As Technology Becomes Easier to Use, Our Depth of Learning Needs to Continue to Increase

I am wrestling with some ideas in my head…bear with me as I try to write to learn.

If you have an iPhone, do you remember taking out the manual and going over how to use your new device? If you do, you are making up this experience in your head because the iPhone does not come with a manual.  The goal of creating the device was to make something so easy to use that you wouldn’t need instructions which ultimately, making it much more marketable and appealing to everyone instead of only to “tech enthusiasts.”

I was thinking recently about technology in our modern-day and how there is this notion that our students are so much better with technology in this generation than in generations past. So this is where I struggle…are our students better with technology than generations previous, or is technology so much easier to use in this generation?  With my Apple 2C, I knew much more about programming and coding as a child than I do now because that was necessary to use the technology in some capacity.

For example, I remember making videos as a child with zero editing other than pausing the camera and making things disappear by standing still and removing an object out of the frame. We once had to create a commercial for an English class (one of my favorite experiences in school) and what took us a week at the time and technology that was not as easily accessible would take less than an hour to do now on my phone.

So then I think that the technology is so much easier, and then I see videos like this with incredible editing and I would have no idea how this is done:

The above video (link here) is incredible and I doubt you could do it simply by using iMovie (maybe you can).

So what I have realized is that in many cases, both things can be true.

Technology is easier for this generation of students than it was for us.

In many ways, this generation is better at technology than the previous generation, probably due to the accessibility.  

But what does any of this mean in the context of education? That is where I am struggling.

In many cases, we can become enamored by what we see presented through technology because it was not our norm.  For example, using a technology that is flashy and looks like nothing that had we as kids, can look and feel like something compelling, but are we seeing true depth and authentic learning?

I thought about this more when I read this post by Blake Harvard titled “A Focus on Learning, Not Fun,” in which he shares the concern that “fun” can sometimes be mistaken for “engagement” and authentic learning:

Recently I’ve become more concerned with the ties among three words and their use in the classroom: fun, engagement, and learning. I see more and more teachers comment on creating fun lessons that engage students. I don’t know that there’s anything too terribly wrong with that premise, as long as learning remains the focus.  I fear, however, that upon reflection of a lesson, fun becomes the measuring stick of the lesson’s success and learning takes a backseat or becomes almost an option for the lesson.

This concern rings true for technology in the classroom as well. Technology may give the glitz and glamor, but the focus should always be the learning.  In many cases, I have been guilty of pursuing the “easy app” that would appeal to my students when I should have been focused on learning and long term goals for learning.

Technology will continue to become easier, but that doesn’t mean the learning will always be deeper with its use without a teacher or learner’s thoughtful intervention.  Technology has removed many barriers, but thinking should not be one of them.  We can do many things now with technology that we couldn’t do before which is why I am such an advocate of meaningful use of technology in learning. It is essential that we are aware our focus is always on the depth of learning, not only on the cosmetics of the process.

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