Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

September 8, 2011

Technology in Classrooms: New Drill Bits Can’t Fix Worn Out Drills

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts — by Life's Toolbox @ 3:44 pm
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       There has been a lot of talk about technology and education.  A recent NY Times front page story described an Arizona’s school attempt to raise performance (measusred by test scores) by bringing technology into the classroom.  Like fitting a new drill bit onto a drill, even the shiniest, sharpest bit will be nearly when attached to an old drill with a run-down motor.

Technology is here to stay. Today’s students need classrooms that prepare them to live in a technological world.  Some educators and policy makers are looking to technology to improve education at large.  A new, sharp drill bit will make a good machine more effective, as technology will likely build on the positive impact of good teachers and classrooms.  But neither logic nor research evidence suggests that technology can fix everything that needs fixing in education.  In fact, one of the things most broken in education is the tendency to run after fads without data and the investment of huge funds and energies in unstudied and unproven approaches.  Education is great at initiating initiatives, but often doesn’t provide sufficient training or support to allow appropriate and lasting implementation.  Mandates and policies often promote or require the educational equivalent of shiny new drill bits – but do they pay enough attention to being certain that the basic motor that will drive the process is sound?

I have seen ingenious use of smart boards in classrooms. I have also seen smart teachers make little or absurd use of this technology.  It is a mistake to assume that old ways of working or teaching make sense with new technologies.  It is reasonable to assume that training may be critical in helping even the best teachers harness technology’s wonders.  I have learned, in my limited experience teaching on-line vs. in person, that not everything translates.  I cannot simply do what I did in the classroom via the internet.  Just as there is a science as well as art to pedagogy, there is a science, albeit an infant one, in technological pedagogy.

Filling classrooms with gadgets will only fill children with the skills they need if those classrooms also have skilled, cutting-edge humans facilitating the process.  That doesn’t mean we should discard technology.  We should learn how it helps us learn and how it helps us teach, and make sure our motors are well oiled and ready to go, so each upgrade and shiny new drill bit, only serves to make us that much sharper.




  1. I read a comment left by one Andy Losik on that has really summed up the issue for me: “Technology that can be used as a crutch … has been around forever. In 1903 Crayola introduced its first box of 8 crayons. Bad teachers have been using them to keep little kids quiet ever since.
    Like any tool, educational technology can be used for good teaching and bad. It is an equal opportunity player as it enhances both.”

    Comment by Goldie Grossman — September 9, 2011 @ 12:56 am |Reply

    • Thank you for reminding us of the history of this dilemma and encouraging us to do more than “keep little kids quiet”!

      Comment by Life's Toolbox — September 9, 2011 @ 12:58 am |Reply

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