Last month my husband and I were making the trek to Bobcaygeon for perhaps sixth or seventh time in as many months. Along the way I pulled out my BlackBerry to check the digital map to ensure we were on the correct path. It occurred to me that years ago, I would never have been unfolding the big cumbersome map to check the route after this many trips to one location. Certainly by now the route would have been committed to memory. So, what changed? It made for some interesting discussion on the way up. We ultimately concluded that over-reliance on the Map Ap was turning us into zombies. We resolved that on our way back, there would be no use of the GPS. Boy, was it strange! Not only did we suffer from a lack of confidence in our ability to stick to the route, second guessing ourselves all the way, it was like fighting an addiction to keep ourselves from reaching for the darned BlackBerry. It only took one more trip to have the route down pat, but the experience made me think. As wonderful as technology is, is there a point that it can go from becoming a useful tool to a crutch?
For the record I don't see myself as a "Luddite"; in fact, I absolutely appreciate the richness that technology brings to teaching and learning in today's educational landscape. When used properly, technology engages students in authentic learning experiences that prompt them to think deeply and creatively. I've seen it, and when it happens, it's magic. I've also seen the opposite, where technology serves merely to distract students from the task at hand. Much seems to depend on teachers understanding when to utilize technology and which technology tool is best suited to the expected learning outcomes, so purpose matters.
Technology has become part of our everyday lives. Great educators understand that it can also be an excellent teaching tool. Not only is it engaging for students, but it also offers all kinds of pedagogical benefits to teachers. An often overlooked example is how technology can be used as an assessment tool, by having students make their learning visible through recordings, videos, blogs, vlogs. And that's the tip of the proverbial iceberg. So yes, technology is awesome! Let's use it, not abuse it. All it takes is for us to be thoughtful about the why, when and how.