The man on the left is Norm Abram, host of PBS’ “The New Yankee Workshop” and “This Old House“. Norm is a master carpenter. Norm also has a penchant for using a wide range of common and exotic power tools to create masterpieces. It is not unusual to see him use a variety of tools, bits, and jigs in his projects.
The man on the right is Roy Underhill, host of PBS’ “The Woodwright’s Shop“. Roy is a master housewright. Roy focuses his efforts on time-tested, traditional woodworking methods. Roy uses no power tools at all, sticking to hand tools and human-powered machines.
If I offered you a piece of furniture that had been made by one of these two master craftsmen, would you care which one made it before accepting it?
Neither would I. And that’s the beauty of how technology should work in education. When “use of technology” is seen as the product of our educational efforts, we get unnecessarily distracted from what the real goal should be. When “use of technology” is part of the learning process, then we are better able to decide when and where it makes the most sense, to support what we are truly trying to accomplish.
For example, “creating a Google Slides presentation” shouldn’t be the goal. “Deliver a presentation to convince an audience to fund your project” is a much better goal – and if the student can use Google Slides to support that work, so much the better.
Technology can help us do some things faster. Technology can help us do some things easier. Technology can help us do some things better. But, technology should not be the “end game”.
When you consider infusing technology into your instruction, do it for one of the following reasons: 1) technology makes a task possible that wasn’t possible otherwise, or 2) technology makes the task more engaging and results in a better product. Anything else is just a distraction from the real end product.
It’s an old axiom in marketing: “When you buy a drill, you don’t really want a drill. You want a hole.” A great drill can help you make an exceptional hole, much faster and more accurately than a hand-drill would. But, a great drill is not the goal.
When you start with a great real-world authentic learning goal, infusing technology to support that goal stands far less chance of being a roadblock to real learning!