From the Back of the Classroom

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Technology – is it really like water?

“What does a fish know about the water in which he swims?” Albert Einstein, 1936.

Technology should be like water to a fish, there but not noticed.


I often wonder at these types of statements. You can’t really argue with them but still ….

like water to a fish?

I believe statements such as these, that often make great Tweets, create compounding problems for educators. Technology isn’t just “there”. It doesn’t just permeate the classroom like the air we breathe. There are choices and they have consequences.

Having been involved in a number cultural changes in schools where I was tasked to initiate change, making decisions about technology use was part of a bigger vision of cultural change and technology was an important part of the shift. Hoping that technology will become infused in classrooms is leaving too much up to chance. Teachers need support with integration, there is the need for PD, and there should be a plan for continual renewal of both the technology and teacher development.

Sound decisions about technology during planning allow the learning to be the focus, not the technology. The “Wow” or “Cool” factors can’t be the reason for using technology. It needs to be based on sound pedagogical decision-making. Using a new technology because “everyone else is” is not a sound basis for the decision. How does it support learning? What are the supports needed for teachers and students?

Pro-Active Use of Technology

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I believe that using any tool is a choice.

Do I use the wire whisk or a fork to beat my eggs for the omelet? Does it matter?

Should we free-draw or use a design program for this classroom design project?

Should we record these tableau scenes or have students do quick-sketches to work on technique?

Should I do a Sketchnote for this presentation or use Evernote for recording and notes?

Making decisions about using technology needs to be linked to the learning.

When the technology was limited, there wasn’t the need to make these decisions – use a pen/pencil/crayon. But with technology, there is a need for decisions. This needs to be integrated into the planning process. Teachers need to become more aware of design and the importance of design factors in planning.

It includes taking into account the school’s infrastructure and connection capacity. We don’t dwell on the technology – we use it to enhance the learning.

A Photo Shoot


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My daughter is a professional photographer and the photos in this post are hers. When she does a photo shoot there are all sorts of technology decisions that need to be made – camera, lenses, lighting, fans, backgrounds – it’s an involved planning process.

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Even when she is just out taking pictures, she has prepared her camera before going out and is ready – she doesn’t worry about the technology because she knows things are ready to go. This is much different than when I go out. I’ve often not ensured the battery is charged and I’m still not sure about some of the lens settings.

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The difference between her and I is that she is a professional and I am an amateur. Once the shoot starts, the technology can’t get in the way – it is planned before anything starts.

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Teach Like A Photographer

As teachers, we need to be professional about the decisions we make about technology use. Planning for the learning is critical to success. As an administrator, I’ve witnessed a number of incidents when teachers haven’t planned for technology use and things didn’t work out. Learning from one’s mistakes is all part of the process but sometimes planning can eliminate the need to have to learn from those mistakes.

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I know that even when you plan, technology might not work and one needs to be able to have alternative approaches – in a rural setting bandwidth and school connections were an issue that needed to addressed during planning. Even making decisions about which technology would be the best choice – Greenscreen or Audacity podcast or something else? There are decisions that need to be made before the students enter the classroom. Even when you allow students choice, planning to use the technology should be part of the process so that once things begin, it’s not about the technology.

Like a professional photographer making the decision before a shoot allows for those amazing shots, teachers need to plan so that once things get going the teacher can focus on the learning, not the technology.

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