The Song Remains the Same, It’s My Ear that has Changed

Although at times it feels like a lifetime ago, I quite vividly remember selecting my undergraduate degree of Business Education because of its emerging focus on technology.  Even at that time [the late 1990’s], at my young age, and the relative infancy of the Internet, I had an idea of the unbreakable connections between emerging technologies, education, and the arts.   My understanding of my role with technology and education has changed as continually as the technologies themselves have developed.   More than a decade has come and gone, vast changes have taken place, and although I still hold some of the beliefs I held at this time, much of my outlook toward educational technology has changed.

At the beginning of my career, I focused on teaching technology.  Not teaching with technology, but teaching technology.  Just as Marshal McLuhan would say that the medium is the message, I believed that  the technology was the content.  I taught keyboarding, word processing and other office applications, computer animation, programming, web design and photo editing.  I felt very successful at what I was doing.  I was very proud of my ability to engage most students, and I had very few major behavior or classroom management issues.  I particularly remember being very proud of achieving class average keyboarding speed improvements of over 30 words per minute, or enabling particular grade nines and tens to develop this skill well beyond 100 words per minute.  There were a lot of successes.  I was often able to push students to develop their technology skills, often guiding them to complete projects they would not otherwise have completed, or perhaps even thought possible.

It was sometime after trading the computer lab for the classroom and the art room that I began to question what the end purposes of education were.  I am quite sure that a large number of young people are able to keyboard quite well because of my efforts.  Many probably rely on that skill regularly at school and a work.  I know of some students who have continued to program and have long ago exceeded my understanding of computer languages.  Perhaps there are some web-designers or even an animator or two out there that found their spark in one of my classes.  I am proud of that.  At some point however, I began to ask bigger questions.

What is the purpose of education?  Is the end goal to prepare young people to enter the work force?  Is the aim to help children develop skills that help them earn a living?  I’m still quite certain that these are important goals, but now I see them as just a piece of a larger puzzle.  Is the purpose of education to teach the youth how to earn a living?  Or is it perhaps the goal to teach children how to build a life? (see Neil Postman)  As I began to ponder questions of this magnitude, it became clear to me that in the earlier part of my career, I wasn’t seeing the bigger picture.  I believed that the technology was the message.  Now, I question that notion.  Technology is not the message, but rather the medium to be used to deliver the message.  I believe much more strongly in principles of integrality, interconnectedness, and interdisciplinarity.   I think that technological literacies are still very important.  They are a very important pieces of the greater whole.  Computer skills still need to be taught as content, but perhaps in less of a separate nature, and instead, integrated into all disciplines of study.

So although ‘The Song Remains the Same’, and technological literacy is still essential, I think that I now hear the tune in a much different way; with a different ear; from a different perspective.

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5 Responses

  1. Ryan, I think you have hit the nail on the head as you question the grand purpose. From my view, I beleive the purpose of education is to prepare our students to be productive members of society. However that happens, I agree that technology is but one tool that helps students become such a member of society.

    Like it or not, technology is an intregral part of very day life. It is something you must be willing to acknowledge becasue there are so many ways a person will interact with technology in their every day lives.

    I’m sure as you continue to grow, you will always view technology in a critical manner and how you will include it in your practices.

    I wonder how we can get others to view any tool, not just technology, critically and to be wise with those tools as we prepare today’s students to be productive members of society?

  2. Ryan: I recall your first days as a teacher of technology. You were very excited indeed. It is interesting to reflect on ones historical past and purpose and to note how things have changed over the few short years you have taught. Can you imagine how I feel……lol……As I suggest in my own post the ever changing frontiers of technology can be frightening at times for a seasoned veteran such as myself. However, I shall not give in and as you know continue to push my limits to meet the needs of our profession and ever changing times. Technology has forced those of us that have embraced integrality concepts into technology within our classrooms and lives.

    I hope that throughout this term you continue to question your history and project into your future as to the use of technology in your world. You astound me constantly with you r abilities and I wonder how you do what you do as I am at a way different level than you. You push me to know more and I thank you for that.

    Continued success on your journey.

    Kev

    • Thank you for your kind words. Although we do not work in the same building anymore, it is great for me to work with you in this capacity. You are ‘down to earth’ and you can be very uplifting. I enjoy our conversations, and I value your feedback.

      Ryan

  3. I smile at your journey and know that I too have had some similar “intersections” of thinking, practice and beliefs. I enjoyed your comment about seeing things from a more interdisciplinary perspective. I wonder, as a visual arts/ELA teacher can you imagine the possibilities (or would you like to) of working with students for a 2 or 3 class block where ELA, Visual Arts and technology could be combined to engage students in project based learning?

    • Now there’s some innovative thinking! There is a lot of talk today about structural innovation. This is an idea that might actually work. Last semester, I taught a two hour ELA course. The two hours allowed us to cover much of the ELA content and concepts while also working with a variety of technology. The main limitation on this idea was that I only had the class every second day, and so it still only added up to about ninety hours or so (the amount of time for one class in one semester). A great idea would be to have the same group of students for three hours (every morning) and attempt to cover content from three separate courses in the nearly three hundred hours that would amount to. This is a great idea, one in which a realistic interdisciplinary approach could be realized.

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