Is Technology A Tool, Or Entertainment For Bored Kids?

by Steve Wyckoff on January 24, 2010

I love technology. I’m a gadget guy. I use technology to learn. when I want to learn something new I google it, I look it up in Wikipedia, and I try to watch it on YouTube. And I always try to figure out what is the best tool to accomplish the work I’m doing, and to improve my productivity.

So what does that have to do with kids in school? I have the opportunity to interact with lots of educational technologists. And I’m always kind of disturbed by the discussions that occur between educators and the instructional technologists. It appears to me that the goal of educational technology is to make the things we have been doing in school for the last 115 years tolerable for the kids.

So why the title of this blog? It is my belief that we should be using technology with every single student in a manner that is much more congruent with how technology is used in the real world. What I see in schools is technology being used as a method to increase the engagement of our students in curriculum that they consider to be boring and irrelevant. As if somehow using technology will entertain the students enough that they’ll ignore their emotions, or lack of emotions, they have about the curriculum we make them cover.

Of course this isn’t a technology problem, it’s an education problem. It’s just that I’m bothered when I see technology used as a strategy to deal with a symptom rather than the systemic problems that are causing it.

Consider this, if we had kids using technology like it’s used in the real world, we would have to give them real world problems, or at least simulations of real world problems. That in turn would require us to integrate our curriculum, and tear down the silos between content areas. That in turn would mean that instead of covering a list of standards and benchmarks we would cover the things that are inherent in real-world problems.

The problem with that? Well obviously our kids wouldn’t be prepared for college after such an experience. But on the other hand, they would be much better prepared for the real world. Perhaps, we should have a discussion with postsecondary education, specifically the four-year colleges, about changing their requirements and their curriculum! And perhaps then we could change the core curriculum in our schools to meet the needs of our students rather than the needs of colleges.

I know this is a novel thought, and for some heresy, but perhaps colleges should look at how well they are preparing their students for the real world. Just a thought.

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