Is Fearmongering Winning?

I guess it comes with the territory of a tech integration coach but sometimes I feel like I am perpetually climbing, forever convincing, endlessly cheerleading, and eternally fighting a pedagogical battle….

Allow me to explain…

Earlier this week I got an email from a pro-tech colleague of mine sharing A.J. Juliani‘s rebuttal to the TIME magazine article, Screens In Schools Are a $60 Billion Hoax. In the TIME magazine article it suggests that schools are falling victim to “the siren song of the tech companies” and their “hypnotic screens” and that EdTech is a money making hoax. In Juliani’s article, The Logical Fallacies of Time Magazine’s “Technology Hoax” Article, he makes a stand for the benefits of technology in education. Moreover, he debunks the article by outlining the logical fallacies inherent within the TIME article itself. Juliani does a great job, but I wonder nevertheless, if educational technology fearmongering winning?

After reading that article I realize that this pro-technology stance is nothing new for Juliani who responded to July 2016 NPR article, Is It Time to Ban Computers From Classrooms with his own titled, In Defense of Computers in the Classroom. Where the NPR article states, “the findings to date suggest that banning computers from classrooms may be the most sensible policy to adopt”, Juliani contests with, “I’m defending the use of computers because whether we like it or not, they are the most powerful learning, creating, and communicating tool ever created.”

So, from this one article shared via email I become catapulted into a hyperlinked web safari reading about the dichotomy between those who are for the benefits of technology and those who are adamantly opposed to technology. Prince Ea asks if we can Can We Auto-Correct Humanity? Sherry Turkle says that technology only makes us Alone Together. Dr. Kardaras says screen addiction is hijacking our kids in his book titled Glow Kids. Or dare I share the holy grail of anti-technology articles, A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute, where various Tech and Silcon Valley big wigs, dispel the need for tech and screens both at school and at home. After all this hyperlink surfing, it seems like more people are talking about the articles that confront technology than those that propagate it? At this point, I am almost convinced that tech fearmongering is winning…

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are a wealth of articles advocating the benefits of technology and the undeniable relevance that EdTech provides in the rapidly changing learning and professional landscape of today and tomorrow. Jeff Utecht, for example, aks if we can move beyond the superficial integration and just embed technology already? Edutopia argues that access to technology allows interaction with a variety of learning activities such as game-based learning, project based learning and individualized online learning. Bruce Dixon, a contributor to Modern Learners wrote Looking at Technology Through a Learning Lens where he argues that too many educators are toiling away the incredible opportunities to leverage all the tools, access and reach that technology provides.

Despite this, these pro-tech articles aren’t getting the “air-time” as much as the ones that incite tech fearmongering. Take this next video titled, Look Up, which has over 50 million views on YouTube. (Insert sarcastic tone here) Look Up seems to purport that if we only looked up from our devices, we would be able to meet a significant other, fall in love, have a baby, buy a house, and live a happy life.

Wow, good thing that person left their phone at home and decided to write down the directions to where they were going on paper. Using apps like google maps, uber, phone and/or messages when one gets lost are an obvious option for Glow Kids but unfortunately for them, their choice to use technology will never allow them to find a soul mate (End sarcastic tone).

Joking aside, how would our students respond if they watched that video? How do they feel when they hear mixed messages about screen time (Bad vs. Balanced)? What do their parents say about their use of technology? Or perhaps even more influential, what do their teachers say about technology? If we can assume that students are greatly influenced by the media, then hearing anti-tech slander from Prince Ea or Gary Turk can likely be crippling to their perception of technology. If coupled with similar sentiments from their parents or teachers, then students may be formulating beliefs on the negative aspects of technology because they think that is what they should believe. If so, I wonder how students who like to use technology are marrying the disparity between what they like and what they think they should say or believe. Is this biased view, teaching them how to balance their own digital and non-digital lives? At this point, I feel sure that tech fearmongering is winning.

What is the motivation behind this EdTech schism? Why are most counter arguments against technology in education so biased and one-sided?

Do teachers, parents, or administrators who don’t believe in the benefits of technology, just think that technology a passing phase like this meme?

Are people still abiding by old beliefs about screen time, even though the American Academy of Pediatrics have changed their rules regarding screen time?

