Which side are you on?

, via Wikimedia Commons”]“There is good reason to believe that if the phonograph proves to be what its inventor claims that it is, both book-making and reading will fall into disuse. Why should we print a speech when it can be bottled, and why should we learn to read when, if some skilled elocutionist merely repeats one of ‘George Eliot’s’ novels aloud in the presence of a phonograph, we can subsequently listen to it without taking the slightest trouble?” (A quote taken from I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works by Nick Bilton)

I  have been fascinated by the above book talking about our present society and how we are adapting to the massive amount of technology.  It is definitely something that applies to schools and the parallels in are obvious in education.

Although I know that change is not always accepted, especially in our society within the areas of innovation, it is amazing to hear the stories Bilton shares about our past and seeing others struggle with the same thing:

“It was claimed that trains would blight crops with their smoke and terrify livestock with their noise, that people would asphyxiate if carried at speeds of more than twenty miles per hour, and that hundreds would yearly die beneath locomotive wheels or in fires and boiler explosions. Many saw the railway as a threat to the social order, allowing the lower classes to travel too freely, weakening moral standards and dissolving the traditional bonds of community.” That’s right: Some people theorized that if humans traveled at more than twenty miles per hour, they would suffocate. Or worse. Anne Harrington, chair of Harvard’s history of science department, found that scientists also believed that traveling at a certain speed “could actually make our bones fall apart.”

I have been on a train several times and my bones are still in place!

As we see many schools either trying to embrace this technology in the classroom, or else push it all together, I wonder about how we parallel to the rest of society.  At one time, online banking was something that many people did not trust as a reliable way to use this service, but in my own life, I now can’t imagine not having this service.  If you look at the music industry, their reluctance to embrace this technology sooner rather than later has probably led them to losing a substantial amount of money. Itunes has helped with this but the damage that has been done through the continuous battle with record companies and ultimately, the consumer, has led to irreversible damage (watch RIP: A Remix Manifesto for a fascinating documentary on this and copyright laws). The difference is that in education, I am not worried about losing money; I am more worried about losing our kids.

We need to embrace this technology and give our students the opportunity to become not only consumers, but creators of information.  Bilton shares a FANTASTIC story of Malia Obama capturing her father’s inauguration on her own cell phone.

As the president awaited his swearing in, his ten-year-old daughter, Malia Obama, sat behind him taking pictures with her digital camera. There were literally hundreds of thousands of people taking pictures of that event—pictures of Barack Obama would appear on the front page of almost every newspaper and news website around the world—yet his daughter wanted to document the event through her own eyes.

Our children need to have the opportunity to be creators and tell their stories in ways that are meaningful and relevant to them.  At our school, we have made tremendous strides to give the power to our students to share these stories through the forms of blogs and different forms of media.  It is essential that our students continue to have power over their learning and how they create and share their own knowledge.

As I close this post, I leave you with the following quote from Bilton (definitely a must read) and a question:

You can lament the changes that are happening today—tomorrow’s history—convincing yourselves of the negatives and refusing to be a part of a constantly changing culture. Or you can shake off your technochondria and embrace and accept that the positive metamorphosis will continue to happen, as it has so many times before. Young people today are building a new language, not demolishing an old one. And as you will soon see, developments like these new words are helping create significant and meaningful new communities and new relationships that are an essential part of our changing culture and our wireless future.

Which side are you on?



  1. Brilliant! I'm sharing this post with admin from my district – a must read to push some thinking beyond the fear factor. I particularly love this line: "Our children need to have the opportunity to be creators and tell their stories in ways that are meaningful and relevant to them." Is creating not possibly the most important skill – encompassing analysis, synthesis and evaluation and then moving one step further – creating something new? Thanks for another thought-provoking post, George :)


  2. George, why do I have to pick a side? Change happens despite how we view it; perhaps better referred to as "evolution."

    I'm excited to be living in a time when the evolution of technology appears to be occurring at a very rapid pace, and as jacked as anyone about the technology possibilities relative to improved and enhanced teaching and learning environments, but perceiving a dichotomy within the realm of tech in society/education serves no positive purpose.

