It’s easy to get excited about connecting students with more technology. I know firsthand. I’m thrilled when I’m able to assist my schools with technology acquisition. Everyone is happy. Administrators speak to the difference it will make in their school and imagine the possibilities that will emerge for the students in their building. Students grin ear to ear with smiles as they turn on the brand new device for the first time. And me. I get this warm and fuzzy feeling that I am making a minor difference in the lives of these students.
Greater access to technology is fantastic. I’m not writing this post to challenge this notion. I’m a huge proponent of putting devices in the hands of students, and strive to make inroads through my work with schools, but is increased access to technology going to drive change?
If our goal is to impart skills and prepare students to be globally competent citizens, technology alone is never going to get students to where they need to be upon graduation and beyond. As all these devices make their way into schools, we need to be ensuring that teachers are crafting learning opportunities that leverage potential.
In the right hands, technology is transformative. It presents opportunities that significantly modify and/or redefine learning experiences, but that’s just it. It presents opportunities; these opportunities don’t just present themselves. It’s the teacher who creates the conditions for learning opportunities that are grounded in powerful pedagogical practices. The number of devices in a school makes little to no difference without the teacher putting these conditions in place and acting as a catalyst. Without these conditions, we simply end up repeating dated practices with expensive devices.
I can’t help but think about the SAMR Model as I’m writing this post. I fully recognize that not everyone is able to jump right into using technology to redefine learning. It would be unreasonable to hold this expectation. When I work with teachers, I start where they’re at, and substitution may be a good place to begin the conversation, but it’s not the destination. As my friend Brian Aspinall says, “It’s OK to be where you are, it’s not OK to stay there.” We need to support growth not by acquiring more technology, but by putting in place a plan to support evolving practice. If we neglect to do so, we’ve failed in our objective.