Technology bashing

I am getting a bit tired of the fear mongering and rhetoric going on around the use of technology both in schools and in the wider community.

I, for one, have never said that technology use should replace ALL other activities, that pen and paper have been superceded by a superior force.  I have actually never heard anyone even tech evangelists suggest such a thing.

Nevertheless, I find myself constantly hearing and reading Warnings about the potential harm of too much screen time.   Listening to teachers who seem to glow with relief when someone says “It’s not all about technology” and almost outwardly heaving a sigh of relief that the role of tech is challenged.   Current affair television thrive on articles about research showing how family lives are being harmed by over use of technology and communication tools.   I almost shout at the TV to say “Where are the parents, the teachers who should be setting BOUNDARIES, producing opportunities for BALANCE and supporting their students or children in PURPOSEFUL use?”

I am left wondering why people have this resistance and I assume it is a fear or a definite discomfort with change.  The media certainly thrive on any opportunity to spout the ‘Technology is evil’ campaign. A friend brought this brilliant blog post to my attention :


Crowley debunks the fear mongering and explains the situation as part of evolution.  Mark Crowley concludes:

There can be no question but that technology can provide the potential for isolation, for synthetic relationships, for a sedentary lifestyle, an anxiety-ridden social existence, a failure to focus, concentrate, and engage. But surely this is a worst-case scenario conception of technology without balance, without thoughtful schools, informed, engaged parents? An education system that emphasises the need to be cultured as well as educated, well-read as well as literate, articulate as well as able to skim, physically healthy as well as mentally engaged … surely an individual in this context will only benefit from the interactive tools of contemporary technology to allow them to create, design, persuade and engage? Yes, perhaps our brains will be rewired in the process, but isn’t that what the brain has always done throughout history? Perhaps Feifer sums it up best: “Our brains changed to meet the challenge of driving cars. They changed so we could dance to recorded music. Now we are witnessing more change, and our brains will change again. Yes, change can be scary. But it’s what we’re built for.”

Perhaps, I take it too personally as my job involves trying to get technology used in thoughtful, purposeful ways and I am affronted by people who cling to the negativity, inferring I might not be making judicious decisions.  I rarely, if ever see teachers using technology because they are mandated, they always make wise, considered choices about where it will enhance the learning.  Is the negativity a band-wagon that will have its’ day?  I hope so.  

Ferriter :
Ferriter :





“Why our schools are NOT failing your children” – another teacher tells

Reading the newspaper should expose us to divergent thoughts and make us think.  Indeed, this mornings breakfast reading did just that and like Mel Cashen  I felt I needed to respond to Johanna O’Farrell’s article that was printed with the title “Why our schools are failing your children:a teacher tells” but online as “Splashing cash won’t fix Australia’s broken education system”

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Amongst other issues with our education system Johanna states:

But I believe ICT is in fact little more than a gimmick – and I know that the novelty of it as a tool for engagement is fast wearing off. In many cases, the study of ICT heightens the potential for distraction, is extremely inefficient, wastes time and quite simply is unnecessary – students do not need the ”world at their fingertips” all the time.

Read more:

This made me reflect on our graduation ceremony for our Year 6 class last week.  A mixed group of students, some academic, some mathematical, some artists, some writers, many sporting stars.   They left our school with an understanding of learning : learning that can be found from each other, from their teachers, and from many other sources.  They have been exposed to the skills that will help them learn, help them present their learning . They also left with strong literacy and mathematical skills.

Encouraged and not distracted as Ms O’Farrell believes by the “open-plan learning, iPads and interactive whiteboards” and multitude of other technology tools, these students explored their place in the global community.  Technology allowed them to connect, collaborate and learn with others, gathering perspectives and information difficult if not impossible without them.  They were taught to question what they read as information, or knowledge, is no longer sourced from one text book or reliable scholar.  Technology was ubiquitous – not a gimmick, but brought out when the purpose suited it.

Having the ‘world at their fingertips ‘ is the way these students live 24/7 and not allowing or expecting teachers to harness the value and seek teachable moments would be making education irrelevant.    Like Ms O’Farrell’s parents I did not have these tools when at I was at school, but education reflected the society that I lived in.  

Do we really want our students to be educated in a system that reflects a society of 10 – 20 – 30 – 40 years ago ? 



Feeling uncomfortable

Last week, when preparing to attend Meeting of the Minds 2012, I will admit I was feeling decidedly uncomfortable.   I would classify myself as introverted, happy to share but needing time to think , preferring to write than speak,  and much preferring to play ‘behind-the-scenes’ roles.    What was I thinking?  I had registered for an ‘unconference’ which promised things such as ‘squirm debates’, and input from the participants was a required feature.    I totally understood the concept – use the power of the room, determine the needs and interests and then attempt to satisfy them from within.   I thought to myself that what was being asked of the participants of MOTM is exactly what we want of our students everyday.  Active participation in their learning.

I was out of my comfort zone. So, with some trepidation I attended, and immediately the feelings of discomfort dissipated (well mostly).  As with Teachmeets, the participants were all volunteers – they all wanted to be there, giving up precious weekend time to attend.  Everyone had something to offer and the friendliness was tangible.   Many people attending were already part of my on-line Personal Learning Network, and now those relationships are enhanced by face-to-face meet ups.  Others were new to me and they now further enhance my PLN.    People were as happy to talk about ‘Why?’ as ‘How?’ and that made for some great conversation.   The fact that the same amount of time was spent analysing a question as was spent answering it, indicates the nature of the event.

