Gavin Dudeney’s Six Attitudes to Technology

technology attitudes

Hello again! Grab a coffee for this post, as there is plenty to read but I’m sure it won’t leave you indifferent! Six Things is joined by Gavin Dudeney, whose name will already be very well-known to many of you out there in cyberspace. Gavin’s a teacher trainer, award-winning author and edu-technologist. When he’s not travelling the world giving workshops and sessions on integrating technology into teaching he can be found in Barcelona. He has also been quite active in quite a few heavy discussions online about all of this. How heavy? Well, see below to be up on the debate!

Gavin Dudeney’s Six Attitudes to Technology  [ And Why They’re Tosh ]

There’s a battle going on out there: on blogs, on Twitter, in Yahoo Groups, on sites like the British Council Teaching English site and elsewhere… a battle for our hearts and minds, a battle between the technophiles and the technophobes (or, sometimes techno-sceptics). It’s the battle for your time, your teaching approach, for your commitment to a cause… it’s the “is technology good or bad?’ battle.

People who know me will be no stranger to my views, but since I was so kindly invited by Lindsay to contribute to SixThings, here is my cogent, extremely intellectual and totally correct view on the other side…

1. It Breaks All The Time

A popular one, this – as if that were true, or indeed a reason for not using it.

One of ELT’s greatest writers refers to technology all the time with the use of the word ‘faff’. As far as he’s concerned, there’s just too much faffing – you spend more time trying to get it to work than it does actually working and enhancing your teaching. Take a look for the word ‘faff’ on Wikipedia.

“to dither, futz, diddle, ‘I spent the day faffing about in my room’.”

Does that suggest to you a problem with the tool or approach, or a problem with the person? My father used to say ‘a bad workman blames his tools’ and I think this is a clear case of that happening (though I should probably replace ‘workman’ with ‘workperson’)  …

You can minimise the faff by learning a bit about computers and other peripherals and how they work. We do the same with plenty of other things – few of us would dream of going to class and helping a learner with, say, the present perfect, without knowing something about it. It’s called preparation.

Make sure your own computer is well-looked-after and protected against viruses, etc. Make sure you have the right adaptors and cables. Check with event or class organisers what kind of projector, sound system they have. Arrive early to try things out. If you do all that then things should be fine.

I have over six computers running at home – they work fine. I have a web server that has not been rebooted for months – it works fine. I’ve over twenty installations of Moodle running globally – they work fine.

In Greece last week and in Cork the week before I had no Net connection for talks I was giving. I had planned for that, and had an offline version of my talk which was just as creative and engaging, even for the audience – the feedback was grand (and people have been in touch since then to show me examples of work they have done with learners as a result of tools and approaches we examined in the sessions). Is it too much to ask people to be prepared, adaptable and professional? I don’t faff – why do you?

2. It’s Unproven Pedagogically

Detractors go to extraordinary lengths to dig up research that appears to give weight to their argument that there is no real bulk of evidence that supports any significant advantage to using technology. Of course, this is a mug’s game – for every report someone can dig out that says ‘X had no significant impact on Y’, one can dig out a report that says the opposite.

There’s plenty of evidence that technology works in certain situations when used well, etc., etc. but of course you can find the opposite too. There’s little evidence to suggest that many approaches or ‘states of mind’ in teaching significantly enhance the learning – but it beggars belief that we are seriously invited to take some ideas on faith but not apply the same leeway to technology. You can’t have it all your own way, people.

If you want evidence to counteract that old report from 1994 that concluded that doing T/F exercises on a BBC Micro had no great impact on teenage learners of Russian in Dalston (sample of four over ten days) and on which you base your theories that ‘it really isn’t much good, you know’ then why not search the archives of EuroCALL or similar organisations, ones that actually do the relevant research. Of course, you should expect the same rigourous appraisal of any approach, method, etc. that you espouse…

3. It’s Boring And Not Interactive

One of the greatest myths is that technologies in class are not very interactive, that really it’s like doing exercises on the screen. And of course it can be. People who have this opinion are usually people who haven’t been teaching for a decade or so, who last used a computer in class when they had sixteen colours, no sound and the only thing you could do on them was manipulate text, and who haven’t moved beyond that phase.

Just to get them up to speed, perhaps they should consider what computers actually can do these days; sound, animation, video, collaboration, production, conversation, communication… With blogs, wikis, live voice chat (with video) and a whole host of other tools you can actually provide opportunities for learners to speak to people they WANT to speak to, rather than people they’re FORCED to speak to by dint of being in the same room.

If you use technology in the ‘noun’ way described by Prensky then of course a lot of learners are going to find it boring and not very interactive at all. But if you get some training, use some imagination and explore the options, you might get round to using it in a ‘verb’ way and people might actually interact, create, talk, communicate and – yes – learn.

That old Hebrew proverb (don’t confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in different times) should be a pointer here. But I’d change it a little: don’t confine your learners (or trainees) to your memories of what computers used to be like the last time you were a practising teacher or used one in class. Times have changed, have you?

4. It’s All Porn & Paedophilia

Another one that had me laughing recently – another disingenuous attempt at picking away at the value of technologies. The author of this particular post claimed that when he was taking his learners to the ‘Internet Room’ (even the use of the phrase ‘Internet Room’ should date the class) they just spent their time surfing for porn.

And that does raise a lot of questions:

  • Why was your class so boring that they felt a need to do that?
  • Why did you have such little control that they could do it?
  • Didn’t people use to look for rude words in dictionaries?
  • Haven’t kids always looked for pictures of naked people?

The fact is, of course, that if you can’t use technology in a stimulating way – if you can’t engage your learners… if you can’t control their natural urges to ‘bunk off’ then you really shouldn’t be in a classroom, either with or without technology. As I  pointed out in this discussion, when this teacher’s kids were looking at bums and things, mine were involved in email penpal exchanges with kids their age in the US, and regular real-time chats with kids their age in Poland.

Even the most irrationally technology-fearful teacher must surely recognise that the learners resorting to looking for naked body parts is more a reflection of the power of technology to stimulate (!) and the teacher’s inability to use the technology properly, than any actual weakness in the technology itself. We’re back to our bad ‘workperson’ again…

And of course the bad teacher’s experience with technology was also an ideal opportunity to discuss safe surfing, safe online practices and the role of naked body parts in education as well as the dangers of giving away too much personal information online. But I suspect that this didn’t happen either – you have to know the details in order to share them…

5. It’s Bad For People

Another popular meme – this usually means something along the lines of:

  • I read an article in 1997 that said watching telly for seven hours a day is detrimental and that therefore equates perfectly to modern media such as Web 2.0 [ ummm…. ]
  • I just read an informal report on kids’ attention spans and apparently they’re really short and rubbish and this is all down to Twitter. [ watch a kid play a computer game for twelve hours if you wish to see a decent attention span ]
  • I read somewhere that staring at a screen for eight hours a day can have a negative impact on your eyesight [ well duh! ]
  • I think it’s terrible that my child plays on the PSP for four hours a day [ so do I. Do you have a point to make other than something along the lines of how bad a parent you are? ]
  • Kids who grow up using computers can’t hold pens properly because their hands develop differently and bones never grow properly [ I heard this one in Hungary last year…. no comment ]

Of course most things can be bad for people when they’re done to excess. Those of us who espouse technologies are also quite capable of teaching without them, with nothing, with other tools, etc. We are the balanced lot. Teachers who refuse to even consider and try out technologies (where they have them) are actually unbalanced, for all sorts of reasons. Writing technologies off because you know nothing about them, have not experienced them and have never taught with them does not make them bad tools.

6. It’s Not Fair

No, it’s really not – not fair on your learners, some of the time.

Look, it’s a question of respect-  it’s not that people are attacking you for not engaging with technologies, it’s more that people are enquiring where this blind refusal to try them comes from (I suspect it mostly comes from the points and attitudes above)…

It also comes from things which are often out of the control of teachers: lack of equipment, lack of support, lack of training, an inability for curriculum setters, examining board, school owners, teacher trainers, DoSs, etc. to move beyond the 1980s and of course the chalk-face teacher is the greatest victim here.

But what confuses me is that teachers make their own opportunities for development when they’re not getting it instutionally: they read, they pay for their own courses, they travel to conferences (if they can) and they make every effort to keep up-to-date. Why not with technology? The answer’s right here – nobody takes it seriously in our ultra-conservative profession, and that’s why we’re destined to be a few steps behind business, and destined to short-change some of our learners.

And why is it ok for you to use technologies for your professional development and for your teacher training, but it’s no good for the ‘poor teachers’ or their charges. Where did this one rule for you and another for the learners come from? There’s no democracy in some ELTlandias.

If all the detractors who spend so much of their time moaning about how unreliable, porn-laden, boring, troublesome, unfair, blah, blah, blah technologies are spent the same amount of time on their teaching, writing, etc., our profession would be buzzing.

As it is, we’re old hat… moribund…. laughable…. so non-nerd we’re the new nerds that people like to snigger at. I can help – if you faff all the time or can’t think of anything creative to do with technologies or your learners are always looking at naked bodies, please get in touch. No fee…

Gavin Dudeney is the author of the award-winning book How to Teach with Technology (written with Nicky Hockly) and The Internet and the Language Classroom. He is co-founder of The Consultants-E, an online consultancy providing courses and training for teachers. You can read more from Gavin over at his blog, That S’Life.

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Published in: on October 26, 2009 at 6:36 pm  Comments (84)  
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  1. This post should be called “6 Strawmen”, or perhaps “6 rehashed rants that I’ve compiled into a list” 🙂

    I’d have much preferred something with a more proactive angle, like “6 technological skills that teachers should have” or “6 ways to get yourself up to date”, or “6 pieces of technology that schools should have” or something, but this is just all a bit cherry picking arguments about technology that have pissed you off (or which you have made up and which would have pissed you off if someone had said it) and to which you have an answer.

