Is technology dangerous?

This guest post was written by Tali, a pre-service teacher in her final year of studying to be a primary school teacher. You may have read an earlier guest post by a pre-service teacher in the UK – A conversation with Tali indicates that it’s not much better in Australia. Why can’t so called education experts figure out how to prepare teachers?

Recently, I was informed that technology is dangerous. The person who so confidently imparted this pearl of wisdom is a university lecturer in education (I am studying to be a primary teacher).

This is not the first time that one of my lecturers has warned me of the ‘dangers of technology’, but I always find these warnings quite amusing, so I resisted the urge to laugh and instead asked what it is about technology that is so deeply threatening. He knowingly informed me that technology makes children feel that their classroom learning is boring, because the Internet is more interesting.

Other lecturers have also told me that technology is a distraction, or that it is unnecessary. One went so far as to imply that the use of tablets in classrooms is a fad that will soon pass. I do not think it is a coincidence that the online materials for these lecturers’ subjects are of a very low quality. The worst offence was probably when my readings for an entire semester were scanned and uploaded sideways, and in a format that could not be rotated. I spent many an hour on my bed, with my laptop turned sideways, silently cursing my lecturer.

So it’s not the first time I have encountered this mindset and it does, to an extent, amuse me. But it also annoys me, for a couple of reasons. The first is the use of the word “technology”. I put the word in inverted commas, because I feel that some people’s understanding of the term is quite nebulous. They say ‘technology’, but I don’t think that is exactly what they mean. Technology is actually quite a broad term, and (according to the Victorian Board of Education) encompasses ‘all processes and equipment used to…support human endeavour’. So really, pens and paper are technology. And I don’t see anyone calling them dangerous and demanding that we revert to parchment and quills or drawing in the dirt.

I’m pretty sure that when they say “technology” they mean “ICT, computers and the internet”. And this is the thing that bothers me the most. How can any educator actually think that demonizing those things and banishing them from the classroom can benefit students in any way?

A computer is a tool like any other. Their usefulness in the classroom is determined not solely by their own capabilities, but by the way they are utilised and the attitudes and culture that the teacher fosters towards them. And ICT and the Internet offer us dynamic learning opportunities that (among many other things) can enhance end deepen thinking, give students more responsibility over their own learning and more ways to show it, and connect them with classrooms and thinkers around the world. To me, it is actually a bit bizarre not to utilise these tools in your practise, given that we are so privileged to have access to them.

However, the many benefits of e-learning are actually beside the point. The reality is that this is the direction that the world is ever more rapidly moving in, whether we think it is a good thing or not. I feel that we actually do a disservice to students by neglecting to develop their e-literacy, for in the future it will almost certainly be an integral part of their studies, employment, and indeed their social lives. Does the Internet pose certain dangers? Of course it does. That’s even more reason to be having conversations in our classrooms about Internet safety, bullying, and the nature of one’s digital footprint. As teachers, we have to prepare students for a future we cannot envision. The least we can do is educate them using tools from the present, instead of recycling the education of the past.

So why do some of my lecturer’s discourage me from using “technology”? I can’t say for sure, but I would guess that, as is so often the case, they fear it because they do not understand it. And that is fine. Long gone are the days where the teacher is the beacon of all knowledge. But if you don’t understand something, you need to be open to learning about it, and if you can’t manage that then you should probably stop trying to train pre-service teachers.

Otherwise they’ll blog about you.

21 thoughts on “Is technology dangerous?

  1. Well, we have a few people here in canım Türkiyem that would definitely agree with the idea in your title ;-) Especially, if we talk about Twitter ;-)

    I’m reminded of that saying – “guns do not shoot people, people do that” (not that I agree with Mr. Heston and his pals)!

    T..

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  2. I love this post! As well as agreeing with everything that Tali has so perfectly articulated, I don’t understand how anyone can categorise computers, the internet etc. as technology anymore (according to the lecturers’ understanding of the term). As stated by the inimitable Sir Ken Robinson, “Technology is not technology if it was invented before you were born.” For our students, using these technologies is like breathing – they have never lived in a world where they didn’t exist. How can teachers choose to ignore something that is already leveraged and ubiquitous in the rest of their students’ lives? I wonder how these lecturers would cope with the use of Google Glass, augmented reality and gaming in education! Edna, can we publish this post somewhere it will be seen by our entire school community? ;)

    Emma

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  3. For an understanding of the psychology behind the thinking that distrusts or feels threatened by “technology” have a look at the tale of the Sabre-Tooth Curriculum by J Abner Peddiwell. You will find extracts on the web (eg. http://www.nassauboces.org/cms/lib5/NY18000988/Centricity/Domain/57/TheSaberToothCurriculumshort.pdf)

    I think to an extent we all suffer from a liking of working within our comfort zone. To change requires capacity, a greater effort than we presently exert, and emotional turmoil. Sometimes we do not have the capacity of the reassurances needed to cope with the emotions. We are not in an environment that encourages risk taking and change. When this is the case it unfortunately permeates down the chain and ultimately effects the learner who is then placed in a conflicting situation. On the one hand are these tools which they are familiar with and can see immense value in using and on the other the wisdom that has determined such tools are mere distractions.

    Learning to manage our learning environment to meet our own learning needs is a key trait in a successful learning journey, one that is life long. When ever we meet obstacles (physically or through advice given) we need to consider it within the context of our own learning needs. I call this ability “Learning Intelligence”, LQ for short. Developing and applying LQ to learning situations and challenges helps remove some of the stress and negative emotions that inhibit learning. Turning a laptop sideways to overcome an unthinking (or unknowing) action by the lecturer is an example of applying LQ!

    LQ is linked to many aspects of learning including creativity, resilience, determination, emotions and many more. It is a lens that gives us the facility to examine our own learning in light of our experiences and put it into a context leading to understanding. With the aid of LQ we need never suffer the Saber-Tooth Curriculum or fear new “technologies” because we are able to see them within the context of our own learning needs.

    I have written many articles on the nature of LQ and you can find the first of them here:

    http://wp.me/p2LphS-3p

    I would be pleased to answer any questions you have about LQ or even try to answer your challenges!

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  4. I think the internet/technology is something we cant hide from, so let’s introduce it to our kids in a controlled environment while they are young enough to be taught how to use it wisely. Thanks for the post

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  5. Love it Tali! What becomes dangerous is when we ban something that is going to be used by our learners outside of the classroom. I agree that it is our role to educate learners to be responsible safe users of technology and the most meaningful way to of this is authentically when these learning opportunities arise in the classroom. We are lucky to have teachers in training like you!!!

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  6. My wife is at university and constantly curses the low quality of online resources and the low level of technological knowledge of lecturers.

    Case in point: her last assignment asked her to record a 7 minute case study (which was actually just a verbal assignment – the criteria had nothing to do with case studies) and then upload it to the Internet. There were no instructions for students on how to do this beyond “Google it”.

    If the students are teaching themselves, the degree is surely becoming meaningless. Maybe that’s what the lecturers are worried about.

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  7. I love love love this post! This is Catherine again, from the University of South Alabama. You really have a knack for blogging, and your thoughts hit the nail on the head every time. It’s so true that so many educators are terrified of technology, but as you stated, it’s almost never because of what the internet is capable of, or any logical reason at all, it is because they have no idea what they’re doing. It’s sad, really. So many people are missing the opportunity to have SMARTboards in their classroom or tablets for their students to help them learn at their own pace…all because of a stubborn refusal to learn something new. Your sassy ending was the perfect touch! ‘If you don’t understand something…don’t teach it to pre-service teachers. Otherwise they’ll blog about you.’ Amazing, simply amazing!

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