On #edtech in the Wild

My snarky reply to Derek Moore’s tweet drew the “tell me more” response. I tried to compose a few 280-character responses, but I didn’t have time, so I took to my blog. There is a companion tweet to Moore’s and it makes the extended point that I summarize “technology is designed for specific purposes.”

In the domain of educational technology, we follow the lead of all educators (although I find the practice to be dubious) of defining our learning outcomes. Once we know what we want the edtech to accomplish, we go about the business of designing the technology and the information so that the goal is faithfully accomplished. We see this extended to the decisions teachers make. In a widely-used textbook from earlier this century, Robyler suggested integrating educational technology as “the process of determining which electronic tools and which methods of implementing them are appropriate responses to given classroom situations and problems” (9).

My tweet in response to Moore is grounded in my belief this is a much too simplistic version of what we do and that is actually misrepresents the dynamics of teaching and learning.

Surely, there are instances in which we know what learners need to know, we can define it, and both build technology-based solutions and measures the degree to which they were accomplished. This is not really learning, as I conceptualize it. It is knowledge-building or perhaps skill-building and training that leads to it has a role (a marginal role) in teaching.

Learning–at least when it is done right which the point of my tweet–is a far messier and less predictable than engineers of learning systems (which are more accurately called training systems). When technologies are put in the hands of teachers with students, they tend to find their own uses. They identify weaknesses with the original plan, they find other things that can be done with the technology that are far from what was intended.

I’m reminded of the stories about the first barbed wire fences that were used in the American midwest. Soon after they appeared, folks discovered they could be used as a primitive telegraphic systems. The fences to divide pastures became a communication tool. While the examples of teachers and students finding new uses of educational technology tools may nor be as spectacular, but they can be meaningful for them.

Of course, such discovery (referred to as bricolage by many) happens only when teachers adopt the right approach. If teaching is understood as depositing information into brains and technology is used in that manner, then it will be faithful to the purpose, but that purpose is not interesting (or worthy).


Roblyer, Margaret. 2006. Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching, 4th ed. Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.