Technology is Simply a Tool

I find myself repeating that phrase a lot- “Technology is a tool.” It doesn’t enhance learning on its own.

In a session earlier this week, I compared blogs to hammers. You wouldn’t go to the hardware store, purchase a hammer, and make a decision to build something simply because you have a hammer. What if you decide to build something that requires a screwdriver instead of a hammer? You purchased the tool before deciding what to build, and now you have the wrong tool.

Likewise, you don’t start off blogging because you simply want to have a blog (or wiki, or SMARTBoard, or [insert technology tool here]). If you’re looking for an outlet for personal reflection, sharing your thoughts and questions with others in a similar field for example, then a blog is a great tool for that purpose. Blogs are not the answer to every learning situation, though.

Sometimes, I wonder if we are thinking about the tools before we think about the purpose. In education, it would be great to have every tool at our disposal so that learning could be unrestricted. While that’s not exactly realistic, I think it’s definitely something we need to consider. When school districts consider how they can better support technology for students… are we setting our focus on the tools? Or… is the purpose already well-defined, so it’s a good time to go ‘shopping’ for the tools?

I don’t have those answers, but I would really like to hear what you think.

3 thoughts on “Technology is Simply a Tool

  1. I’d like school districts to brag about what their students are doing with the technology–not how much technology they have. I guess it’s easier to report numbers like,”We have 1 computer for every 2.2 students” than to showcase what students have done with those computers.

    It’s also easier to buy tangible things than to invest in helping teachers leverage technology for learning. Tangible stuff is often perceived as more valuable than what you can’t see (giving teachers time and guidance to craft better lessons with the newly-available tools). Of course, without the latter, that tangible stuff just sits there as a monument to wasteful spending.

  2. Amen, Tony.

    It’s probably the same thing with grading kids, huh? It’s easier to grade multiple choice tests that don’t really demonstrate a child’s ability to think and perform. It’s also easier to compare kids to each other, rather than to view them as individuals who have their own strengths and gifts. But you can’t test for that. 🙂

  3. I know we are definitely on the same page here. The focus has to be on the curriculum. I agree that school’s shouldn’t be bragging about the technology they have. They should be bragging about how smart their students are…then showing how they reach those goals and objectives, ideally showing the tech tools they are using.

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