I’m borrowing from Martin Heidegger here. In his essay, The Question Concerning Technology, he says that our anxieties around technology is not so much the existence of technology itself or the forms it takes, but rather our orientation to technology. Or, as the University of Manitoba’s George Siemens says, technology is not neutral. (Heidegger, by the way is an important, but tough read; this guide helps.)
I’m speaking on this subject at the Canadian Association of Independent School’s Best Practices conference in Montreal today and tomorrow. My friend Richard Smith calls me an optimistic curmudgeon for my stick-in-the-sand stance against technology; and I do think that educators ought to be cautious in adopting new technologies. I’ve seen plenty of web 2.0 artifacts such as podcasts and video that haven’t engaged students in any higher order thinking than they might have had they used, well, a stick in the sand. Not that new media is inherently a bad thing; far from it. But we need to be able to see that a podcasted book report is still a book report–the game hasn’t changed.
Nevertheless, it’s hard not to be excited these days. Not since Dewey has so much been going on in education. And never before have teachers had so much opportunity to get involved in the discussion. So it’s ironic for me–the optimistic curmudgeon–to see that schools are moving so slowly in making sense of emerging technologies.
I say “making sense,” not “making use,” because the real cause of the slow uptake comes from not understanding our relationship to technology and the ways it might reshape pedagogy. I’m not sure anyone has the answers yet; as Clay Shirky says, “the old stuff is breaking faster than the new stuff is put in its place.” But I do think it’s crucially important the schools get deeply into the conversation.
Here are the links to my slide deck and the set of bookmarks I’ve gathered in preparing for the talk.
CAIS-BP Conference Talk (Prezi is a great alternative to PowerPoint because it allows you to zoom in and out to reinforce context, something you can’t easily do in PowerPoint. But to be honest, I never find anyone else’s slide decks much use without their voice over; but here’s mine for those who do)