  2. I disagree with your comment Andy, yes Gavin could have written and perhaps might write those 6 lists (but then again many techno bloggers do that already) but it seems to me as a technophile that I spend most of my time justifying the use of technology in teaching – the first question i get asked is why should I use it not what can I use it for. These 6 arguments Gavin supposedly cherry picked are the 6 that reoccur, you know yourself through blogs and twitter that these arguments go round and round so am I glad that they are now appearing on a blog that is not necessarily techno-orienatated so they more people are introduced to the ‘battle’ and on top of that no one does anger quite like Gavin 🙂

  3. Andy,

    Good to hear from you and hope you’re having a good time down under. I did a positive posting on technology way back in the middle of this current debate – you can find it here: http://slife.dudeney.com/?p=277 .

    In terms of 6 skills that teachers should have, or 6 ways to get yourself up-to-date or anything else actually practical, that’s what I spend every day doing in my real job, which is training teachers how to use technologies in their teaching and training.

    That job is made slightly more difficult by what you call here ‘straw men’ or ‘made up arguments’ from people who really should know better, and really should have more experience before demonising technologies.

    As for making them up so I could answer them, the first is a regular on Twitter, as is the second (also heavily over-used recently on the British Council Teach English website and on the DOGME mailing list. The third comes from teacher research that Nicky and I did when writing our book three years ago, the fourth was most notably espoused recently by an eminent ELT author, the fifth comes from the IATEFL conference last year and a conference in Hungary (amongst other sources) and the sixth just happens to be my opinion.

    So, as you can see, I didn’t make any of it up, I have written (and continue to train) positively on the subject of technologies in many newsletters, journals, newspapers and other publications and I feel I have more than a basic right to deconstruct some of the terrible, baseless tosh that has been bandied around this year in various public fora.

    There are no straw men here.

    Throw another prawn on the barbie for me…

    Gavin

    • Gavin,
      “A regular on Twitter,”…”an eminent ELT author” etc. It might help us understand your sense of victimisation better if we knew who you were referring to. We might be in a better position to evaluate your claim that they are “tosh-pedlars”, for example. Just a thought.
      Scott

      • Scott,

        I didn’t name names because I thought it rather pointless to do so (in the sense that those people following these recent discussions will probably have a good idea who the ‘major players’ in this discussion are) and because I also thought it pointless to do so (in the sense that those who couldn’t give a fig about this discussion have no need to have their views of anyone else or their work tarnished by a narrow and pointless discussion in a small field).

        However, having said that, the quotes are all out there on the channels I described: Twitter, SEETA, DOGME, British Council Teach English and would not be hard to track down should someone be interested enough to do so…

        As for feeling ‘victimised’, I can take it as long as there’s an electronic soapbox to hand to pose alternate views…

        Best,

        Gavin

  4. I didn’t say you’d made all of them up. 1 and 2 I’ve obviously heard over and over. 3 as well, though not really for a good while. 4? Never, to be honest, though I’ll take your word for it. 5, sort of, and I love the fingers one. and 6, well you are admitting you’ve made that one up, right when you say that it just happens to be your opinion? (For what it’s worth I have heard “It’s not fair”, but in the context of the fact that some learners have access to technology and others don’t, and some parts of the world are more blessed than others, which I think is a fair point – not that this means one should not use technology if you have access to it). To be honest I’m not even really sure what the argument/strawperson 🙂 you’re arguing against there actually is.

    Mind you I’m glad to see that I’ve made this comments page about me. Result!

  5. Andy,

    You’re confusing me with your ‘straw man’ theory then, and the sentence in your original comment that said: “which you have made up and which would have pissed you off if someone had said it.”

    Yes, I can safely say I’m confused with the content of your first comment and your second one….

    Still, as you so rightly point out, the comments page is now most definitely ‘all about you’! Nice work 🙂

    Gavin

  6. I enjoyed reading this post and like your sense of humor.
    Obviously it comes down to good teaching, and those who don’t adjust their teaching craft will (with or without technology) still be bad for the profession and for the students.
    It isn’t about what is taught, it is about what is learned.

    Thanks for putting these together and addressing them with your unique sense of humor- we all need to lighten up…
    I think I’ll go faffing with my PLN on Twitter— that is if my computer keeps working… 🙂

    • Dodie,

      Welcome to the discussion and thanks for your comment. I agree wholeheartedly that it’s about good teaching (with or without technology), but it’s also about developing as a teacher and a professional and about balance, as many people (including Mark below) point out.

      If we know about technology, if we have trained and experimented with it then we are in a better position to know if it works for us, and in our context. We experiement with all sorts of tools and approaches in our daily work, why not technology?

      Gavin

  7. I agree with Shaun that it’s refreshing to see these views expounded on a non-techno website for a change – it gets a bit tedious to see them going round and round on ‘technology-focused’ sites where we all know nobody’s going to admit to having their mind changed by someone in the opposing camp. Six very valid points, very neatly argued, I’d say. In my experience as a DoS, the majority of teachers who dismiss technology out of hand do so because they haven’t got a clue how to use it, and can’t be bothered to find out (not that that’s the case with the techno-sceptic ELT writer cited by Gavin, who I suspect just enjoys a good game of devil’s advocate!). Personally I’ve always found a reasonably balanced mix of technology and ‘chalk and talk’ does the trick, but that’s my problem – always sitting on the fence….

    • Mark,

      ‘Balance’ did you say.. ?

      Watch this space later when Andy will be dealing with your points about ‘not having a clue’ and ‘not being bothered to find out’. 😉

      Gavin

  8. It’s not that confusing, surely. (Sorry, I know you don’t like it when I call you Shirley)

    I am still confused about number 6, and I suspect that in a couple of other cases you’re using arguments people made many years ago to make a point. As for the points which have been made recently which you are debunking, with the possible exception of number 1, you were, I suspected, choosing things that only one or two people have said/believe to make the point (though obviously you point out that #3 is the result of research you’ve been involved in, so I’ll add that one to the notstrawman list). You’ve ignored many of the real reasons why many teachers are reluctant to use technology which surely would be more worth debunking/supporting teachers to get past?

    Anyway, I have to go and teach now, since I’m living in the future where it is already Tuesday morning, and, sad to let you know, some teachers are still not using technology as much as they perhaps could 🙂

  9. Ach Andy,

    You’re fading fast here…

    By the time you’ve finished you’ll have agreed with me that none of them were made up, all have been said by many people at some point and your original outrageous slur on my veracity was nothing but a straw man itself.

    Enjoy your class, with or without technology.

    Gavin

  10. Oh god, again…hallo, I’m so with Andy…

    If you cannot break a rock then you must flow around it.

    The first people who used a phone got told their ears were going to fall off.

    The first people who rode a plane got told they were going to fall out of the sky.

    Those who use technology, successfully, without faffing about – who’ve read enough and seen enough and done enough research to know that the pedagogical proof is in the pudding…

    Those who think it’s boring, haven’t been in a classroom where it’s being used well (observed some mightily boring non-tech lessons in my time too)…

    And as for the human curiosity diving down to the biological… well that’s got so very little to do with the medium or did they not dig up some ancient s*x toy from 50,000 years ago? Did same self bashers of tech for that reason really not check it out themselves when they first got online?

    Vat’ever.

    Those who see the benefit to using technology, will.

    Those who then see what the first lot are doing, see the excitement in their students faces, see the results, they’ll come aboard and it’ll all tip, sort of like Ugg shoes… and those who don’t wont, until no one really cares.

    Oh, right. That’d be me and Andy already.

    Yawn.

  11. Karenne,

    Whilst I largely agree with you, there would be no need for posts of this nature if the anti-tech (or tech-sceptic) crowd would lighten up, stop peddling their tosh and concentrate on what they DO actually know, and what they do very well.

    I’d love to simply write about the successes I’ve had in class, the feedback from trainees, the projects I’ve worked on and the results I’ve heard about from teachers I’ve trained – but it’s so dull to have to sit back and take the tosh, that often it’s simply too much.

    Sorry you’re bored. I’m not… yet – I’m going to carry on holding the torch a wee bit longer, in the hope that the tosh-peddlers will retire to their own corners and do what they do well, instead of constantly undermining what others do well.

    As they always say, plenty more channels, and you can always turn it off and go out for a nice walk.

    Gavin

  12. If you cannot break a rock then you must flow around it.

  13. Karenne,

    Bed beckons…

    Once again, I understand the sentiment – but when the rock is constantly bashing you and your work over the head in front of a global online audience then it is hard to adopt a zen-like attitude and flow around it.

    Nightie night!

    Gavin

  14. I’m not a technophobe and don’t doubt that technology when used in the right way can be a useful tool in the classroom. However, one problem with using technology (and IWBs in particular) which was alluded to in no.1 is that it can often be very time-consuming. Not just in terms of making sure everything is good to go before using it in class but also in learning how to use the new technology effectively in the first place. Many teachers probably ask themselves ‘Will using technology in my class really add so much that it is worth the extra effort?’ The answer is probably no in most cases.

    I started my teaching career in a school that had just invested in IWB technology and teachers were told that they had to use it once a month with each class. Unsurprisingly, the new technology wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms by all. Personally speaking, I feel I would have developed far more as a teacher if the time I’d spent trying to get to grips with this new technology had been spent learning more about some of the more mundane aspects of teaching that affected me at that time.

    Maybe this story rings true for other teacher too. Schools invest in expensive technology and then feel the need to justify the expense. Hence, the new technology is imposed upon teachers, who then in turn resent it.

    I’m still relatively inexperienced as a teacher and so have plenty to learn (don’t we all I suppose ;)) on all manner of areas in the world of ELT. However, when I come to think about my professional development, learning more about technology comes somewhere further down my list of priorities than things like trying to learn more about Dogme, learner training, the lexical approach, discourse analysis etc. etc. I suspect this could be true for many teachers and partly explains why it hasn’t been as widely embraced as some would like.

