Don't Make It About the (Digital) Tools When You Want It To Be About the Learning

I was sitting in a meeting today with some administrators, and we were discussing what we were looking for when we were looking for the thoughtful use of technology to support learning. What, we wondered, does the thoughtful use of digital tools for learning look like?

And that’s a good question to spend some time on. It was a good conversation.

But why do we always wonder about “digital” tools?1 What about the analog ones?

What does the thoughtful use of pens and pencils to support learning look like? How about the thoughtful use of sticky notes and index cards? What does/can/should that look like?

Seems to me the push to understand and separate digital tools from the analog ones can often confuse the real issue, the meaty question that is really the point of talking about iDevices, or tablets, or touchpads or whatever.

And perhaps exploring more familiar tools can help us get to the bottom of that in a better way.

That question is, of course, “What does learning look like?”

How do you know?

Defend your answer.

  1. Certainly, in the particular conversation I was in today, it was specifically about some new digital stuff. It made sense for us to focus on the digital. At least a little. But I’m wondering more broadly here. []

34 thoughts on “Don't Make It About the (Digital) Tools When You Want It To Be About the Learning

  1. It looks like this:

    Which is to say, it looks a lot like it always has – asking questions, challenging assumptions, listening.

    Our shiny new tools might have changed the means by which we engage in discourse, but it hasn’t changed the nature of curiosity.

    While I hesitate to define learning, as the need for learning and the process of learning will vary widely both between individuals and with the same individual over time, I’d argue that one of the signs that learning has happened (let’s call it learn-scat) is that some questions have been answered, and others raised.

    But yes, the focus on tools is a distraction, and it’s an easy distraction to buy, because many of the tools are marketed as a shortcut that “simplifies” the process of learning.
    Bill Fitzgerald´s last blog post ..Liars

  2. A good approach to keep returning to. Shiny new toys easily distract with their shiny (or, for some, intimidate), and so it’s important to continue to ask this question, or maybe “what can learning look like … now?”

    Thanks for this post … we’ll be starting new teacher training with this as a simple but excellent way to frame how we think about what we might do with (or despite) all this stuff we’re learning about in this mad-dash week before the students return.

  3. Learning looks like any number of things. Utilizing analog or digital tools in the classroom is only as effective as its implementation. Even sticky notes can go vastly wrong if the teacher can’t incorporate their advantages into the work to promote learning.

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