Where do tech tools fall in your school’s academic vision?

Booking a LookHas academic vision been lost? Are we getting too caught up in the possibilities that are flashed at us every day with new technologies? Where’s the line between “ooh this looks cool” and “this looks useful”?

I started my day with a blog post from fellow Hoosier blogger Erik DeckersTools Don’t Make the Expert, Knowledge Does. I’m going to quote the quote that he used from Chris Brogan:

No one ever asked Hemingway which pencils he used to write his books. The tools aren’t the thing. The effort and the content and the promotion and the connection and the networking and the building value are the thing.
(From Chris’ post “Hemingway’s Pencils“)

In the education world, you might say, “The tools aren’t the thing. The learning and the thinking and the knowledge and the understanding are the thing.”

Are we pursuing tools without looking at the bigger picture of our schools’ academic visions? What Chris said is very similar to a core principle of education today – it’s not about teaching kids how to read and write; it’s about teaching them to think critically and solve problems and develop their character.

There has to be a balance between that push for progressive education and the pull for traditional excellence. My school is currently in the process of searching for a new head of school, which has spurred great discussions among our faculty about this tricky balance. On the one hand, as an independent school, we should be leaders in innovative education, but on the other hand, we are deeply rooted in tradition. How do we find our place between these two opposing forces? And where do we see these ideologies taking us into the future?

If we are pushing for innovation, then we need to create balance by pulling back a little and critically evaluating the tools that we are using in schools. It’s not enough to say “I read about another teacher at another school using Twitter in her classroom and it sounded like a good experiment.” You have to know the benefits (and the risks) of each tool that you use. When your students assemble a portfolio at the end of the semester, does it matter if their most thoughtful responses were in a written essay or a blog comment?

Technology tools can be very useful assets in a classroom, but they are merely different ways of looking at the class material and initiating discussions. At the core of education is the idea that we are developing students to think for themselves. Don’t let some flashy tool distract you from that purpose. Keep in mind the bigger picture. Don’t lose sight of the academic vision.

Photo credit: alexanderward12 on Flickr