    • Peter,

      Thank you for taking the time to respond. Yes, technology can take a bit of time to learn, especially if you want to use it effectively in the classroom. Yet we take the time to learn so many other things (your list at the end of your post is a good example) that I wonder why we don’t feel compelled to make as much effort with technology…

      Your experience with the IWB is all-too-familiar and any organisation that foists technology on teachers without decent training and orders them to use it should be shut down, IMHO. I’m afraid this happens far too often – too much time and money spent on the hardware and not enough on the wetware. It’s short-sighted, to say the least, and does tend to putpeople off. But again, that’s human error, not a fault or shortcoming of the technology itself.

      Best,

      Gavin

  15. Not sure what Shaun and Mark mean by it being great that this discussion is happening in a non techno place. This is a techno place – it’s a blog!

    What would be really interesting is to hear what teachers who don’t spend half their lives on the internet have to say. There are plenty of teachers who aren’t particularly enamoured by technology or who don’t even have access to it, who aren’t taking part in these online discussions because they don’t operate in this medium.

    You might say they’re ignorant and need to keep up with the times – but could it be that technosceptics are also managing to preserve something which is being lost through an over-reliance on technology. As Neil Postman said here, technological advances do not necessarily mean the provision of more choices.

    http://tinyurl.com/yjc94pu

    Personally I’m glad that there are lots of teachers who are sceptical about overusing technology, or using it simply because it is there. I just don’t get why you feel so threatened by this attitude Gavin.

    There’s a nice bit of sarcasm in your point five above, but the fact is that every minute spent on the internet is a minute that is not being spent doing something more human, and (for me) more fulfilling. It does concern me that I need to do more and more things which are connected to my work by staring at a computer screen. And it concerns me that my children are being exposed to more and more of this as an inevitable part of their education.

    Here’s some more tosh for you.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7898510.stm

    • Nick,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I’m not sure why everyone keeps quoting Postman’s views when they are so obviously out of date and very much pre-Web 2.0.

      He had a personal axe to grind (don’t we all?) but much of his content refers to technology before the age of interaction and communication and even the most hard-pushed techno-sceptic (perhaps now working in distance training) would be hard-pushed to agree these days with his old-fashioned views of distance education. etc.

      I don’t feel threatened by it, to be honest. I feel saddened that some people refuse to investigate a side of teaching which has brought pleasure and learning to thousands around the world, but since I have a very pleasing career built on technology it doesn’t threaten me – in fact it’s a challenge and a potential audience waiting arou8nd the corner. I simply feel frustrated that those who don’t use technology feel a constant need to belittle technology (and, by extension, thousands of committed educators globally who use it).

      As for the ‘more human’, well, that’s really a very subjective view. There are many ‘more human’ interactions I can think of that have caused untold suffering to millions of people around the world.

      Thanks for the BBC link. I particularly like the phrase ‘an expert claims’ and the use of such words as ‘may’ and ‘suggests’. It’s like I said about research – you can support the most flimsy f arguments in any direction if you want.

      Best,

      Gavin

      • The expert that is most publicly espousing online activities breaks social networking is Baroness Greenfield.

        In the interests of balance, your point 2 applies here. She’s a significant thinker and commenter on society despite the fact her background is neuroscience, but in this one you don’t have to scratch very hard to find a raft a equally eminent opinions in the opposite camp. The BBC website doesn’t seem to carry that, but the original broadcast did.

      • El,

        Good to see you over here, even if it’s slightly outside your camp. I’ll have to see if I can dig out the original broadcast. It’s interesting that at the end of that piece, we get:

        ‘ Dr Sigman says he is “worried about where this is all leading”. He added: “It’s not that I’m old fashioned in terms of new technology, but the purpose of any new technology should be to provide a tool that enhances our lives.”‘

        With the lovely wishy-washy ‘where all this is leading” statement, and ‘need to enhance lives’, and then the first comment is the following:

        ‘I agree that I would prefer face to face contact with my friends and family, but as an immigrant to the UK who is separated from so many friends and family far away in another country and as a disabled person with a variable health condition that means that some days I am unable to get out of bed, the internet and social networking is a real life-line for me. Losing track of old friends can happen so easily. I’ve re-established many friendships this way.’

        Morgan, Wales

      • Nick, Gavin, hi.
        The BBC link is an excellent example of bad science reporting. It offered the journalist / editor a nice headline, but it doesn’t offer the reader anything resembling balance or informed insight.
        The article refers to the work of Dr Aric Sigman. Sigman is not uncontroversial, but you wouldn’t know it from the BBC article. Rather than read the article, I suggest you watch a Youtube clip of Newsnight with Paxman interviewing Sigman and Ben Goldacre (24 February 2009).

        For a whole pile of links to other research into social networking and mental health, check out Goldacre’s site:
        http://www.badscience.net/2009/02/the-evidence-aric-sigman-ignored/
        Philip

      • Philip,

        Good to see you over here and thanks for the comment and the links. Unfortunately there’s too much ‘bad science’ connected to the detractors of modern technologies and it doesn’t do the (sometimes) good and critical opinions and thoughts of others any favours whatsoever.

        Best,

        Gavin

  16. Slur on your veracity? What slur on your veracity? Lordy. A strawman is not necessarily something made up it’s just a smokescreen designed to not actually deal with the real issues. (E.g. People critical of Israeli government policy are anti-semitic)

    Here’s my 6 primary reasons teachesr don’t engage with technology
    1. They don’t have time to learn something new
    2. They are overwhelmed with all the options
    3. They are too lazy to learn
    4. They don’t know where to start learning/educating themselves
    5. They have had bad experiences with stuff not working (that’s your #1, to be fair)
    6. They get tired of being told what luddites they are, and therefore resist even more 🙂

    Now dealing with all those would be a valuable post 🙂

    (When I’ve more time later today, I’ll try and offer up my responses to all of those)

    • Andy,

      Thanks again – and I look forward to your follow-up. I’ve spent a fair bit of my career addressing those issues, not only in thousands of hours of f2f training globally but also in published articles and books. We can compare notes when you’re done…

      Gavin

      • Cheers Gavin. And of course I am aware and very appreciative of all your fine and hard work on all these things and with helping and supporting teachers in the use of technology.

        Anyway, back to my 6 things…

        1. They don’t have time to learn something new

        – A management issue perhaps. And here of course we get to the area I’ve done much of my work in over the past few years – In fact I spent much of today extolling the benefits of professional development and why and how managers should offer teachers more opportunities for PD. I think this is crucial both for the development of the teachers and of the organisation for which they work. And how it’s no good just installing new technology – one has to make sure adequate training and various other systems are in place.

        2. They are overwhelmed with all the options

        Where does one start? I think this is a big one, and I’m not sure if I have the answer. Every week seems to welcome a new idea, a new educational use of technology. I think teachers need to spend time (and be given time, since I’m as usual coming at this from a management perspective) looking at things, reading various resources (both online, and in the case of books like yours, offline), so they can decide which grabs them most and which they;d like to explore further.

        3. They are too lazy to learn

        – I have a very long answer to this which I don’t have the time to type out now, but which involves a lot of encouragement, motivation, and opportunities. Leading the horse to water is easy, making it thirsty is harder.

        4. They don’t know where to start learning/educating themselves

        They might start with reading a certain book (authors’ initials GD and NH (no relation)), and then of course exploring training options. I don’t need to provide a list here, because they can be found in various places on the net, including your and Karenne’s blogs.

        5. They have had bad experiences with stuff not working (that’s your #1, to be fair)

        You’ve done that one. But, I would add that we must all have had bad experiences with most things, not only with technology writ large. Cassette players not working, power cuts, class sets of coursebooks having the answers written in them, chairs breaking, whiteboard pens running out, etc etc. The point is in most cases it doesn’t stop you using those things again. You just make sure you take care of the problem when it arises and be prepared for it the next time

        6. They get tired of being told what luddites they are, and therefore resist even more 🙂

        I don’t even think I am one, but I do get tired of all this technosceptic/phobic/luddite terminology. Not sure, what I can do about that other than stop reading the words of techno-evangelists like your good self, and I don’t really want to do that. Perhaps less is more?

        7. I know there wasn’t a seven originally, but there is now:
        7. The fact that many people around the world do not have access to technology, or have very limited access.

        As I mentioned before, that shouldn’t stop us using technology and adopting it in our classrooms if we have access, but that we (pontificators) should be aware that it’s simply not possible everywhere, and make allowances. If a Nepali teacher, say, has to hike 24 hours to get to an internet cafe to join in a discussion on a very slow connection that doesn’t allow downloads, we need to be aware of that, and make allowances (and alternative arrangements which allow him/her to be involved and not marginalised)

        7 things. Hmmm there’s an idea for a blog.

        Cheers all, and especially Gavin and thanks for the debate

      • Andy,

        Not sure I’ve got my reply properly embedded – looks like it’s going to come above yours.

        An excellent reply which highlights a lot of the issues I’ve been banging on about for some time:

        – give teachers time
        – give teachers training
        – give teachers support
        – give teachers the skills to evaluate

        I know what you mean about the luddite thing, having been guilty of it myself, but it’s a reaction to the ‘faffing and porn’ thing. All a bit pointless, as you intimate. I’d like to move on from the name-calling if everyone agrees…

        As for the digital divide – yes, it exists, not only in terms of access to technology but also in terms of access to skills, training, etc.

        I’ll be dealing a bit more with this area in my first article as Guest Writer for the British Council Teaching English site which is due to be posted sometime the week after next (I start my tenure on November 1st). More information here:

        http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/

        I suspect it’s getting near bedtime for you. If that’s the case, sleep well.

        Gavin

        More information here:

  17. These pointers are getting pretty tired, although I understand exactly why you feel the need to keep rehashing them Gavin. If anyone actually used these arguments against technology in education (and I don’t doubt that they do) they would be, in the modern parlance, pretty lame.

    The whole debate seems pretty pointless on some level – I use technology sometimes, probably more than most but not as much as I’d like. Whatever gets you there in an interesting an engaging way is fine, and we all ought to be keeping an eye on our own methods before we poke around in the classroom down the hall.

