Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Technology Is Not Transforming Education. YOU are.

Ok.  Pop Quiz:

Which of the following uses of technology have I actually witnessed during my travels to schools and libraries around the country?**

          a.  Students using netbooks to complete a worksheet.
          b.  Students playing games on a tablet as a reward for completing the "real lesson."
          c.  A teacher using an interactive white board to show the class a video clip.
          d.  All of the above.
          e.  None of the above.

If you picked D then you've clearly filled out a few bubble sheets in your day.  

Now.  Using the same answer choices above, try this one on for size.  In which of the previous examples was "technology transforming education?"  

Bingo. E. None of the above.

I mention this because I've been seeing a lot of articles lately purporting to list the "10 Technologies That Will Transform Teaching" or "11 Apps That Will Save Education" or "18 Web 2.0 Tools That Will Make You Look 10 Years Younger!" Okay... I made that last one up.  BUT the first two examples are just as ridiculous.  Technology cannot change, transform, save or even improve education.  

Only you can do that.

What's more, I think this speaks very specifically to what I see as one of the major shifts in school library work.

As our collections grow to contain more and more digital resources and our physical spaces change to include more technology, it's tempting to think that the library itself has evolved.  But it's not that simple.

               Circulating eReaders will not transform your library.
               Hanging a Smart Board will not transform your library.
               Giving every student a Chromebook will not transform your library.
               Letting your students bring their own device will not transform your library. 

Don't get me wrong, I love technology.  And if I had access to all the technology listed above along with a school full of kids, I'd make some serious magic.  But the bottom line is this:

Only great teaching can transform your library.  And only you can do that.

**I want to be clear:  I visit tons of schools and libraries. And during those visits I see many, many wonderful examples of teachers using technology to make their instruction better.  That said, while the examples above are real, they are, fortunately, not the norm.


  1. It still hurts my heart these many years later to remember a visit to a school with a lab full of computers and a sign that said, "Please move computers to the side of the desk when it is time for our writing/composition lessons." Ugh.

    1. I can remember YEARS ago (I don't want to talk about how many!) as a Language Arts teacher, swapping rooms with a Science teacher so my students could use his computers to create literary databases to go along with a short story unit. (This was in the PRE internet days!) Several of my fellow Language Arts teachers were all frowny faced because I was letting kids "play on the computer" instead of doing "real work" but we used that database to discover literary trends AND we had fun. The next year, several of my stoic colleagues decided to tackle the data base. My point? In my experience, people do the wrong things either because they don't understand the right thing to do or they don't care. If they don't care, it's time for them to go, but if they just don't understand, sometimes it just takes a little training or a really spunky pied piper to show them the way! :)

  2. I should have added that i LOVE this post. I've never seen an effective library program where there wasn't a skilled, energetic well-trained librarian leading! We ARE people in the people business!

  3. Bingo! Well said, Jennifer.

    Effective, relevant, and hands-on professional development is key, as well, to transforming how teachers use technology. How often have you seen a SmartBoard installed in a classroom or library, with no training or professional development for the teacher? When my school went 1:1 with netbooks for our 4-6th graders, we worked with the fabulous non-profit Digital Wish to provide weekly lessons for students AND teachers. It has made all the difference.

    1. Amen! "Effective, relevant, and hands-on professional development" IS key! It's unfortunate that this piece is so often neglected OR not as effective as it should be. Your Digital Wish partnership sounds like a real WIN for everyone! Yay!

  4. What a great wake up call! My school is in our first year with iPads for the students and many of the activities in your quiz are exactly how they are being used. I must refocus my efforts in assisting and encouraging teachers to not only USE the technology, but also imagine the ways the technology can TRANSFORM their classroom and student learning. Thanks!

    1. Kendra - you are so right. There's a big difference between "using" technology and imagining ways it can "transform" teaching and learning. Thanks so much for your comment and good luck!

  5. Thanks for keeping it "real" Jennifer. Now if only I could get teachers to see that when they do A-D it equals E....

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  7. I just found this blog and I'm so excited! Thanks for sharing your insights to issues that really speak to the challenges of our profession in the 21st century. I will be coming back often and sharing my insights as well.