One of the key concepts that came out of the STEM movement ten years back was technology fluency: the incidental and seamless use of technology tools to achieve learning and productivity goals within a discipline or profession. It was significant to distinguish instructional technology from technology as a distinct body of knowledge. Fluency takes the use of technology to the next level; the age of mere technology integration was over.
So how is it, ten years later, everything I read coming out of ed tech social media touts the goal of technology integration, as if it has not already occurred? It’s headlined in conferences, webinars, books and blogs. You would think we were still trying to convince people that technology needed a place in teaching and learning.
The concept of fluency is out there. Gurus and practitioners alike are happy to pronounce the importance of technology-enriched learning experiences “not being about the technology.” My question is: why are educators still trying to make the case? It’s almost as though by talking about it, we ensure that it continues to BE about the technology.
Look at your Twitter feed on any given day. Teachers and tech specialists are posting lessons and strategies for specific brands and models of technology. The premise is that it’s about the learning, but the underlying message is it’s still about the technology.
Vendors must love it, to have educators promoting their hardware and software as if it’s THE way to successfully enrich learning. The culture is so brand-centric, we have entire cadres of teachers proudly posting on their profiles their vendor-conferred designations as “distinguished” this and “certified” that and unwittingly promoting technology brands in the process.
The entire ed tech culture is stuck in its identification with technology brands. And I get it. We love to tinker and learn new tools. It’s like Christmas whenever a new pallet of hardware arrives for deployment. New apps that continue to make collaboration, learning and assessment easier and more effective come out every week. We can literally spend our entire careers chasing the next big breakthrough in what tech has to offer. It’s exciting and stimulating and engaging. But what does any of it have to do with tech fluency?
What other profession spends its time touting its tech toys? When you go into your bank, is technology in your face? How about at your local shopping mall? Your doctor’s office? Supermarket? Gas station? Restaurant? No; the technology is only evident if you look for it. Technology is woven into the background of business processes and professional practices. The tech experts that support these places are all about seamless functionality that support and (more importantly) don’t disrupt business. Why should education be different? Why is it still about the technology?
This year, as we continue our journey living-and-learning-and-doing-and-creating-and-sharing-and-celebrating human potential, I implore ed techies and educators everywhere to thoughtfully, consciously move towards the seamless, incidental use of technology, rather than the gadget-centered tech-gluttony that is pervasive and preventing us from fulfilling its promise.
I’ve been saying it for years: “If we work to realize the promise of technology in the classroom, we are working our way out of our jobs.” It goes against our instincts and interests as techies, but if we are doing our job well, teachers will become self-confident in their technology fluency and the hardware and software will become part of the learning environment backdrop.
What’s you M.O.? Self-interest and self-preservation, or contributing to a new epoch of human innovation and achievement? Stop using “technology integration” in your instructional technology dialogue. Model, argue and advocate for technology fluency.