    HOWEVER! When those in positions of power are denying opportunities through their conservatism, the issue DOES need to be addressed. There are institutions which are wasting money on inappropriate systems and outdated software, or refusing to catch up at all. On the other hand, there are parts of the world in which the kids don’t even get to go to school because they are out working (or worse, fighting wars).

    What worries me is that the wrong targets are being attacked. Yes, the arguments you list are ridiculous and frustrating… but the hectoring tone this techno/dogme debate takes (and I know you can follow both, Karenne) is alienating for the average teacher doing what they can for an average wage. I don’t like the way that these teachers are sometimes belittled for not using technology, especially when circumstances are beyong their control (as you mentioned Gavin).

    Take aim at the training bodies, the universities, the chain schools, the associations, the governments…these are the people preventing those who might be so inclined from reaching their potentials with edutechs.

    • Darren,

      I’m only ‘rehashing’ in the face of relentless ragging and criticism that has become tiresome, annoying and a little disrespectful towards part of the teaching body.

      Oh how I agree with you when you say it’s pointless. Of course you use tech sometimes, and I agree 100% with ‘whatever gets you there in an interesting and engaging way’.

      For some time I’ve been arguing that it’s a question of balance, and that those who have taken the time to get the skills and knowledge to implement technologies properly are more balanced and more inclusive than those who write them off piecemeal. One should be able to use tech (like other tools and approaches) when it’s appropriate and useful to do so. But you have to know how to use it in the first place in order to travel this road.

      And yes, elsewhere on my own blog I’ve said quite clearly that the teacher is the last person to blame. We should be looking at teacher trainers, Directors of Studies, heads of schools and higher up to training bodies (and their syllabi) and accreditation schemes that put more emphasis on having cash and a useful passport than on any other teaching skill.

      We appear to agree here…

      Gavin

      • In general, yes, I think we do. But doesn`t the chap below have such a beautiful eloquence?

        To be honest, if we peel it back I don’t even know if there is much of a debate to be had, at least amongst plebs like me at the chalkface (and when I use blackboard, I am not talking about a virtual learning environment).

        I don’t mind debates as academic play, but when they stop being fun I don’t like them anymore. Can I through my lot in with the voice of reason, Karenne?

        It’s interesting to see Diarmuid down there referring to chest puffing… I’m sure he’d be happy to admit he’s one of the biggest chest puffers going ;-P

      • Am looking forward to your posts on the subject Andy, Darren… I wouldn’t call the post below eloquent, though – more bashing on and on and on and on and on: like Duracell.

        K

      • Oh I don’t know… bashing perhaps, but I think it has slightly more rhythmic variation than a duracell bunny!

      • Assuming (perhaps wrongly) that I am the beautifully eloquent chap below, may I raise my eyebrows at being told that I am banging on and on and on like a duracell bunny? Or have I misunderstood it and, whilst I was allowed to raise a critical voice in the past, now the time has come for me to admit I was wrong and to embrace technology uncritically?

      • Diarmuid,

        I’ll leave this one to you, Karenne and Darren. Critical is fine, I think – I suspect we’d all agree that, it’s the relentless taunting about things such as ‘faffing’ which doesn’t, to my mind, add any critical thinking to the argument…

        Gavin

      • I like the way you said you’d leave it…. then couldn’t stop yourself, Gavin! I’ll leave it to you. I really will.

      • Darren,

        No – I meant I’d leave the bunny/Duracell thing to you and Karenne. I never got it, really…

  18. Yea indeed. The straw men are on the march. But before we get into that, let’s look at Shaun’s self-proclaimed “technophile” status. Neil Postman, in Technopoly, makes the point that a technophiles are those who “gaze on technology as a lover does on his [sic] beloved, seeing it as without blemish and entertaining no apprehension for the future.” This comes through when Shaun bemoans the fact that people always ask, “Why should I use it?” (surely a respectably critical stance in a world predicated on mindless consumerism) rather than embrace it unreservedly with a panting, “What can I use it for?” And whilst we’re on the subject of clarifications: let’s just clarify what is meant by technology. Here it seems to refer to computer-mediated learning/teaching. Whiteboard markers are not included.

    Gavin also makes the mistake of lumping everyone who disagrees with him into the basket of technophobes/technosceptics (he doesn’t really make much of a distinction). And then he puts daft words in their mouths, ignores the stronger arguments and extrapolates to the extreme. As he might be expected to – after all, he earns his living by selling the delights of technology and answering the questions of the unenlightened.

    If we take a look at the portrayal of non-techies in this post and the following comments, I think that we will find our straw men and, I venture to suggest, we will find the reason why the “debate” (which really is repetitive and unenlightening) is polarised. Non-techies are bad teachers, inflexible, unprofessional, conservative, out-of-touch, hypocritical, ignorant idiots. Now, I’ve never read much of the ancient European literature, but I am reasonably sure that no Greek writer recommended insults and more insults as a guaranteed way of winning people over to your argument. Perhaps these arguments really have been put forward (unembellished by the Dudeney spin), but I am reasonably sure that similar outlandish arguments lionising technology have been put forward by some idiot somewhere. Such ridiculous arguments should not be what we gather together to debate.

    Of course, the biggest straw man is the one that Gavin uses to open his posting: “is technology good or bad?” I doubt sincerely that anybody credits technology with having a morality, but Gavin -and other technophiles- often interpret the argument as this. Gavin might point out something that somebody has written that says that technology is bad (although, despite his promises, he is not very good at backing up his exaggerated composites with actual source material!). But if somebody says that nuclear bombs are bad or that famine is bad, to argue that a nuclear bomb has no feelings one way or another is a pretty feeble one to use. The actual debate should be (and on “our” side, I would venture to say that it IS) about whether technological dependence has more potential for good or for bad.

    All around us we can see areas of life that have been technologised and where the old way has virtually disappeared. Gavin and his ilk would puff out their chests and start bawling, “Go back to handwashing! Heat your food over the campfire!” As if the non-techies were writing off technology per se. But non-techies are keen to welcome the advantages of technology (and in a technopoly, they have very little choice…staying at home to wash your clothes means less time plugged into the money-making machine which condemns you to live a virtual non-existence). However, they are not so dazzled by the advantages that they forget to look further down the line and ask what things will disappear as a result of the technology. It isn’t JUST the classroom that changes when we cram our teaching full of 2D images and bright lights. It isn’t just the classroom where technology is being introduced.

    So what to do? Well, back to Postman. He advocates a stance where “technology must never be accepted as part of the natural order of things, [an understanding] that every technology…is a product of a particular economic and political context and carries with it a program, an agenda, and a philosophy that may or may not be life-enhancing and that therefore require scrutiny, criticism, and control.”

    • Diarmuid,

      I get so confused with all your online identities that I nearly didn’t recognise you (thanks to Dareen for the hint and the ‘chest puffing’ information…).

      Neil Postman was a person with an axe to grind, as I have already pointed out. And so am I. This does not make his quotation about technophiles any more valid than anything I might have to say. ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death’ was certainly an entertaining book for the nineties, but ‘Everything Bad is Good For You’ is a much more relevant book for the noughties. Time marches on and so do we. Postman is yesterday’s techno-commentator.

      As for what constitues technology, I’m sure we all have our definitions. For me it’s not particularly a whiteboard pen, but I concede it may be for you. That’s fine. I do believe that Shaun’s question begs more discussion about the woefully narrow approach taken to teacher training in our profession than about any teacher’s critical approach to the tools and methods available to him/her.

      As for the daft words, read back through the tweets of some of the people you´re following, take a look on the SEETA site for recent discussions about technology….

      And yes, I wholeheartedly agree that many technophiles can be abrasive in their excitement and enthusiasm. As you say (and as I said recently) this discussion is polarised and is not going anywhere. I did recently suggest that we could agree to drop it, but the ‘faffing and porn’ comments continue to come and it’s annoying, at least to me.

      As for objects having ‘a morality’ or anything similar, I was recently involved in a similar discussion about SUVs and IWBs and all sorts of other acronymns in which these objects were indeed imbued with characteristics beyond the mere object.

      I feel that if one uses a SUV to ferry earthquake victims to a hospital for lifesaving treatment then it is really quite a good thing. I would also contend that if you use a SUV to mow down a row of kids outside a busy primary school then it is really quite a bad thing.

      I would also contend that it is the ‘operator’ of that object that imbues the object with any ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’. It’s about humans, and what they do with things.

      And as for the chest puffing, well if we are to subject technology to the ‘why should I use it?’ question then we should also subject the ‘old ways’ to similar scrutiny. As has been observed elsewhere (notably the DOGME discussion group) things like washing machines revolutionsed the lot of women in a distant past, so yes scrutiny is good. When we look at washing machines we can see that a drudgery disappeared, allowing for all sorts of advancement. Excellent stuff!

      I’m not sure anyone (well, certainly not me) is advocating ‘cramming our teaching full of 2D images and bright lights’ – that seems to me to be a very facile and reductionist description of what teachers using technology actually do, but that’s fine. You’re allowed your own stra men too – that’s equality…

      And no, let’s not go back to Postman… Let’s look at technology today, let’s look at Web 2.0, let’s look at how much more creative and communicative technology is now than when he wrote his oeuvre. Technology has moved on apace, teaching with technology (for some) has moved on apace and Postman is no longer relevant.

      The ‘program’, the ‘agenda’ and the ‘philosophy’ are human constructs. He was wrong to blame the tool, as is so often the case.

      Best,

      Gavin

      • I’d be interested to know the nature of the axe that Postman had to grind. I can’t see how this is an accurate or fair picture of his writing. Perhaps you could share?

        I’m not interested in imbuing inanimate objects with a morality that they clearly don’t have (and it’s a cheap rhetorical flourish to start interpreting people literally). Neither am I interested in getting too deeply into a flame war with insults and accusations.

