a presentation I gave at Kadima South Florida, a conference on EdTech in Jewish Education they co-sponsored along with Avi Chai.

When I work with schools on technology integration, there are standard questions I expect. In almost every educational institution, primary or secondary, secular or Judaic, formal or supplementary, public or private, administrators are asking: “How can I convince my more traditional teachers, those uncomfortable with technology, to use it in their classes?”

I struggle with this because the variables that distinguish each school and classroom from one another are so diverse that each requires its own approach; one size simply doesn’t fit all.

However, the question they are asking is not the one I was answering. These principals and directors aren’t asking me for a website, app or hardware recommendation. They are asking for an approach, an idea, an inspiration. And I think I have discovered it: the secret to successful technology integration has nothing to do with technology.

If you want to move your faculty along the integration continuum, stop talking about what the teacher should do and start talking about what the student needs. If your teachers are worth their salt, they understand that they must do whatever the learner needs from them. Put the proposition in these terms and even the most troglodytic teacher will adapt.

Today’s students are digital learners. They don’t see the analog presentation of information as old-fashioned; they find it incomprehensible. Asking a contemporary eighth grader to draft an essay by hand is akin to asking a surgeon to operate without MRI imagery: You’re making the job harder by denying basic tools. After all, outside of the classroom, when will this student have to write something by hand?

As Nicholas Carr explains in The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, the tools we use change the way we think. Modern students think differently than they did ten years ago, so our teaching methodologies, which should be student-centered, must change to accommodate.

Some will be unwilling or unable to change, but your most professional, effective, and capable teachers, regardless of their comfort level with technology, do understand that their job is to meet their students’ needs.

It’s not about technology; it’s about doing whatever it takes to make learning happen.

Leave a Reply

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