Saturday, September 7, 2013

Power over Technology Concedes Nothing without a Demand

"Technology empowers the user and takes power from those who want to be in charge."     —Lisa Nielsen of The Innovative Educator (blog and Facebook Group).

The above quote is from a Facebook conversation earlier today about BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) a.k.a. BYOT (...Technology) in the conventional classroom. We also had a couple of nice tangents about how the concept may apply to educators in different settings.

Overall, Lisa's quote makes a point I want to help my students understand—that it doesn't have to be the session leader's way or the highway, with technology just reinforcing existing hierarchies. I think a look at how "adults" act in BYOD situations may help inform our decisions about how to work with students. In other words, it may not be that hard to figure out.

In faculty meetings, it's important for the "people in charge" not to waste meeting time doing stuff that makes attendees want to go to their computers or mobile devices. Then a supervisor or chair doesn't have to "play teacher," looking askance at faculty who are indeed checking mail, chatting, texting, or doing class prep instead of hanging on every word of an esteemed presenter. Even with a worthwhile agenda, poor use of technology in a roomful of people talking about innovation seems to put everyone at cross purposes.

My bestest PLN-space so far
One reason that "conventional educators" are connecting with PLNs (Personal Learning Networks) on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter is because we can't seem to sustain the same quality of conversations locally—except with a few colleagues in informal settings. In larger gatherings such as department or college meetings, it only takes a couple of naysayers to shut you down when you suggest that better use of technology or a bit of common sense might improve meeting procedures. They pick up the scent of a challenge to Parkinson's Law of Triviality and will generally not put up with it for long.

Something related applies to learners in the classroom, of course, and that is where today's BYOD conversation began. Some of us are finally catching on: Don't waste time doing stuff (or putting out info, or testing on discrete factoids) that the students can Google for themselves. One DOES have to spend time on context, and the importance of knowing what to Google, and why it matters to know this. That's a harder conversation to have, and you (okay, I) may lose some very traditional students who want to be spoon-fed and then to regurgitate at mid-term or final in the time-honored fashion. (Rather than just settle for some attrition, I know I must come back to this elsewhere. Suggestions welcome!)

I am not yet sure how to address another aspect of the larger #edtech question: How not to go all colonialist or missionary on your learners, and "help" people in ways that are "for their own good" without respecting their input. Here you go, have some appropriate technology! Except that we can be mindful and listen carefully for what help learners may actually want/need. I am going down this road with my classes now, albeit slowly. I'm not sure what I'd do in a more locked-down K12 district telling me through official policy what tech to use or not use in my classroom.

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