        If the debate is to move on, perhaps we should address the question as I rephrased it: does technology have more positive potential than negative? This isn’t debate for play, it’s teachers trying to think through their opinions. It’s made harder by people projecting their own personal biases onto what other people write. It’s made harder by insults and a Very British Confrontational style of debate. There are those who seek to disengage from the debate because it’s boring etc – but then they tend to be the same people who singularly fail to engage to start with.

        I enjoy technology and I am amazed by what can be done. My question is whether or not I should be made to feel like a bad teacher because it doesn’t form a large part of my teaching. Is it really so beneficial that I should devote a large amount of (unpaid) time learning about it or do I already have the resources to perform a more than satisfactory job. Aren’t we right to question those who try to sell it to us? Doesn’t the field stand to benefit from a critical examination?

        Like Nick, I fail to understand why Postman is yesterday’s news. Because he wrote before Web 2.0? Is his critical stance therefore irrelevant – I would say it’s more relevant. Web 2.0 creates the illusion of more choice and more participation and so the spoonful of medicine goes down a lot more easily.

        I don’t have a puffed-out chest – I’m just big-boned.

      • Diarmuid,

        Big-boned, is it? Well, I’m thick-headed…

        Postman’s axe (depicted very nicely in the YouTube video that everyone constantly refers to) is that he dislikes most of the technologies available to him in the mid-nineties and longs for 19th century America: the pinnacle of rational argument. Most of his thoughts which are brought to bear on this kind of argument are from another era, from the trash TV era, from the disappointing birth of distance education era – in technology terms now an eon ago.

        He grinds his axe relentlessly through his perceived failings of technology and his yearning for the good old days of men sitting round having decent debates (with, I suspect, the women doing the cooking and the kids sound asleep after a decent beating and a cold herring sandwich). However, he does recognise the value of taking technology into education:

        “I don’t think any of us can do much about the rapid growth of new technology. However, it is possible for us to learn how to control our own uses of technology. The “forum” that I think is best suited for this is our educational system. If students get a sound education in the history, social effects and psychological biases of technology, they may grow to be adults who use technology rather than be used by it.”

        And I’d go along with that, as I have often stated – let’s get technology into education and talk about it as well as use it (see my “What does it do?” and “Is it worth it?” teacher training questions elsewhere on this page) rather than concentrate on ‘faffing’ and ‘porn’.

        As for the cheap rhetorical flourish, there are those in this conversation who do indeed feel that certain objects are inherently bad – I was merely trying to understand how that could be the case by suggesting both a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ use of one of these objects and trying to figure out how they might come about. I don’t see anything cheap in there, but…

        Right, so let’s move on. How do you propose that we measure a question such as ‘does technology have more positive potential than negative’? Where? With whom? In what conditions and circumstances? For whom?

        I know you enjoy technology, and obviously you use it, so that’s not the question. Is doing a ‘more than satisfactory job’ what it’s all about? Why do teachers (and other professionals) devote large amounts of unpaid time to further their knowledge and experience? Is it, perhaps, to bring more skills and ideas to their work, to do slightly more than a ‘more than satisfactory job’? I’m asking, not critising.

        You see, I’m more than happy for a critical examination of technologies (or any tool, approach or state of mind), what I am irritated with is the merely insubstantial and provocative ‘criticism’ evoked by words such as ‘faff’ or descriptions of people’s experiences as ‘all my learners did with the Internet is look for porn’. This only serves to fan the flames of the polarised debate and doesn’t get us anywhere nearer a critical analysis of technology. And of course I would ask that the same critical examination be applied to al aspects of our profession, even if they ‘should work’.

        I think Postman is largely irrelevant for the reasons I’ve stated elsewhere on this page – he wrote and thought in a different time and his views do not accurately reflect the current potentials of technology. This does not, of course, apply to everything he said – but a large part of his criticisms of technologies are decidely pre-web 2.0 and have no bearing on what is possible now.

        Nick’s question about Freire, etc., is disingenuous too, because quite clearly Freire had very little to say about technology and a lot to say about education. I would not dismiss the works of the people he mentioned as ‘irrelevant’ because they did not work in the field of technology. But equally clearly, Postman concerned himself with technology and is therefore a legitimate target for re-eaxmination in the light of the fastest decade of technological development ever.

        It all depends if you view technology as ‘medicine’ or not – personally I don’t see how that works, but I’m open to persuasion. I don’t need any sweetener for technology to slip down. There is no ‘illusion’ of more choice, there simply is more choice. Your call for a critical analysis of that would help us sift through it and explore the potential, surely?

      • No doubt the current technological surge is revolutionary. But is it really unlike anything that has ever happened before in every way? The reason I mention Cuban is for the startling similarities between the debate nowadays and debates about cassette tapes, television sets and other such witchcraft in the last century. Web 2.0 is different, but it is not THAT different. Let’s not be hubristic and disregard anything written before the turn of the century – there is plenty to be gained by absorbing such work into our thinking.

    • There is a danger that we see today’s technology as more revolutionary than it actually is. I agree, Diarmuid, that it serves us well to revisit thinkers from the pre-web 2.0 era to gain better perspective (Larry Cuban – Teachers and Machines, great read). And no, no one should be made to feel bad for not using technology, unless they give silly reasons for not using it.

      I think a lot of teachers have been ‘thinking their way through their opinions’ loudly, aggressively and lengthily enough to have reached some personal conclusions by now, hmmm? But look at me… I should be disengaged by now, as if I were ever engaged in the first place.

      • Darren,

        I think a lot of forums and blogs tend to move towards the ‘loud’ and ‘aggressive’. You’ll not find many blogs published on paper precisely because they are more akin to the soapbox or Speaker’s Corner than a town hall debate. But they serve a purpose and that’s where we are – all desperate to disengage, but also desperate to see where it goes and what is said.

        And yes, I agree, it’s the silly reasons that grate, and are mostly the reason for this whole blog in the first place.

        Look, Postman had interesting things to say, so did Cuban, but Cuban’s work that you cite is based on a history of technology in the classroom from 1920 to when it was published (1986, which was even pre Web 1.0) and even his more modern works pre-date Web 2.0 .

        Whilst these books may contain insights into educational technologies at those times, they have very little bearing (or should have if teachers are being trained well and using modern technologies) on the state of edtech in 2009. In much the same way that the state of edtech in 2009 will have little in common with it’s future manifestations in another decade. The pace of development makes it so.

        Gavin

      • Gavin
        Perhaps what we really need to be is thick-skinned! It might surprise you to know that I am not fmiliar with the YouTube video, basing my knowledge of Postman on his actual books. I’m not a complete acolyte – there are too many references to the mythic America of freedom and democracy and too much of a weird insistence on teaching religion. But I do like his style of writing and I agree with a lot of what he said. For that reason, I am reluctant to dismiss him as irrelevant. Perhaps we can agree that he’s irrelevant to some, but not to others. For what it’s worth, I don’t see that his overall approach is that different to yours: he too advocated asking the equivalent of, “Is it worth it?” – although he probably would have asked “Hmmm, BUT is it worth it?”

        That fact got me thinking about the polarised nature of the debate. In part I think it comes about from the delight that people have in riling others: you dismissing the non-techies as hippy hypocrites and the non-techies scoffing at the faffing. If we put that to one side and begin to explore what is actually a very interesting debate, we can move forward. I also think that you came across as a crusading warrior for the Use of Technology in Learning. You seem to suggest that this might be because you feel forced into the role because of the head-bashing tactics of the non-techies. Perhaps you’d be able to win more people over by taking on a more socratic acceptance of where people are and leading them to another place through critical dialogue.
        As for the good and bad nature of technology, biros and hot dogs, I think we should either assume that people are not being literal when they say that “technology is bad” or we should dismiss them as animist loons and not suggest that their argument is one that needs to be addressed. If they exist, they serve only to muddy the water.
        How do I propose measuring the question “does technology have more positive potential than negative?”? Now the debate loses its spark of passion and we get down into the rather less thrilling nitty-gritty. Well, first of all – we need triangulation. So, you ask “where?” I say “In as many places as possible.” You ask, “With whom?”. I say “With as many people as possible.” You ask “For whom?”. I say…ah hell, you get the point. Let’s face it, if we are going to concentrate on trying to find an answer to a question which is essentially a very subjective one, we need heaps of data. Of course, it lacks the excitement of these flash-in-the pan debates, but it would be ground-breaking research if it were to be done.
        You also ask me why teachers etc devote large amounts of time to further their knowledge and experience. You suggest it is for perfectly honourable reasons. I would answer that it’s probably for a wealth of reasons, depending on the teachers concerned. One of those reasons might be “Because a context has been built up wherein they are made to feel that if they do not spend time trying to learn, they may be dismissed as bad teachers and their job security itself might be at risk.” I want to find out more about technology because I think it has very exciting potential. I think it might engage students more and it will certainly help me get a good appraisal. It’s stimulating and provides another outlet for creativity. It provides students with an engaging means of extending their learning beyond the classroom. There are more pluses, but I’ve never been very good with lists. The question that I would like to resolve is, “BUT AT WHAT COST?” I do feel cautious about jumping into the Technopool because I don’t have much time to devote to it. If I am going to sacrifice what little is left, then I want to feel assured that it’s going to be worth it. I want to get over the suspicion that technoteaching is more than just another example of the consumerist society that tells me that I need to technologise to be worthy. That I need to update to be worthy. That I need to spend to be worthy.
        You rightly suggest that all methods, techniques, manners…what have you…should be open to probing and investigation. Absolutely. And it is to be expected that as our knowledge (appears to) increase, the old ways may find themselves under a particularly critical gaze. But let’s be less partisan. If we want to subject something like dogme to a critical examination, let’s not do so because we feel that we are the polar opposite to it. Let’s do so in order to answer the questions, “But does it work? And is it worth it?” The Thornmeister once called me a methodological Taliban in the service of dogme so I might not be the best one to conduct a critical examination into its worth, but I am happy to contribute to such research.
        Finally, I agree that Postman is a legitimate target for discussion whereas Freire and Socrates might seem out of place. And technology, I suggest, is often seen as a medicine for an ailing world. Karenne and yourself have recently both suggested/implied that teachers who shy away from technology are bad workers. Technology breaks down barriers and allows us to do what we couldn’t do before – it fixes the bits that weren’t working. It makes us better. The question remains, “But what are the side effects?”