Driving home, I likened it to a ‘perfect classroom’ –  a place where children;

  • can follow personal pathways
  • can be supported by their peers and vice versa as well as by ‘experts’
  • experience information presented in a variety of ways
  • have time to question and reflect
  • can laugh and express their learning in creative ways
  • are extended beyond their comfort zones in a supportive way
  • invisibly use technology to support and extend learning (OK, it was not invisible but it was definitely purposeful)

It became obvious that the amount of planning for an ‘unconference’ was just as rigorous as for a conventional conference.  The behind the scenes work had been well thought out – QR codes linking to Google docs, lunch activities that made us mingle, beautiful and thought provoking musical presentation, keynote (that’s not a keynote but a conversation starter) etc.    These things do not just happen, they occur after clever people put their minds together – and for that I am very thankful.

I am now left with some homework – connections made that will create some fantastic opportunities for both my students as well as my own professional growth.  The ‘unconference’ is over but the effects will linger.   As one participant tweeted “Still have to unpack my brain from MOTM12”.  So, is feeling uncomfortable a good thing?  Yes.

PS. A great summary created by Roland Gesthuizen  who did not attend in person but followed on Ustream and Twitter and created this Storify



Reflecting on the year at our school, a major theme would have to be CONNECTING. A few examples follow …

In the past week, I have watched our classes finish up for the school year – the usual gift giving, carol singing, graduation ceremonies, packing, moving classes and reminiscing. This year our classes had not only to say good-bye to each other, they needed to acknowledge connections they had created throughout the year via their blogs. Five classes joined together to create a particularly Australian Christmas message for their blogging friends. They continued to appreciate, as they had all year, that they had a unique story to tell their buddies in NZ, Canada, USA and the UK. “What’s a ute?”, came back a reply from Canada, highlighting our individuality.

Our recently graduated Preps prepared a movie (cleverly orchestrated by teachers but filmed, written and performed by the students) for the incoming class of preps introducing them to their school. They were ‘Taking Action’ after spending the term examining their community – sharing their knowledge and experience and connecting with the newest members of our community.

Our Middle students connected with US students when inquiring about endangered animals and a wonderful learning opportunity developed.  They also shared and received feedback on their writing from a diverse group of readers through their class blogs.

Our Community Arts Project recently culminated in the unveiling of a montage of family photographic images – connecting the families to the school community being a major focus of this project.  The project also connected our students as a peer mentoring process was put into action.

All members of our staff have participated in Professional Learning sessions most Wednesday mornings (Techie Brekkie’s) where we share new tech skills and tools and learn alongside each other. We were connecting as learners as we acknowledge our individual needs and skills. The staff has also recently planned to further the connections with other schools as well as create opportunities for more collaboration within our school, benefiting both the teaching staff and students alike. Many staff have continued to embrace the world of Twitter and blogging as an amazing opportunity to connect with other educators and our school is richer for this process.

Whether it be in the physical sense of a Better Buddies program, Junior students making a luncheon for our Parish senior citizens, having grandparents come to school to share their stories of the past or singing carols at a nearby nursing home or in the virtual sense through our on-line connections, connecting is a vital aspect of our daily lives in school. The days of closed doors are over !

Personally, I have loved the opportunities that I have had this year to have face-to-face meetings with people I had only previously connected with on-line – the first Melbourne TeachMeet in September and a trip to Sydney to work with the George and Alec Couros at Ravenswood School being highlights.  A key thought from that conference was that ‘Learning is Social’ and I believe we have demonstrated that well.

It is often easy to be self critical, to not appreciate things whilst you are too close to see them properly. It is hard to remember how things were before when we so quickly become accustomed to them in our lives. I hereby acknowledge the efforts and appreciate them ! Thanks to all the people who make these things happen – you know who you are.

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

Making learning irresistible

Do you remember when you were in Prep/Kindergarten?  If it was anything like my experience, we sat in rows, recited and learned by rote.   Personally, I have very few memories but there is no doubt that we learned to read and be numerate.  We began our schooling with a strong sense that education was given to us: the empty vessel concept.   That was the way it was then.   Now consider this example of Prep children in 2011

This term our Inquiry Learning has been about reusing products and recycling to reduce landfill. Prep S and Prep K discovered a problem at our school – we use too much paper. So we worked through a Problem Solving Strategy to decide what we could do to change the way we use paper at St. Luke’s. After much discussion and considering the pros and cons of all ideas, the Preps decided to make a video about how we can stop using too much paper. Together we wrote a script – practised our lines and made props to make our video.” Learning Together 

These  6 year old Australians, presented their learning to the school at assembly inviting their school mates to follow their initiative.  The video has had a number of airings, published on their class blogs,  BrainPop UK site and also used by a Canadian teacher to help her class understand the recycling and re-using message.  It was also shared with their QuadBlogging buddy classes in NZ, UK and USA.   Of course, a lot of modelling from the teachers occurred to achieve these results from such young children, but they are not passive players in their education.

They are connected learners, making a difference that would not have been possible without today’s technologies.   The networks that have been opened to them through the initiatives of their teachers are enormous and I congratulate them.  They now know that they can make a difference and that they have a voice.    I think I would rather be in school now ….. but wait I don’t want to be 6 again !


Picture and title idea : Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano