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The Horse and the Cart

February 16, 2012

I am trying to keep some sort of balance when I read, a balance between rooting out rock solid concrete concepts and ideas that can directly influence the next unit or project that I plan, and then contemplating bigger, slightly longer term ideas that might need a little more germination time and discussion before they appear in my classroom.

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In this short post I am going to write about the former.  I was reading Janet Moeller-Abercrombie’s post about keeping students engaged in a 1:1 classroom. One of the first negatives to be voiced when discussing the adoption of 1:1 technology in the classroom  is that of distraction.  Janet asks “How could I create an environment where the students used their computers as tools rather than toys?”  This is a valid concern that needs to be considered and discussed, and this is a concise post doing just that.  The piece that she addresses that I think is so important (but at the same time very obvious) is that of putting the cart ahead of the horse. Most of the time, Janet writes, if you ask a student what her plan is, she will answer that she’s going to make a Powerpoint or  a movie.  That’s the cart.  The student is thinking about the technology before the content. A different line of questioning, such as “What are you trying to communicate?”, puts the horse out front again.

When working with students, I see this happen often, the technology elbowing the learning out of the spotlight and taking center stage.  I do see this with staff as well, when they are planning.  The software or app that is chosen is done so without considering what the desired learning outcome of the unit is.  When something new comes along, we are often dying to take advantage of it’s cleverness, and we make the unit fit that technology.  This is perhaps a more visible phenomenon with iPads, because apps are being developed so quickly (and they are so amazing!), that everyone wants to use the newest ones.

Keeping the horse in front of the cart is a pretty fundamental tenet when working with technology, yet I felt somehow relieved to be reminded of it.  It’s important, and sometimes gets lost.



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