      • Diarmuid,

        I’m not going to go through your post paragraph by paragraph because I think it’s almost entirely sensible and eminently reasonable and I wanted to say thank you to you for taking the time [ I’m also secretly disturbed by your self-professes status as ‘methodological Taliban’ and really don’t want to rile you… ]

        I have to say I’m not famous for my ‘socratic acceptance’ but I do, of course, realise that the more I rise to the playground jibes, the more I’m liable to be playground ‘jibing’ myself and – as you so correctly point out, it’s not getting us far. And yes, I do believe I do know the odd animist loon who considers objects inherently bad, but I shall try to lok the other way as I pass them by on the (information super) highway.

        Like I said, an emimently sensible posting which I applaud openly and, as I suggested on Twitter last night, I look forward to the day we can triangulate a few beers together.

        Best,

        Gavin

      • Gavin – what is happening to us?!?!?!

        I really feel that the educational world would benefit from some hefty research into this. It’s likely to be the kind of social science that Sara speaks about elsewhere – but this is surely the best kind in our field – allowing people to draw their own conclusions based on a wide range of evidence.

        Doctor Dudeney, PhD?

      • Diarmuid,

        “Doctor Dudeney, PhD?”

        No, that’s not going to happen in this life. I’m more of a, umm…. practitioner. And frankly I’m not brainy enough, nor do I have the dedication (or time) to do a doctorate.

        You may call me ‘Doctor’, though 🙂

        Gavin

  19. Gav, Lindsay

    Morgen, hope you slept well. 😉

    The problem with this post is not that there aren’t differing attitudes to the use of technology and that some of these are nonsensical but that there are real issues and real attitudes which can be supported and encouraged. And retrained.

    And ya know that– I zink you have 16 pages worth of real feedback…

    The problem is that this post is really just about a small handful of rocks, nay one giant boulder that ya can’t break…don’t know why you are even bothering trying to.

    There are really some extraordinary people out there doing extraordinary work… perhaps it would be better to talk about that:

    Lindsay, or even you, Gavin, want me to write a Six Incredible Teachers Using Technology Effectively for you?

    Because trust me they’re out there and they blow my socks off with their passion and commitment to doing it right.

    Praise and encourage them – like you praise and encourage the people you train – but stop taking the use of technology or non use of technology by one person or a small group of people personally.

    Dragging the 6 month old Twitter fight on and on won’t suddenly change anyone’s mind, won’t break any of the old resistances, won’t make the boulder wake up one morning and say “Ye Gods, it is actually possible to learn a language with a computer.”

    (Because even if he knows full well it is, he’s enjoying the brawl way too much to admit that to you or us).

    K

    • Karenne,

      No doubt Lindsay will take you up on that offer at some point. Not much more to say to you here – I know the work you and others do and I’m glad to have you out there and read your regular blog posts about your work.

      More power to your (deformed, due to excessive keyboard use) elbow…

      Gavin

  20. Whoa. So this is what happens when I turn my computer off early after putting up a post like that. First of all, thanks to all for your contributions and answers. The discussion seems to be charging along anyway without much need for moderation as Gavin seems happy to answer the other posts (thank you Gavin).

    I can’t really think of much more to add to this debate as many of the points have been made and I’m sympathetic to both camps. I’m probably leaning more towards the “embrace technology” side than the “question technology” side (if I can make such a distinction). However, I don’t feel threatened by those advocating we question technology – it makes me reflect on my own practice. It’s the same as the anti-coursebook criticisms. These things help me as a teacher and writer improve what I do, or at least I think so.

    • Lindsay,

      Happy to answer posts – I see that as part of the deal. As for your fence-sitting with a slight incline towards technology, well…. we’ll soon sort that out 🙂

      Gavin

  21. Dear Gavin,

    How many other emminent voices from the past would you dismiss as being outdated because they were not speaking in the light of the technology that we have available to us today? Freire? Vygotsky? Socrates?

    I’d say Postman’s views are relevant and interesting precisely because they reflect what could be lost as well as gained through technological advances.
    They reflect a time when communicating through technology was seen as different from having a conversation. I’m not sure that that distinction is still there in some quarters. This is the danger with the route towards an invisible use of technology that you have advocated elsewhere.

    The son of a friend is totally addicted to World of Warfare game -to the extent that he has no real friends, does very little physical activity, and spends hours upon hours alone in his room. Would you dismiss that as bad parenting?

    Nick

    • Nick,

      One has to look at things in the light of what has passed, right up to today. I certainly didn’t suggest that I would dismiss Freire or their ilk, but we’re talking about technology here (and they weren’t), and the pace of change in technology development can outdate views rather more quickly than in other areas.

      And because of that I feel that Postman is largely irrelevant because he had no idea of what would happen in the decade following his pronouncements and no idea how collaborative and communicative technology would become (collaboration and communication ring a bell in terms of language education…).

      I’m not sure who sees communicating through technology and having a conversation as exactly the same thing. I much prefer sitting round with people having a good dinner, some wine and having conversations. Much prefer it – where possible.

      Where it’s not possible I have discussions, exchanges, and yes, even conversations (via audio/video) and the rest online. But I think we can mostly agree that getting together with people (where possible) is a good thing to do.

      However, technology can offer affordances, experiences and knowledge that are often not possible f2f. It can bring learners into contact with other cultures, other people and other experiences that they may not otherwise experience.

      We’re not all lucky enough to travel and do this in person. Check out Sugata Mitra’s Hole in the Wall project (http://tinyurl.com/8ydyq) for a good use of technology that brings the world to people who may otherwise have little chance of experiencing it.

      My use of the word ‘invisible’ in terms of technology is related to an early article by Stephen Bax in which he basically said that we make too big a thing out of technology (and that has certainly been the case in recent discussions) and that only when it becomes invisible and a natural part of our repertoire will we truly be able to use it properly. Invisible does not equate to ‘uncritical’. More on Bax here: http://tinyurl.com/yk6v6u6

      As for the son of your friend, well yes, I do blame the parents to a great extent. As a parent part of one’s responsibility is to help developing minds work out what is good for them and what is bad.

      This is done by a mixture of good example, rules, etc. Why is their son locked in his room playing WoW all the time? Why don’t they kick him out, encourage him to do exercise, make friends, try some hobbies? How did he get to that state? Blaming WoW (or, indeed, technology) for the development (or otherwise) of one’s offpsring is a stretch too far. I know plenty of kids who play computer games, but they also have friends, hobbies, interests and do regular exercise. Why is that? Are they using ‘beter’ technologies that encourage all these things… or are they learning by example…

      Gavin

  22. Folks,

    Thanks for all your comments so far. As usual this is a challenging and stimulating debate purely because it attracts a variety of responses from a great variety of people.

    In terms of ‘uncritical’ adoption of technology, I just wanted to add that anyone who comes on a teacher training course with me (in the use of technologies) is actively encouraged to ask the two following questions on a regular basis:

    1) What does it do? (or what’s it for?)
    2) Is it worth it?

    These questions usually go up on the board and are regularly referred to as we progress through the course.

    Gavin

    • Yes, as an online moderator and teacher trainer, let me add that anyone who comes on a teacher training course with me gets involved in deep reflection, discussions and tasks that focus on both teaching with technology or without technology. That’s the point! Choice. Learning how to use new tools (e.g. Voxopop or Edmodo) can extend classroom discussions that were previously unimaginable. Concepts of “human communication” are changing, new choices are available – knowing more about then, feeling confident about the buttons and being able to experience them first-hand helps, I would argue, everyone involved in education to be more balanced in making choices, choices that increase our ability as educators to “tune into” learner needs, to understand their expectations and discover more about their experiences.

      Reflecting on our attitudes, sharing fears, exchanging ideas, experimenting together, discussing uses and learner interests has to be the starting point. It’s not about good or bad, or morals or faffing, it’s about making valued decisions, sharing ownership of new learning space, that goes way beyond the four walls of our classroom.

      I’ll go with the positive approach and add to Karenne’s idea for a new post ” Six Incredible Teachers Using Technology Effectively ” by suggesting yet another blog post. Let’s write “Six Incredible Ways Technology Can Support Educators” in making with/without technology choices.

      Valentina

      • Vale,

        Thanks for your comments. Looks like Lindsay has enough potential contributors to take this blog through 2010.

        Now then…

        – choice
        – knowledge
        – confidence
        – experience
        – balance
        – needs
        – expectations
        – reflection
        – sharing
        – experimenting
        – positive

        Yes, I can go with that.

        Gavin

  23. I recently taught my sister’s Thai husband how to use the internet so that he could communicate with my sister, who is studying overseas and his family, who are peasants somewhere in the North of Thailand. What got his attention? Porn 🙂 I set him up with email, my sister sent him some links and suddenly his complete lack of interest in the net evaporated. Despite his lack of English (basically illiterate), he soon discovered how to look for music, the news and television series from Thailand (on his own). ‘Moral’ of the story? Don’t knock porn as a learning tool. Please don’t bother responding to this comment with the usual hoo-haa about kids being exposed to things they should never have seen. Or people forced into non-consensual acts. Those things are problems, but an even bigger problem is some people’s inability to use every resource they have as a learning opportunity.

    • Sally,

      That’s an ummm…. interesting take on the technology debate. I was at a ‘think tank’ in Cambridge in July and a group of us were charged with thinking where technology might lead ESP/EAP testing in the future.

      One of our conclusions (at least myself and a fellow delegate who shall remian nameless) was to look to the porn industry. Why? Because gambling and porn have driven every online technological advance in the past decade, most notably with high-quality streaming video. This self-same video technology has benefitted business, education and a whole lot of other areas. If you want to know where online technologies are going, part of the equation is to think what gambling and porn will do in the future.

      This is not, of course, to condone/condem the porn and gambling industries in any shape or form and – like you – I feel that that is a debate which doesn’t need to be carried out here in this conversation.

      To de-porn your posting, I’d say that it’s about intrinsic motivation. Your brother-in-law had a need for technology and a use for it (the communication angle, at least) – what he lacked were the skills.

      Once empowered with the skills to use the technology, not only did he fulfill the communication need, but he also discovered other things, including access to music, news and television. This strikes me as a good thing.

      Gavin

  24. […] Clandfield´s Six Things website is storming along with some lively debate. Click here to read: Six Attitudes to Technology (And Why They’re All Tosh)… var ecov = "sh"; document.write(unescape("%3Cscript […]

  25. Not really interested in blaming anyone Gavin. Either the parents who I know very well, or the technology itself.

    I’m just saying that this is one negative side-effect of the existence of technolgies which may be used by some people as a substitute for real communication.

    • Nick,

      We can move on from the blame notion… I wonder how various people define ‘real communication’, and if there’s a precise answer that definitely doesn’t include the use of any technologies. I wonder who’s to say that the fourteen year email friendship I have with someone in Canada is not ‘real communication’…

      Gavin

  26. Gavin,

    Although I broadly agree with what you’re saying, there are couple of points that I think are worth picking up on:

    Point 1

    “You can minimise the faff by learning a bit about computers and other peripherals and how they work”

    In theory yes; in practice, not always true. I can troubleshoot pretty much anything thrown at me, but most of the problems I encounter are software issues rather than problems with peripherals. Most teachers don’t have administrator priviledges and have to wait for the tech support people to arrive (assuming that tech support is even available at all during a lesson)to sort things.

    “Make sure your own computer is well-looked-after and protected against viruses, etc”

    Not easy if the computer suite you work in is shared with numerous other people, and also gets hired out to outside organisations.

    “Make sure you have the right adaptors and cables”

    Not easy when the tech person who has the keys to the equipment cupboard doesn’t arrive in work till after your lesson starts! I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve set up a classroom ready for the next day’s lesson only to discover when I arrived at work that another tutor had disconnected everything and “borrowed” the cables to use in their lesson, or half-inched the IWB; or that there had been a timetable clash, and I’d been shunted into another room.

    “Arrive early to try things out” – see above

    Re: too much faffing – “Does that suggest to you a problem with the tool or approach, or a problem with the person?”

    I’d venture to suggest that a lot of the time, the problem lies with organisations who fail to provide teachers with proper training, reliable/up-to-date equipment and adequate technical support.

    A few examples of the kind of organisationally-generated “faff” I’ve encountered in my time that can’t easily be side-stepped, for illustration:

    1) Teaching in a classroom with a broken printer for an entire academic year, because the organisation I was working for didn’t have the budget to replace it;

    2) Being expected to teach a web-based course in a classroom where the PC’s were still running on Windows 95 & Internet Explorer 5;

    3) Sometimes having to make do with using obsolete versions of software and PC’s that lack sufficient poke to run flash, video, web 2.0 apps, etc.

    I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.

    Point 6

    “(teachers) make every effort to keep up-to-date. Why not with technology?”

    My personal view, based on observation and talking to teachers who shy away from using tech in their lessons, is because they see it as involving a lot of extra (unpaid) time and effort that may be wasted; particularly in situations where they know that the equipment they’ve been provided with basically isn’t up to the job.

    Even in situations where the tech provided is up to scratch, getting permission to install plugins, open source software, etc, and unblock sites can be an uphill struggle and a very long haul.

    I agree with you that times have changed; unfortunately, a lot of organisations have been very slow to catch up. I’ve been incorporating technology in my lessons for well over a decade, and even I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall at times trying to make headway.

    Sorry if this comes across as a rant or a moan – it isn’t meant to be! I’m just trying to offer another perspective.

    • Sue,

      Your points are well-made and well-taken! The institutional side of things is often dire when it needn’t be:

      – give some enthusiasts extra hours as tech people
      – image the computers and reinstall automatically at the end of each day
      – allow teachers to use apps on pendrives
      – encourage teachers to leave things as they found them (as they usually do with boards, etc.)

      It’s all about trust and training – and not wasting your money: buy a mobile data projector, four laptops and a year’s decent net access instead of having the expensive IWB installed, etc, etc.

      It just takes a bit of thought for all this to work. I will never understand why organisations spenmd so much money on tech kit and then make it virtually impossible to use it for anything other than word processing. And, on top of that, complain that teachers don’t use it. Yes, indeed, institutional reflection and change is needed.

      Gavin

  27. Dear Everyone,

    Let me announce I am the happiest of all teachers!— being a self-employed/freelance one-to-one EFL teacher using my own computers and stuff, responsible for my own training, having access to all modern inventions as well as all the knowledge of the history of language teaching and pedagogy. I enjoy working with technology while I am basically a dogme person utilizing the wisdom of published materials. I make use of Multiple Intelligences, Flow, Language Acquisition, resource books, whatever. I immensely enjoy finding out my learner’s individual styles, I can observe their learning hands-on. Thing is, I just love it! My students just can’t escape from my overflowing enthusiasm, they learn English out of mere self-defence if you know what I mean.
    CUt it short–I cannot believe in efficient education within institions based on teaching groups and not individuals. Teaching (as well as learning) is highly individual –driven by enjoyment. Everybody should just be techy to an individual extent. If you enjoy using technology you will definitely learn to use it, if not, find other ways.
    Yippie!
    (What are those monkeys throwing at the screen in the pic? Why chocolate?)

    Barbara

    • Barbara,

      I suspect it’s something less wholesome than chocolate that the monkeys are throwing, but you’d have to check with Lindsay who chose the picture.

      I have to confess I’m slightly intimidated by the thought of learners having to learn English in self-defence against ‘overflowing enthusiasm’, but I suspect I’d have to see it to really appreciate it.

      Anywa, it sounds as if you have a good balance of knowledge, approaches and tools and I’m glad it works for you.

      Best,

      Gavin

      • THank you, GAvin,
        I just wanted to say you can’t force anyone be a user of technology if they don’t enjoy the whole stuff, their gut reactions override their insight. My luck is that I’m not part of an institution, my gut reaction to tech is ‘positive’, my enthusiasm for new things is controlled by the market and my financial background, not supervisors, colleagues, etc.

        Anyway, down with schools! (I wanted to put it nicely, is ‘Ban schools!’ better?)

        Barbara

  28. Inexperienced as I am in the art of posting comments on blogs, I don’t really get the difference between replying and posting but here goes anyway…

    Gavin, Diarmuid,

    When I questioned also dismissing the ideas of thinkers like Friere, Vygotsky and Socrates I wasn’t, of course, suggesting that these were people who were particularly concerned with the advent of technology. I was questioning the idea that we can dismiss the views of distinguised thinkers because they are not aware of the world we have around us now.

    Perhaps these thinkers offer us a view of our world from the vantage point of another way of looking at things – a way which has perhaps been lost and which we could benefit from.

    In fact we could argue that Socrates actually was concerned with the problems associated with the uncritical acceptance of new technologies. He objected to writing on the grounds that it eroded memory, and was concerned that learners would believe through reading that they had knowledge – when really they only had data.

    Is this relevant to the discussion about the current shift towards more internet based teaching? How has this affected our needs and abilities to remember things? Is this an issue that we should be concerned about?

    Nick

    • Nick,

      “Socrates actually was concerned with the problems associated with the uncritical acceptance of new technologies. He objected to writing on the grounds that it eroded memory”

      I’m so glad he didn’t get his way then. Otherwise I might be heading off to listen to someone recounting their personalised version of War and Peace verbally from memory, rather than reading the great work of literature intended by the author.

      Best,

      Gavin

      • That’s just the point. You wouldn’t get anyone who’s able to do that any more. That skill belongs to another time.

        With re-skilling in literacy we’ve deskilled in oracy. Something has been gained and something has been lost.

        Now what are we gaining and what are we losing with a move towards more internet based teaching?

        Best,

        Nick

      • Nick,

        Surely that’s not just the point. If he’d had his way then we’d all be gathering round listening to storytellers and much of the world’s literature, science, etc., would have been lost to humankind.

        Rather than a ‘move towards internet-based teaching’, I have nearly always spoken of a move towards ‘technology-integrated teaching’.

        What we have to gain are things I’ve written extensively about elsewhere and here: giving learners a chance to get digital literacy and safety skills that will stand them in good stead in the future. Giving them a chance to interact and create with people they’re actually interested in rather than the ‘people in the room’, giving them access to wider knowledge, giving them access to other cultures, helping them to understand the world and countless other things.

        What are we losing? Well, precious little if it’s done properly, alongside other more traditional classroom things, in a balanced way.

        Best,

        Gavin

      • I’m sure I haven’t followed every comment on this thread so my apologies if I’ve missed something that makes the opposite point that you’ve said, but this one and the replies have me confused.

        It appears that you’re confusing the content of the course – a decision that teachers should certainly be involved in but which is ultimately usually political – with thoughts addressing the theoretical underpinnings – where Vygotsky et al come in – and since they’re based in developmental psychology they’re still relevant today unless the so-called Net Gen are both real and a different species – with commentators on educational technology – which has changed out of all imagination in the last five years.

        Espousing that we should be teaching more oracy at the expense of literacy is a debate I don’t think you’ll win, but it’s a worthwhile debate. Suggesting that Piaget’s theories (or anyone else you want to throw into the mix) suggest we should teach our children in this fashion – well that’s been all over the news in the UK in the last fortnight.

        But this debate surely started with a suggestion that there are a range of tools available to teachers that some teachers are simply dismissing out of hand. Appealing to an authority writing in a time when leading-edge microcomputers (there’s a word that dates it and me!) were appreciably less powerful than your mobile phone is today is not comparable: the conclusions of the time are not relevant to the state of the technology today. Discussing the use of social networking in teaching – there must be some papers out there about blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc. in teaching but I bet there aren’t many because it’s just too new for the research to have been done and published. Certainly to have been published in a “reputable journal.”

        My academic background is in immunology. A science in which very little of the dogma of 20 years ago is still even considered. Our understanding has changed that much. My teaching work is largely with learners with autistic spectrum disorders and dyslexia – conditions that you hardly heard of 20 years ago. Reassessing where you are, what you know and what it means is part of my academic and professional heritage. But I wonder how much it should be the professional heritage of us all – we have jobs where we’re responsible for (at least attempting to) changing the minds of the learners and how they think. Do you really want to remain static and not consider new technology and prevent others from doing it when you work in such an environment.

      • El,

        Welcome back. One of the issues (as with the bad science link provided by Philip further up here) is that people only quote the research that suits them (on both sides of an argument, usually).

        As I said, and you seem to be agreeing, whilst certain people are surely as relevant today as they were when they wrote / researched / taught, this has to be tempered with the changes which happen as we progress. As your profession has changed, so has what technology can achieve – and measuring it against attitudes to technology from the eighties and nineties does not serve a great purpose a lot of the time.

        Best,

        Gavin

      • Nik/Gavin
        I knew what you were aiming at with the inclusion of Freire and Socrates – but Gavin justifiably objected to their being roped in because whilst he has a rationale for rejecting Postman’s views on technology, he felt it was disingenuous to extrapolate (sorry about this multisyllabic blurt) from this that he might also reject Freire and Socrates.

        Of course, you make a good point about Socrates (although I didn’t think you were advocating a return to oracy). Postman also points out that it’s not as simple as rejecting writing: the old ways didn’t just rely on memorisation, it relied on improvisation, understanding, a deeper knowledge. Literacy introduced the possibly of memorisation of other people’s thoughts, other people’s words, other people’s feelings. As such, it carried with it the risk that people would put greater stock in the thinking of others than in their own thought processes (and here I am paraphrasing Neil Postman and Socrates).

        I too am glad that Socrates lost that battle; but sad that we have lost the benefits of oracy. I’m turning into a fence sitter.

  29. Hi Gavin,

    I am actually wondering why you are just about to publish a book called:
    Learning English as a Foreign Language for Dummies…

    Pondering that you would be a great author for
    “Learning Tech as a teacher of Foreign Language for Dummies…”

    OR

    Would you you be tempted to call it “Learning Tech as a dummie teacher of foreign language?”

    Rgds Heike

    • Heike,

      Why are Nicky and I writing that book? Well, they chased us down and asked us to do it, it seemed like fun, it was quick to write and their sales figures are impressive (!).

      It’s a mix of language stuff and cultural knowledge aimed at the large immigrant population in England who already have some knowledge of English but want to extend that as well as find out how the country works. The sort of book I might have bought when I moved to Spain twenty years ago.

      I actually wanted to write the ‘Teaching English as a Foreign Language for Dummies’, but someone beat us to it, although we may go forward with a ‘Teaching Using Technology for Dummies’ in a short while.

      I’ve used a number of the Dummies books for various things and always found them a good general grounding in various topics, though I suspect precious few of them will be recommended reading on any literature courses in fifty years’ time. They fill a tidy niche.

      So yes, your suggestion is a good one (albeit with a title more akin to ‘Teaching With Technology for Dummies’, and already in hand!

      Best,

      Gavin

  30. I think the debate about technology needs to be narrowed down a bit and analysed in more detail. Technology is a far too broader concept to be able to critically analyse effectively.

    My personal experience of using IWBs is that they are a waste of time and add very little that a data projector can’t do already. A point that I think Nick may have some sympathy with judging by one of his previous comments.

    ‘It’s all about trust and training – and not wasting your money: buy a mobile data projector, four laptops and a year’s decent net access instead of having the expensive IWB installed, etc, etc.’

    However, for those that have access to a computer room, I would have thought you’d be doing your students a huge disservice if you don’t share the wonders of the internet with them in some way.

    I find that once students are shown how much they can do on the internet that is related to their interests and help them improve their English at the same time, then they will often quite happily go away and use the internet in their own time for this purpose. That can’t be bad, can it?

    • Peter,

      My personal gripe with IWBs has generally been that they cost too much for institutions who don’t get funding or who have limited funds to implement technologies. In that sense, as stated above, I’d rather see a school spend the money on laptops / data projectors and net access and then giving their teachers some training.

      If institutions *can* afford IWBS then I have nothing particular against that, as long as the training is done and the support is there. And as long as the purchase of IWBs does not come before other more important things like wages, staff development, etc.

      You’re asking for it by using the expression ‘wonders of the Internet’, but I’ll let others take up that particular debate as I think I’ve made my views abundantly clear here and elsewhere.

      But there is a good point in there, and that is the difference between ‘tech comfy’ and ‘tech savvy’. Many learners are very comfortable with technology these days, but have no idea how to use those technologies in the service of their learning, and that’s a role we could usefully take on – showing them how to move from ‘tech comfy’ to ‘tech savvy’. In that sense I agree with your final paragraph. More on that distinction here: http://tinyurl.com/4m3dlq

      Best,

      Gavin

      • I didn’t mean porn! Honest 😉

        You phrased the point about using the internet in English much more eloquently than I could have.

        Another point I forgot to add, is that not only is it desirable to use the internet in English, but for many people it will also be a necessity. Surely, we’re failing our students if we don’t give them ample opportunity to use English in contexts they are likely to encounter it in the future.

    • I’d agree Peter that raising awareness about what’s available on the internet for self study etc could be a very good use of class time.

      As I’ve tried to suggest here, http://tinyurl.com/nd4ovm ,prioritising internet use as a homework task (where possible)can free the class up for more interactive, face to face stuff.

      Best,

      Nick

  31. […] after the extremely active last post it’s back down to practical business here at Six Things. I’ve long wanted to do a six […]

  32. I have to say that I really do struggle to see the validity of a lot of the arguments directed against using technology in the classroom. In some respects (in certain discussion arenas) it’s almost begun to resemble the obstinate arguments of ultra-conservative teachers I’ve met who insisted that grammar-translation approaches are the only really feasible and culturally appropriate methods for their particular context. Some of these teachers really believed what they said. Others were so set in their ways they really couldn’t imagine any other way being better. And others just didn’t like being taken out of their comfort zone of control and authority, and as a sort of defense mechanism, dedicated themselves exclusively to poking holes in whatever new ideas about teaching came along.

    Having been (like most participants here) in both ‘pre-tech’ and then technology-enriched classroom settings, I find it hard to believe the obvious benefits are so readily dismissed.

    In classrooms that were essentially barren little rooms (sometimes even without windows, and, in some contexts I’ve been in, not even permitted to have posters on the white-washed walls because this could ‘distract the students from their study of the language’), technology has created amazing windows on the outside world full of variety and colour. It has put faces and actions to dialogues, brought real news stories, and rich, limitless material that finally overcame the ashen pages of black and white textbooks that signalled definitive starts and ends to lessons, weeks and terms. It has saved me hours in front of photocopiers or ‘resource shelves’ in the staff room. It has enhanced my potential to make the most of ‘noticing’ and discovery learning – especially for that rather large percentage of students who are quite visual in their (preferred) learning style. Good teachers are often consumate masters with effective whiteboard use. The same teachers, with a few tech skills and the right equipment, can become conductors of pretty amazing symphonies. Of course there is the risk of overdoing things with so many options to choose from – but I’d rather that than the monotony of the same dull room with the same dull chairs and the same dull materials week in week out.

    The ‘faffing about’ argument has never really held a lot of water for me personally either. Classes that I’ve seen held to ransom because the tech wouldn’t work or wouldn’t work easily number the same or less than those I’ve seen delayed or hamstrung because there weren’t enough chairs for the students, some of the desks were broken or too small, the students weren’t given the correct textbooks, or the windows or heating/air conditioning wouldn’t work properly in extreme temperatures. Sure, teachers who plan a whole lesson relying exclusively on tech are running a risk – in the same way as teachers who plan a whole lesson around a particular paper-based unit or the expectation that certain students or numbers of students will attend a given lesson (and they’ll all have red as well as black pens that day).

    I know some of the opponents poke at tech from the basis of a warm vision of a simple scene with just a group of learners sitting around in a circle talking with a teacher without peripheral distractions. Well, I’ve still managed to have that in my classes – and yes, the ones that used tech as well. But learners’ needs, skills and expectations have changed, as have their modes and contexts of communication, study and work. Tech is a part of their lives just as much as chairs or tables or backpacks. Should we as teachers exclude tech from our classrooms because it hasn’t been such a formative part of our lives in the past?

    As for calling for proof that tech-enriched classrooms and methodologies result in better language learning, to that I would say:

    1. Where’s your definitive proof it isn’t more effective (or as effective) as a non-tech class? Tech has become such a natural part of humans’ lives, I’m not sure the onus should be completely on just the tech users themselves to prove what they’re doing is as appropriate or effective as ‘the way it was all done before.’

    2. Has anyone bothered to ask the learners and base some research on that? I mean, I have a feeling the tech effect could be as affective and motivational as anything else.

    3. What about teacher motivation? Teachers who feel more equipped tend to be more confident and motivated, and willing to try new things – and ‘tech teachers’ are likely to benefit from this. On the other hand, teachers who are technophobes are likely to feel the exact opposite if tech becomes an expected aspect of their teaching approach and environment.

    I ask the last two questions because I think student and teacher motivation have a massive impact on the potential for effective learning to take place.

    Anyway, I understand a rant like this is like preaching to the converted and probably otherwise just falling on deaf ears. I just don’t understand why an issue like this has become so divisive… One of the things I love about something like Dogme ELT is the quintessential common sense involved. That common sense would be majorly enhanced with an acceptance of the changing world we live in, and how integrated and perhaps even essential tech has become in it.

    🙂

    • Hmmm … ‘dogme’ and ‘common sense’ are not automatic collocators, are they – more like strangers to each other. But I must admit that I do enjoy watching the mud-slinging that goes on over there!


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