Vol. #8: Tech Tools are the Power Tools of Education

Last week’s post evidently left some room for further interpretation and discussion. My colleague Paul Cancellieri*, as usual, pushed my thinking deeper. He rightfully noted in a comment to the post that I did not completely and fully answer the question posed by the Kenan Fellows program:

“How we can best use technology to its maximum advantage in education?”

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and I certainly don’t know more than some* about technology. However, it is my assessment that this question is most powerfully, truthfully, and best answered if it is simply as flipped as some of the cutting-edge classrooms of today:

We can best achieve an educational goal to its maximum attainment by utilizing technology.

This may seem at odds with what I stated in the previous post:

“It is important to remember is that technology is simply a tool. It no more accomplishes an educational goal in and of itself than a pencil and sheet of paper (or a slate and chalk before that.)…”

However, I go on to say:

“Educators’ understanding the right tool for the right task is imperative. A hammer does the plumber fixing the leaky faucet very little good.”

Please allow me to develop this “metaphanalogy” further…

In accomplishing an educational goal, technological tools are the power tools.

A carpenter certainly still has a saw and hammer in his or her toolbox. Indeed, it would not be complete otherwise, much as classrooms still need pencil and paper. However, if a general contractor came to work on your renovation armed only with non-power tools, you’d have a right to be concerned. What modern carpenter hand-nails everything?

Modern power tools accomplish his or her goals faster and with more accuracy. Sure, they are intimidating to use for the first time. Some instruction is needed, and some practice should be dedicated outside of time spent actually on the paid job. Even the possibility of injury is not out of the question…

Okay, maybe that last comparison doesn’t work. (Any stories?)

We can best use technological tools to their maximum advantage in education the same way power tools are best used to their maximum advantage to build in construction. They need to be in the hands of all the workers and foremen (students and teachers) for it to be the most effective.

Unfortunately, this is not the reality in most of our classrooms. We are asking our teachers to build to great heights when there might be a power-nailer or power saw available for check out from the Media Center during a few of the days of construction. Beyond that, everyone is making due with woefully limited and out-of-date equipment.

And critics are wondering why education is being built more poorly and slowly than in other places! Why are the teachers complaining their arms are tired? After all, if the results aren’t as good, they must not be working hard enough.

Does this better explain how I view technology’s use in education?

Does it make sense?

Most importantly: Does it align with your own experiences?

I want to hear from you in the comments…


4 thoughts on “Vol. #8: Tech Tools are the Power Tools of Education”

  1. I like your analogy! Not only are the technological tools of the modern teacher powerful, they’re also more engaging for students (often) than traditional ones. But it’s all about the right tool for the job. I just did a workshop in which a low-tech activity went over like crazy, and it was the best one to teach the concept I was trying to teach. Teachers absolutely need to have access to all the tools available, technological or otherwise.

    On another note, would you be interested in setting up some collaboration with teachers at the schools I’m working with this year? Blogging student to student, Skype, other?

    Email or message me on Twitter!


    1. Thanks for the great comment! You’re exactly right: low-tech, high-tech, the bottom line is it’s all a means to an educational end.

      I’m all about some collaboration with the likes of the teaching elite like you, Jason! I’ll send a message your way and we can set something up!


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