Saturday, 8 October 2016

Technology isn’t just a tool

Karen Spencer delivered an inspiring and thought provoking keynote at uLearn16. It has definitely served as a springboard for my future wonderings and was a clever ‘key note’ to start my symphony.

“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail." - Abraham H Maslow

Karen spoke about Maslow’s Hammer and the implications it had for us as educators. That we need to understand that their is no quick fix to engaging, inspiring and motivating our learners. Viewing technology as ‘just a tool’ inhibits our ability to innovate or create opportunities for our students to succeed. Technology in this case is ‘Maslow’s Hammer’.

Viewing technology as a tool essentially leads to ‘quick fixes’. Let’s look at issues with inappropriate images. A quick fix would be to add a filtering system that removes inappropriate content. That would be great until the tags on the images change and they let a few slip through the filters. If that happens we can carefully select images for intended use and link them to a shared document. Except now the links have been updated and redirect us to the wrong sites.. and the cycle of ‘quick fixes’ continues.

John Couch referred to technology as an environment, not a tool. This is true for most of our learners who grew up with technology, it’s second nature to them. If we view technology as an environment we can do away with the quick fixes. Instead we can create ways to support and inform our learners. For example the Cybersmart curriculum empowers our learners to navigate through their environment with the smarts to keep safe.

Couch also mentioned that we should make sure classrooms are relevant, creative and challenging with an element of collaboration. We need to create creators not consumers. With this in mind we need to empower them with the skills to navigate, manipulate, innovate and create things that couldn’t be done without their natural environment. If we don’t, we may as well be teaching our learners to share their learning through morse code.

McRaney, D. (2012, March 27). Maslow's Hammer. Retrieved October 08, 2016, from

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