The use of "disruptive technologies" in a productive way.

Mike Muir (hat tip to Doug Belshaw) has an incredible post entitled Fear and Disruptive Technologies in which he criticizes the knee jerk reactions of many educators to ban some potentially useful technologies such as: iPods, cell phones, etc.

In this post, he recounts an interview with an 0bviously progressive IT Director at another school system, Gary Brown, here is part of the interview:

At his [Gary's] schools, about 95% of the students had cell phones. Did they ban their use? No. They purchased a system to push school announcements out to the phones. Some of the teachers use them for quizzes (kind of like the “clicker” student response systems). Now 100% of their students have cell phones. Their cell phone abuse rate? According to Gary, 0%.

We were paying $3000 fifteen years a go to have the computing power of a cell phone in our classroom and now we ban cell phones?

We're missing the boat. I don't think the applications are out there yet. We've started using meebo for reviews as they text each other questions and answers. We're using iPods to download podcasts and audiobooks from Librivox. I want to find a way to use cell phones to do virtual quizzes.

This is not even the tip of the iceburg. We're spending time fighting students when we should be working with them.

Swim with the current
As a child, my Dad took me to swim in a very big river, the Flint river. It has a very strong current. Yes, it has snakes and alligators and the like, but you're usually safe at this certain bridge at “the Sandbar.”

When I was around 16, he took my sister and I there and I had to keep up the family tradition by swimming across it. (We're all good swimmers.)

Here is the trick he taught me — He said, DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME swimming against the current, it will wear you out! Let it take you a little and just try to swim towards the opposite bank. Eventually, you'll break out of the current and get there.

That is also the rule at the beach if you're caught in the rip tide — let it take you and swim parallel to shore until you break free.

Why are we fighting this current?

I feel like we're fighting a current here.

There is a current of relevant, salient technology to these students that is not going away. I fear some administrators are going to go under fighting this one!

Why not swim with the current and use these technologies to teach the subjects we hold dear? A lot of the “coolness” of the technology rubs off on the subject we're teaching!

And I wonder why Gary Brown isn't blogging?

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5 thoughts on “The use of "disruptive technologies" in a productive way.

  1. I agree with you 100%. For example mobile phones now record audio/video so this is great for recording yourself when speaking, say Spanish or French. A language lab that fits in your pocket.

    I also use audio books for my students which are a wonderful way of practicing listening skills. I would also recommend The Pocket and the Pendent by Mark Jeffery.

  2. I’m not a school teacher and never have been, so I might be speaking out of turn here, but I suspect that there are two contributing factors that make a teacher/school ban kit:

    1. Their own inability to use it – you referred to this point a while back
    2. The loss of control. With two school-going children, my impression is that there arer still a lot of teachers out there who want a teacher-centric classroom. All these personal technologies foster a learner-centric environment, reducing the amount of control the teacher has over the learning journey. I think many teachers would consider that anarchic and come over all anxious just thinking about it. But, as George Siemens says: learning is messy!

  3. “Why are we fighting this current?

    I feel like we’re fighting a current here.

    There is a current of relevant, salient technology to these students that is not going away. I fear some administrators are going to go under fighting this one!”

    I couldn’t agree with you more here. I’m just beginning this battle. I’m pushing for more technology use and the push-back I get is “where are the test results that say technology makes a differece?” (Test results? that’s a whole different conversation) But I think in the interest of education the child we need to look at these tools and see them for the power they have. I think too often teachers are comfortable in their ways and are not interested in spending the time (and that may be a HUGE barrier) to change what they have always done.

  4. Right on – Vicki! I’ve been struggling with motivation to continue in the wearing battle of pushing more and more people in this direction lately. One of the dialogs we’ve been having is that it simply comes down to the charcter of a person. Why does one teacher really get ‘into it’ and the one next door doesn’t? It isn’t the campus that they are at – it’s their character. And we shouldn’t get into the new technologies just ‘because we have to’ or ‘just to reach the kids’. They have a lot of potention for people of all ages – it is simply a matter of whether or not one wants to take the time to get one’s hands dirty. Character ain’t easy to change – and pushing for that shift can be very energy consuming!

  5. i fully agree with you the biggest mistake is beeing too conservative with a dinamic thing such as tech…

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