As a technology integrationist, I value the use of technology in education and would say it that it is one of the most important foundations in my own educational philosophy! However, despite my love of EdTech, I don’t believe that an EdTech pedagogy should wipe out or replace every other proven best practice, strategy or educational activity. It is not, either or. It is, everything in an appropriate BALANCE. The tech fearmongering isn’t helping anything except to further perpetuate and confuse our students, parents and educators. Technology is NOT going anywhere. In fact, it’ll likely become even more ubiquitous in the future as various advancements and devices are created. Ignoring or slandering technology and denying its influence on our lives should no longer be an option. Teaching ourselves and in turn, modeling healthy and appropriate use of technology to our students is imperative. We all have to realize the biased nature of media. Interpreting media with a critical lens is crucial to knowledge acquisition especially as we live in such a media rich period in history. If we don’t begin to teach our students to simmer these extreme opinions on educational technology we will fail to help them align the disparate representations of technology  and subsequently, we will fail to prepare them for an unknown future, where technology will be present.

 

 

 

 

You may also like...

12 Responses

  1. Profile photo of Laurie Laurie says:

    This is a great post, Sean. I appreciate all the articles you’ve shared. While I do think some of the concerns about excessive screen time are valid, I also agree that technology, used wisely, can make a powerful impact on the learning of our students. Like you said– it’s about balance. As our tech-integration coach, you have shared some fantastic ways that we can use technology in meaningful ways which enhance learning. My main concern is that many teachers are still using iPads in passive ways which don’t necessarily impact learning. Mostly, I worry about all the “free time” in which students are just playing games or watching videos on their iPads and not actually learning anything. I feel like we have a responsibility to ensure that any time spent on devices at school is truly educational, because most students already spend plenty of time playing on their iPads outside of school. I wonder whether we should implement a school policy about what types of activities can be allowed during iPad free time to ensure that if students are playing on them, it’s still for the benefit of learning. I thought you might appreciate this article from Edutopia about The Balance of Screen Time. It talks about the importance of using technology to construct understanding and make meaningful connections as opposed to just passively looking at a screen. link to edutopia.org. As always, thanks for the great work you do as our tech coach!

    • Profile photo of Sean Sean says:

      Hey @ldukes – thanks for the comment!

      The link you shared makes so much sense! Balance is truly the goal. Even though I believe in balance, F2F interactions, building community and communication skills whole-heartedly, I felt that the first hurdle we need to jump over is teaching the naysayers that access to technology is not only ok but imperative. Only then, do we need to discuss balance.

      As for our classes, I agree. During class time, students should have a free reign of apps that contribute to their learning, help them document their learning or share their learning. I challenge them to lead innovation in learning because they have Creatively Applied their own Learning, which takes a divergent and creative Mindset (C.A.L.M. Model). As for during free choice students should be using apps or the internet in ways that are appropriate, meaningful and empowering as stated in the article you shared (link to edutopia.org). I guess the debate about what meets all these criteria is the next hurdle. For example, I have been on the Minecraft bandwagon since it came out. I wish Pokemon Go was permitted in Saudi so I could try to test out any educational possibilities. Finally, as gamification is on the rise, perceptions of what is appropriate, meaningful and empowering should be adjusted accordingly. Teachers and students need to be explicit that screen time at school is somehow pushing their learning, their goals, their passions or their creativity forward. I always challenge the students to explicitly describe how they are learning from a certain app so that they might be able to continue to use an app that someone deems uneducational.

      Thanks for the post!

  2. Profile photo of Chrissy H Chrissy H says:

    I really do enjoy reading your thoughts and reflections Sean because you raise so many great points that are poignant, relevant and need airing! I have to agree with you on so many levels – especially your thinking about “Do teachers, parents, or administrators who don’t believe in the benefits of technology, just think that technology a passing phase like this meme?” My thoughts exactly!
    I’m always left wondering how do we change this thinking even when it seems that “time” isn’t helping these thoughts and I’m always bother by the media sensationalisation of “fear” type hysteria around technology and how the chance of something “terribly bad” happening is really low yet that one time it happens everyone remembers it!

    I believe that those of us in positions that see all that is possible in Education with the help/advancement of technology need to keep spreading the word – loudly and proudly! That way the good will always come to the top?!

    Thanks for raising these points so eloquently!

    • Profile photo of Sean Sean says:

      Thanks for your feedback and positivity Chrissy! Coming from you that is a great compliment!

      If we continue with this discussion, how about the parents or teachers that want the tech to fail so that they can prove their point…ugghhh!

      Anyways, all we can do is be advocates and slowly try to right this ship!

  3. I enjoyed reading your post, Sean. I find the eagerness with which some of my colleagues share these anti-tech articles annoying. I’m sure, though, that they also feel they are swimming against a powerful tide of pro-tech propaganda. Where are the balanced articles?

