Personal Snapshots of Educational Technology

My personal understanding of educational technology is best examined by taking what I know now and looking back at snapshots of my educational past to see how technology has evolved and grown.

Snapshot #1: Elementary School – All the Right Type

When I think back to elementary school and the technology we accessed, my mind immediately goes to the computer classroom where we would “play” the typing game All the Right Type. Early on, my friends and I would spend our time constantly replaying the first level, trying to see how high of a words per minute score we could achieve. Even know I can remember that first line:

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My school was certainly not alone in these teachings. As Michael Molenda notes: “In the mid-1990’s, student use was still rather mundane, often limited to a few hours per week of drill programs.” While that may not have been the best use of our time, it did develop typing/computing skills that have carried forward to this day. When observing my students now, so many of them use “hunt and peck” because they have little experience placing their hands in the correct spots and because they communicate by typing on their phones and they could do that infinitely faster than I could.

Snapshot #2 High School – Overhead Projectors

I graduated high school in 2002 and the main technology aspect of my time was the use of overhead projectors and writing notes down over and over and over. Memorization and regurgitation was a heavy emphasis at that time, the constant cycle of writing notes until your hand was sore, memorizing those facts for the test and forgetting them as soon as the test was over. This was certainly not the best way to learn and thankfully most people have advanced past this method of teaching.

Snapshot #3 Teaching Now – iPhones

All of these technological innovations (which were certainly all amazing for their time) have led us to the world we live in now as educators, where nearly every student has a phone in their pocket that gives access to more knowledge than we could ever have. The ease and speed with which smart devices can deliver answers makes me question what is truly important for us to be teaching to our students. Should we teach solving equations if PhotoMath will instantly solve the entire equation? Is there any facts worth memorizing for a test if they can always be accessed on Google? At the same time, as technology advances, it can be seen as perhaps more important than necessary. Neil Postman states: “technology tends to become mythic; that is, perceived as part of the natural order of things, and therefore tends to take more control of our lives than is good for us.” These questions are not just for individual teachers to consider, but foundation shaking questions that could change the entire education landscape.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the matter.

Until next time,

Kyle Ottenbreit