6 reasons you should ditch your edtech

Technology makes lots of opportunities possible in the classroom. But it isn't the silver bullet in education. Here are six times when you should ditch your tech. (Flickr / Rex Pe)

Technology makes lots of opportunities possible in the classroom. But it isn’t the silver bullet in education. Here are six reasons to ditch your tech. (Flickr / Rex Pe)

Technology in education is transformational. Revolutionary.

Today’s technology in our pockets can do what cost us thousands of dollars in equipment in the past.

It can connects us to people and places and events virtually anywhere in the world.

But it’s not the be-all, end-all in education. It’s not the silver bullet.

And there are times when we shouldn’t use it at all.

That’s right. In my own classroom, there are times when we set all technology aside. I’m a huge advocate for the power of technology in the classroom, but I go unplugged in class on a regular basis.

There are solid reasons we should ditch our edtech. But I’m not going to go the “frustrated teacher” route. To me, spotty WiFi and “too many websites/apps/tools for me to keep up with” aren’t enough to swear off using technology (although they are legitimate frustrations).

No, today I want to focus on student-centered reasons for ditching our edtech. I want to make changes that will increase engagement and create quality learning experiences. I want my students to be better students — no, better people, better citizens, better members of the workforce — because of the changes I make.

If I’m going to ditch the tech in class, my students had better benefit from it … not me.

In my opinion, you should ditch your edtech in class …

1. If there’s a more efficient way. I always thought this was a no-brainer. In the past, I’ve tried to force technology into places where it just doesn’t help. Example: taking quick opinion polls with a tool like Socrative or TodaysMeet when it’s just easier to do a show of hands in class. (For the record, I still find myself forcing technology in my classes today. When I find myself doing that, I have to do some more forcing — force myself to quit it!)

If using paper to do an activity in class is more efficient, then just use the paper. (Although you might think of improvements in “virtual paper” that might make it worth the slight delay of going digital, like access anywhere, sharing widely or the ability to search.)

Efficiency isn’t enough reason to do anything in education, in my opinion. We can’t rework our schools simply to make our work faster and simpler. It can be a great contributing factor, though.

2. If your students are burned out on tech. I’ve gotten here before (and still do … did you read about my student who wanted to be “creative, just not computer creative” recently?)

It happens for a variety of reasons. We get enamored with certain tech tools. We get in a rut and rely on the same old thing. We see others using a new app or site and we want to work it into our own classes, forgoing the “technology supports sound pedagogy, not the other way around” principle.

As teachers, we have to prepare our students for the future. But throwing technology at them to make them “future ready” just isn’t the answer.

We have to keep our finger on the pulse of our students’ interest and curiosity. Like anything else, if something we do isn’t working, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and rework it.

3. If you want to mix things up. I use TodaysMeet in my class to let my students answer quick questions individually. I like that their answers are all on the screen at once and that I can scroll back and revisit their answers later.

Sometimes, though, I like to mix things up. I have a set of small dry erase boards, and we’ll answer those quick questions with them from time to time. The kids love using them — choosing a favorite color of marker, adding little illustrations to their answers (if time permits), making it as neat or sloppy as they want (as long as I can read it).

A little change can always do students — and you! — some good.

4. If you’re going for a certain sensory experience. Technology is great at a lot of things, but duplicating the experience of feeling something in real life just isn’t one of them.

In a comment on my “creative, just not computer creative” post, Joan Brown summed this up wonderfully. She said:

We have so many students picking up crochet, woodworking, sculpture, sewing and more because they are tactile. As humans, we want to experience creativity in all our senses. There is nothing like the smell of paper mache or sawdust. There is nothing like the feel of well sanded wood or a soft yarn. Kids are more than ever drawn to these arts because of the senses. Computers only give us visual and sound, nothing more.

Matt Miller — not the textbook ditcher, but the excellent social studies teacher — wrote a great blog post called “Low Tech Learning” where he said, “There is still a need to accomplish things with your hands.” Exactly.

5. If you want to connect with your students. Technology gives us instant access to people all over the globe via email, instant messages and the like. What it can’t do is look a kid in the eye, pat him/her on the back and tell him/her that everything is going to be all right.

The management of face-to-face relationships is a somewhat dying art. Text messages, social media and the like communicate quickly, but there’s a lot that’s lost in them from real interpersonal communication.

Teachers sometimes worry that they’ll be replaced by online classes and technology. I really doubt that. As long as we’re providing that human touch and meaningful educational experiences, I think teachers will always have a role to fill. Technology won’t replace good teachers, but it might replace bad teaching.

6. If you’re doing something where tech isn’t relevant. I teach high school Spanish, and I’ve found tons of places where technology impacts my teaching. Spoken, conversational Spanish is not one of them.

I’ve found ways to record students speaking Spanish (Google Voice is my old standby, but I’m really liking AudioBoom for that right now). But that’s just not the same as speaking face-to-face with another human being.

My students try to fall back on Google Translate to help fill the gaps in words they just don’t know yet. There’s some benefit to that (although I’ve found that Word Reference is much better for getting the right word in the right context).

If they find themselves face-to-face with another real person, Google Translating isn’t going to get them far. There are apps that will talk for you, translating your spoken English to another language. But those tools won’t develop trust like speaking another person’s language. Interacting with someone’s smart phone won’t help create a relationship.

The relationship and trust come with real communication. Real communication comes from real, face-to-face, voice-to-voice practice. My students can’t get that with artificial interaction with a computer.

[reminder]What are other reasons for ditching your edtech? Do you agree with any of the reasons on the list? Disagree?[/reminder]

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