    I regularly get sent research which purports to prove that students taking notes the old fashioned way in exercise books with pens learn better. One’s instinctive reaction is to refute, but I would not be surprised if it is accurate since traditional note-taking was developed in an era of paper and pencil. The style of lecturing which has evolved plays towards this strength. I always counter by saying: Did this researcher ask the note-takers to embed video or audio; add hyperlinks and photos? Were the paper wielding students required to share and peer edit? Did they assess the learning by requiring a creative response?

    It’s like using your car to visit the next door neighbours: possible but not exploiting the full potential of the device. The walking wins in most cases but not if you need to travel 100 miles quickly.

    An article called Is the Internet killing our brains? link to theguardian.com
    appeared in the Guardian yesterday. Despite its typically alarmist headline (to which one is tempted to reply: It’s replacing them), it is a balanced account about blaming the worker not the tools.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  4. Your post was the epitome of what I was thinking of posting this week Sean. Great post! I was recently listening to a podcast where the man serves as a radio talkshow host who is considered a “Tech Guy”. His job is to help others with technology related issues and simply talk about anything with a chip.

    Recently, he shared about his observations on one of his commutes (on a train), he decided to not use his phone for a moment. He was “taking a break”. As he looked around, he realized no one was paying attention to anyone. Everyone was lost in their own devices. He jokingly referred to them, as his British friend mentioned, playing on their fondling devices. Meaning, it was a device that needed to be continuously touched to complete many various functions. It was condescending suggesting that devices were being used unnecessarily. Checking FB, then twitter, then email, then texts, then his app that showed his grocery list, etc. He was reflecting upon the nay sayers of technology and kids in his 30 minute train ride. He then shared a very invaluable detail that I think needs to be understood….

    While jokingly mocking all the people on the train (“kids” as he put it because he is roughly 63 years old), the “kids” would appear to be sadly alone to any other person his age looking upon them. Instead, he has the understanding of technology as an equal on some levels to the “kids”. Therefore, he was able to attest that while that was the appearance, those “kids” were not alone. In fact, they were with all of their friends continuously on all social media platforms. They could be doing many various things OTHER THAN playing games. They could be checking the weather, planning their day or week. They could be getting work done, reading the news, answering work-related emails, etc. He then thought to himself, “Boy, I just wasted about half of my train ride in a ponderous day-dream when I could have been doing something more worth while with my device!”

    I loved hearing this podcast say these things because he also reflected on what those people would be doing in a world without devices. He said he could have a lovely conversation with someone, but it would possibly not be meaningful and ultimately not help his day be more productive. In fact, most 30 minute train rides (1 hour per day if we consider a round trip daily commute) would ultimately be truly wasted time. Instead, he smiled, looked up flight prices for a flight he needed to take, and booked it right there within the next 15 minutes. Again, no one on the trail spoke other than the occasional “excuse me” from someone walking by.

    Tech is simply a tool, just like a car, a train, or a calculator. A Television can be used to educate and it could be used to waste time….or relax. Balance and choice. My oven can be used for baking nice healthy meals, and very fattening pies or deserts. Again, Balance and choice. If we always balance our effectiveness with tech and make good choices, every “train ride” we (or our students) have in life can be hugely beneficial. I think if we teach our students to balance their time with technology between effective use and game play, then we can help support tomorrow’s growing technology influence in a positive way. Even if we wanted to stop technology use, we really couldn’t. By why would anyone want to?

  5. Thanks for the post. I agree wholeheartedly and also with James Rampley above. As a Special Needs Teacher, technology has allowed my students to access curriculum and express understandings on a par with their peers. Technology has allowed and is still pushing us forward, with inclusion. I do notice that much of the fearmongering seems to come from older generations and I worry that they aren’t grasping all that our students are doing with technology. I think it’s naive to think that our students would be lost without technology as if they can’t string together a sentence to ask for help. I get really tired of people bashing tech use when I see the huge difference it has made to students that I work with.

    • Profile photo of Sean Sean says:

      Hey Lizzie,

      Thanks for the comment! I can see that you are just as frustrated with the tech fearmongering as I am, especially as you have seen all the benefits as a teacher and for your students.

      Funny though that all the comments on this post thus far have been in agreement. I guess on CoETaIL we are all just preaching to the choir. I wonder how we can share our message to a larger audience to make an impact?

  6. Profile photo of Sean Sean says:

    Hey @ldukes – thanks for the comment!

    The link you shared makes so much sense! Balance is truly the goal. Even though I believe in balance, F2F interactions, building community and communication skills whole-heartedly, I felt that the first hurdle we need to jump over is teaching the naysayers that access to technology is not only ok but imperative. Only then, do we need to discuss balance.

