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Don’t plan for technology; plan for learning

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You never know how someone will react when you suggest that they junk their title and replace it with a new one that leads to a different focus of work—not to mention the confusion this could cause across the faculty, or the possible political tension it might generate.

I was about to suggest that the title “Director of Educational Technology” was too narrow for the scope of the work that needed to be accomplished to improve learning for students at this highly successful International School in Asia where I was consulting.   The traditional title, which focused on the tools themselves, did not convey the complexity of the problem to be solved.

Even if all teachers learned how to use all of the available tools—a nearly impossible and hugely time-consuming task—this might not lead to improved learning. I have watched students in laptop schools sitting in rows, taking notes on their machines from a teacher who is giving a decade-old lecture on an interactive whiteboard. While this kind of implementation might be deemed a success in terms of the technical adoption, it’s nothing more than the same script with new tools—and we shouldn’t expect any different results. There has to be more to this massive investment than introducing new tools, only to end up with same work.

Don’t get me wrong—tools are certainly essential. Let’s agree that every student needs a digital device, just as every student once needed a pencil and a notebook. But, just as a better pencil will not lead to improved learning, “better technology” might not, either. If we don’t redesign the culture of teaching and learning and ask some fundamental questions about the design of learning environments, our investment in technology will be wasted. Shouldn’t we define the problem as a learning design problem, rather than a technology problem?

(Next page: Learning Design, explained)

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