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After a wonderful experience at the ISTE11 Conference in Philadelphia, I finally made the decision to get away from any computer and get myself to the beach for a week to decompress. Of course, I have my Droid, so I am still somewhat connected, but frustratingly so. A mobile device doesn’t yet fully replace the speed and convenience of a loaded laptop or desktop. Yet, it is that very inconvenience with only a mobile phone at the beach that enables me to say to my family that I am, for the most part, disconnected. If truth be told I have gotten a few socially oriented Tweets off with beach and sunset pictures. I needed to share some of those moments. I guess my reality is that I am not so good at decompression by disconnecting.

During my stay at the beach, I am constantly asked by folks what is it that I am doing these days. Of course explaining my involvement in Social Media in Education is a discussion that eradicates decompression, so I try to simplify. “I am involved with using technology as a learning tool in education.” This often brings the response about how kids today know everything they need to know about computers. They are “Digital Natives!”

It is that very attitude by adults that had a generation of kids programming the family VCR’s to record shows, or to at least stop the blinking “12 AM” light. That single task may have marked the very time when adults relinquished responsibility for technology to kids. It is true that when it comes to Technology stuff, kids approach it differently. They are less intimidated, and less concerned with breaking something. They are more intuitive when it comes to technology use. Most devices and applications now have many more common bells and whistles that carry through to other devices and applications. Of course this behavior in tech use is learned through repetitive actions, as a result of this commonality of devices and applications and may suggest or give an appearance to a non-tech user that it is an example of a native intelligence for technology. However, it is, in fact, very much a learned behavior. It is that very attitude however, that is misleading to many educators.

If there is one thing that can be learned from politicians it is this: Facts do not matter! If you say something often enough, and long enough, people will believe it, regardless of the facts. That seems to be the case when it comes to adult perceptions of youth and Technology.

I have written about this before, but obviously a majority of our vast population has missed or not gotten around to my earlier posts. I now teach in Higher Education. My experience is that most students are experienced in texting, downloading music and video, creating some music and many ringtones, and having a fair knowledge of word-processing. Lest I forget, they are master Googlers (I am not even sure that is a word), as well as copy-and-paste superstars.

Primary teachers leave technology to the secondary teachers; Secondary teachers leave technology to the Higher Ed Teachers; and Higher Ed teachers assume that students are “digital natives”. Tech skills of Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, Research, Social Learning, and Media Literacy in general are not being taught by some educators, but rather being assumed to be mastered by our digital natives. Of course a question obvious to many is, if these are skills required for media literacy, how many of our educators are media literate? The answer to that is critical to how many educators will enthusiastically embrace teaching with tools of technology. No, this does not apply to all educators, but if it does apply to some, then that is too many.

If we are making assumptions that our students are digital natives and using Tech intuitively, then we need not require further technology education of our educators. Of course this is ridiculous. But then again, the more I speak about relevance in education by using Technology as a tool for learning for both educators and students, the more I experience resistance to do so. The objection that always pops up is we don’t need technology to be good teachers. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with that. If we are teaching kids to master skills that will make them at least productive and at most competitive in their world, which is still developing its technology then we do need it in education. As educators, how can we teach kids what they need for their world in a technologically competitive society, if we are not keeping up with it. These skills are not intuitive; they are learned. In order to be learned, they need to be taught. In order to be taught by educators, these skills need to be learned by educators. Again, to be better educators, we need to be better learners. Believing in the myth of digital natives does not relieve us of the responsibility to teaching with tools of technology. We need not teach all the bells and whistles, but, as relevant educators, we need to employ Technology as a tool for learning where it is appropriate. Technology will never replace teachers but it will change the way they teach. Content may be delivered more by mentoring than lecturing. The best content experts cannot compare their knowledge to that which becomes available on the internet. Teaching how to access, process and communicate that requires technology and mentoring skills. The creation of content may become a shared experience with teachers and students.

If we, as educators, personally use and teach with technology consistently throughout the education system, we will need not teach technology, because our kids will be digital natives.

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Comment by Courtney Zobrist on July 14, 2011 at 6:46pm
I agree that technology will not replace teachers, but teachers also need to embrace technology. Our society is rapidly moving forward and our students are very aware of the latest advances in technology. We may not always have access to all the great pieces out there, but being educated or at least familiar with what is out there will only make a better connection to our students.
Comment by Rozella Kirchgaessner on July 11, 2011 at 1:53am

Hi Tom,

I couldn't agree with you more.  I blew my pastor's mind this morning when I mentioned to him that I saw him on Facebook this morning before the church service.  We (aged 64 and 66) both had a good laugh about it.

I agree with John's comments, also about the "same people being in the vanguard".  I was the only teacher when I first started teaching who could fix the 16 mm projector when the film tore or got stuck.

I learned how to tear off bits of colored rexo stencils and put them behind the typewriter role to add red and blue and black to my purple rexo stencils and gave out tests with my map grid lines drawn in color during the 1970's. 

And my current students are excellent at texting, but only a few of them can do more than a cut and paste power point slide show....Their spelling is terrible.... And they don't understand intellectual property or plagarism at all!!!  Even my colleagues fail to provide attribution when they copy something and distribute it.

So I may not be able to program my VCR... gave it up a long time ago, but I have learned how to hook up the digital projector to my laptop and navigate around virtual field trips for my students, and I can assign them projects that require them to stretch beyond cut and paste and engage in creative dialog.  The submit me homework via email because it is much easier for me to grade... and to catch copying!! and prove it to them!

And i tell them, "If you can google it, I can google it!"  "Do your own work!"


Richard E. Mayer (2005) defines multi media as the combination of text (spoken or written) and graphics.  Using that definition, Multi-media instruction has been around since the Cave drawings and the Rosetta Stone.

Chalk and talk can also be multi media, but bringing the world into the classroom via the web, and being able to interact in real time with others within the school or around the world, just makes sense.  So what are so many people afraid of?  My smart phone does amaze me, but you are right, there is a proper tool for each use. 

One can eat soup with a fork if one wants to.  It is much slower than using a spoon, but it can be done.  Who would want to?  Too much of our educational time is spent trying to get our students to use the fork effectively.

It does not mean we should throw away all the forks.  They are still much better for twisting spaghetti than a spoon is.  The use of technology is not the question.  The question is, which form of technology will work best for a particular learning goal?


You are absolutely right about the cop outs.  We need to understand the technology and use it in class and not be impressed when a project looks glitzy but has no substance.  And we must get away from the idea that if it is printed, or stated in the media.... it is true!

We will never develop critical thinkers until we stop being intimidated by "new fangled" inventions and learn how to use them!

Comment by John Burrell on July 9, 2011 at 10:22am
great writing Tom. I'm interested in the lines 'we don't need technology to be good teachers'. I wonder how long this 'inclusive' statement can be sustained. Another observation I have from 25 +years is that its 'always the same people' who are in the vanguard of technology and learning  innovation and this seems largely independent of the age or experience of the teacher. I have however noticed that younger teachers tend (not all) to come at technology searching for the 'one size fits all' solution to their problems. I am however reassured  by the fact that the rate of technological change is changing, so rapidly  that nobody can keep up by reading the user manuals. Perhaps this will be the way that education embraces technology, when then applications are so complex that software engineers have to make them super intuitive. No more learning Dreamweaver! . regards John
Comment by Tatiana on July 8, 2011 at 3:22pm
This article is very true.
Comment by Shawn Blankenship on July 8, 2011 at 12:39pm
As you state, "The best content experts cannot compare their knowledge to that which becomes available on the internet."  Too many students can only learn what their teacher knows.  It's not the responsibility of the teacher to know everything, but it is irresponsible of the teacher to not employ technology as a tool for learning where it is appropriate.

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