    As for our classes, I agree. During class time, students should have a free reign of apps that contribute to their learning, help them document their learning or share their learning. I challenge them to lead innovation in learning because they have Creatively Applied their own Learning, which takes a divergent and creative Mindset (C.A.L.M. Model). As for during free choice students should be using apps or the internet in ways that are appropriate, meaningful and empowering as stated in the article you shared (link to edutopia.org). I guess the debate about what meets all these criteria is the next hurdle. For example, I have been on the Minecraft bandwagon since it came out. I wish Pokemon Go was permitted in Saudi so I could try to test out any educational possibilities. Finally, as gamification is on the rise, perceptions of what is appropriate, meaningful and empowering should be adjusted accordingly. Teachers and students need to be explicit that screen time at school is somehow pushing their learning, their goals, their passions or their creativity forward. I always challenge the students to explicitly describe how they are learning from a certain app so that they might be able to continue to use an app that someone deems uneducational.

    Thanks for the post!

  7. Liam Trimm says:

    Hey Sean,

    I know… I’m not in COETAIL, but I cam across this thought provoking response via Twitter…

    I would like to start off by saying that I 100% agree with Sean in his advocacy for a balance between edTech and more traditional pedagogy – and to all the nay sayers, let’s not forget that pencils, fountain pens, mass produced paper, photocopiers were, in their respective time periods, advanced technology. But I digress…

    Though I completely agree with Sean, I have a very anecdotal understanding of why there may be this technophobic trend within educational literature. Going through my teacher training as social media was gaining momentum, I recall feeling enormous pressure to – in an educational sense – get with technology in education, or get out. Pen and paper, the ol’ chalk and talk, lecture… meh, Stone Age – get with times! If I was to understand the twenty-first century student, I would need to be up-to-date on all the latest technology as technology (wireless, mainly) was their world. And at first glance, my mentors were right!

    I started my first teaching gig noticing students obsessed with their – at the time – flip phones and itching to be in a computer lab processing information from the Internet. Then the smart phone. Students (and adults) could not be separated from their devices, so why not use mobile technology? Then, why not cart class sets of iPads and Chrome Books into classrooms? Why not book computer labs for every second lesson? Digital natives, right? But, there was a problem… students did not know how to use their technology as a tool, only a device. The technology at their disposal seemed to be gateway to entertainment, not critical thinking.

    As technology advanced and student ability to operate that technology advanced, they could still not effectively string together key words in order to conduct an effective Google search. They could design a complicated city in Minecraft, but could not format a Google doc. Many educators felt that these so called digital natives, were actually not… they were digital tourists. They knew certain programs well, but could not work their way through other applications. Educators introducing edTech found themselves teaching very basic skills to these supposed experts and started to question the research they were being sold.

    Unfortunately, I worry that educators who felt edTech was aggressively pushed onto them – that they needed to, in a technological sense, shape up or ship out – are now reacting in kind. Any evidence or potential flaw in ed-based technology is being jumped on and touted as a hoax or conspiracy plotted by the tech companies who stood to profit. The language is almost vengeful and takes on a school-yard air of “Ha, I told you so!”

    Ed Teach may not be able to solve all the problems in education, but, as Sean says, there needs to be a balance. This is my tenth year teaching. Five years ago, I did not have Internet in my classroom. I can’t even imagine going back. The amount of paper wasted! My God! And think of all the lost teachable moments… The many times something comes up in class and spontaneously I (or a student) think of a video or online article that takes a class discussion to whole new level! And the feedback outside of the classroom. So often while I am editing written assignments using Google docs at home, my students are responding in real time.

    Now, I still use my white board, pen and paper, but I scan exemplars with my phone and email it to my students; I ask students to take a picture of due dates, definitions or notes on the board; I ask students to send me pictures or scans of their hand-written notes or assignments. This is balance. The Stone Age was good… it is what got us to where we are. But, if someone is going to hand me an iron tool, I’m going to take it.

    Thanks Sean

  8. Profile photo of Lindsay Lyon Lindsay Lyon says:

    I love how you capitalize BALANCE. My key value, and so relevant to this discussion. The polarization of tech in classes must be a reflection of the polarization of other issues in the greater world–you think? In any case, it’s a great reminder that there is no real reason to demonize either side–the pen or the pad! Here are some good, simple tips I like from David Truss: link to pairadimes.davidtruss.com.

    • Profile photo of Sean Sean says:

      You’re right Lindsay…I do believe that polarization within schools certainly mimic the polarization so often modeled in society! I too am guilty of polarization…just check out my rant on curriculum in The Learning Rich Classroom. It’s so easy to demonize and criticize…rather than incorporating, synthesizing and creating a balance. I like the simple 3 step model you shared here about systematic change and innovation. I will remember this as I continue to strive for innovation and continue to disrupt the systemic features of our education system.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *