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Computer-less teachers April 23, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in General Comment, Students.
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teachers   A few weeks ago, I shared the following quotation with my students, “Technology will never replace teachers; but teachers who use technology will replace those who do not.” I posted it to let my students ponder the implications. For the most part, I stayed disengaged from the quotation itself and just absorbed my students’ reaction to it. They seemed to support the concept if I counted the number of “Right ons!” correctly. This evening, I read the first negative response to the quotation, and this from a respected leader in the field of educational technology.

It was this leader’s perspective that the quotation was fundamentally flawed. He found his evidence in the many teachers he had over the years who engaged their classes without even a piece of chalk. We have all had teachers like that at one time or another but there might be another 99 percent of the teachers who cannot hold their classes so spellbound without some sort of support. They might need an image they have found to open a mind. They might need to play a recording of a poem to share its rhythm and beat better than they ever could. They might need to share a music video, a television commercial, or a news story to prompt a discussion more concisely that they could with words alone. They might need to reference a web site to reinforce and elaborated on something said in class.

The more I think about it, those teachers who tell stories and hold their classes spellbound might not hold every student so well. Those teachers are lucky if they can assess how well their students understood the concepts. I suppose their classes are small enough and their questions to them perfectly formed and answered by all. Those teaches are lucky because they could bring a life of experiences and insights to the class and boil them into brilliant and insightful stories and were not stuck with a lackluster curriculum or set of standards into which they had trouble breathing life. Those fabulous teachers were obviously able to create assignments for students perfectly tailored to the cognitive needs of every brain in the class. I am all in favor of giving computer-less teachers a chance to cast a spell and good luck to them.  

My point about educational technology is that those of us unable to hold a class spellbound two hundred days a year can gain a fighting chance of keeping a student in school by using these tools to engage, empower, and occasionally entertain.

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