It’s not the computers, stupid

This was a good week and a bad week. I came closer to understanding what I want to find out about digital writing, i.e., how do you spell dissertation. This suggests I have a greater chance of researching and writing one than I did last week at this time. (Good!) I also had some sweet teaching moments. (Good!) More about those in a minute. First, a report from the why-nothing-surprises-me-when-it-comes-to-education committee.

In fact, a friend of mine is on a committee with a couple of other people, to figure out how to integrate technology into her department’s  curricula, and to devise a plan for bringing their fellow teachers up to techno speed. My friend is a pretty powerful email writer & facebook poster, but that’s about it.  She says her co-planners have comparable experience. The pressure is on — the principal wants technology NOW.

“Why?” I wanted to know.

She shrugged. “Because.”

It sounds like this principal 1) has embraced the philosophy that technology of all sorts is the latest in learning gimmicks, and 2) is falling prey to the attitude of  “anybody can learn to do stuff with a computer, so let’s get rolling.”

Over the summer, I told my students that if I ever heard of them using digital tools just for the coolness factor, I would hunt them down. I guess it’s too late to say that to my friend.

Maybe I should instead describe what my students showed me this week, as we attended the talk of a renowned scholar. There were other classes there as well, about 60 other people in all. During a break, I was fiddling with my computer, trying to bring back a Skype link with a sick student who hadn’t wanted to miss the lecture. I looked up to say hello to someone and caught sight of my students. They filled most of two rows of seats, with a half a dozen or so of them perched on armrests or leaning in from the aisle to talk.

I looked around the auditorium. Most other folks sat in pairs or stood talking in knots of three or four. And then there was my bunch– a bunch. I went over to say hello and teased them a little about their clubby aura. “We can’t help it,” said one young woman. “We love our class.”

This is very sweet. However, I would be a liar if I told you it had much to do with me. I think it’s the private blogging system we’re using that’s influenced this class. I see them engaged in thoughtful  conversations about our material throughout the week.  As a result, we’re not only covering more ground in more depth than usual, they’re making strong interpersonal connections. Getting together face-to-face becomes a rich and rewarding experience.  (The exploration of this is where the dissertation  comes in. 😉 )

Sweet teaching moments like this have already left me hopelessly biased about so-called tech “integration.”  What would I tell my friend’s principal? It’s not the computers, stupid. It’s the coming together, for the sake of learning.

2 responses to “It’s not the computers, stupid”

  1. MeredithS says:

    But it’s the computers that enrich the coming together, right? 🙂

  2. Karen says:

    I don’t think they enrich it as much as they make it possible. Ah, I see what you’re saying– if it’s “not the computers, stupid”, then what makes a different class dynamic possible?

    I think it goes back to the computer as “gimmick”. In the case of my friend’s school, I am struck by the irony of people who don’t use digital tools being the folks charged with envisioning a digital landscape for their colleagues & students.

    A colleague of mine used to say, “Go slow to go fast.” I agree with the principal– they need to get on board. But it’s not the mere physical presence of computers that are going to do it.

    In order to develop a meaningful integration/transformation, I think they need to use digital tools to accomplish specific real goals. To live as a group of co-learners inside the possibilities digital tools afford. Then, together, consider the experience of teaching and learning that they’ve shared and go from there.

    It’s slow, but it’s not just the computers.

    Thanks for making me say it better. At least, I hope I did.

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