    Rather than placing myself on one side or the other, I'm going right down the middle to keep learning from those who get it more than I do, and to continue sharing with and mentoring those who don't.

    Sounds like a great book, will pick that one up.


    • If you are working with people who don't "get it" and helping them so that they do, didn't you pick a side?

  3. To me not a question of "getting it" or "not getting it"… there are those further along the spectrum of tech integration/knowledge than me, and those not as far. I elevate (like playing golf) my tech game by learning from better players than me, and share what I know with those who identify themselves as less capable/knowledgeable.

    Can there not be a spectrum of "getting" tech integration? Would help alleviate the divide many on each extreme end of the spectrum feel as "uber techies" or "neophyte techies"… the us and them scenario- can't be good in a teaching and learning environment that at least for now, will likely include skilled and not-so-skilled at tech teachers.

    • I don't think this post is about those who "get it" (that was what you used in your first comment) but more about embracing this notion that this is useful. If you see the value in it for schools, that is the step needed in the right direction in my opinion.

  4. George, Sean, I think that both of you are right. A continuum definitely exists in terms of people's comfort level with respect to tech integration in education. All of the educators I interact with regularly recognize that the presence of technology in ours and our students' lives is going to continue to grow. 'Most' also acknowledge that technology can have a positive impact on student learning. What most people seem to struggle with the most is gaining comfort with the tools themselves and figuring out HOW to implement it into their students' learning. A few of us have been working hard with our colleagues to introduce technology. I have found that doing some co-planning and then going into classes to work with teachers has helped them feel most supported. It has proven to be good learning for the classroom teacher and for me as well. The struggle we find is that there are just not enough of us and not enough hours in a day to provide the necessary support to others. Despite this, I remain encouraged by all of the teachers who are opening up to the idea of incorporating various forms of technology and are looking for the 'how'!

    As quickly as I say this, I also know that there is a small number of educators who refuse to embrace the technology. It is clear which side they are on! They use a range of common excuses like 'Technology doesn't fit well in my teaching area', 'Technology is for the young up-and-comers to teaching' or 'I've taught this class successfully for a long time without technology so why should I change now?' I find myself frustrated by this unwillingness to improve because schools should be learning organizations, for kids and for adults.

    I am curious to know how each of you are spreading the word and supporting your colleagues as they try to improve their teaching using technology.

    Thanks for the post!


  5. This book is next on my Kindle list… (aka my excuse for being anti-social list)

    I think I am the only person in the universe sometimes who really LIKES change. I rewrite my curriculum every two years just because. When I start to feel stagnant, I chop my hair off.

    Change is so un-nerving because we are taught that to belong, we have to be mainstream. The weak and the sick and the different, just like in animal packs, are cast out of the herd and become easy prey. Yes, there is an occasional hero who makes it to the head of the pack, but the truth remains that this deep seeded belief has not entirely left us yet. That is why there is still discrimination: against race, religion, even being "different."

    But there is hope. Look at mainstream media – more and more TV shows, songs, and movies are about societies "outcasts." Now, being different is almost cool. Nerds can get chicks, football players can sing and dance. If you will notice, stories now start off with the character who is different, but he/she becomes more "mainstream" in the end. It's a long way to go to acceptance and embracing differences, but it is a start.

    I wonder at the emerging anti-bullying/emotional wellness initiatives out there – wouldn't most of these problems be better solved by creating a society, starting with an educational institution, that asks schools to fit each student, not each student to fit the school?

    Having grown up in a conformist environment, with a conformist educational system, I still feel like an outsider, even as an adult. I embrace who I am now, and I actually think I am pretty cool, but it's still hard to be seen as the "different one." I just try my best now to create an environment where no one else has to feel like that.

  6. Aaron,

    I'm leading our schools AISI technology integration project, I facilitate workshops on behalf of the ATA PD Instructor Corps and have done conference presentations on the topic of tech integration as well.

    I created a tech wiki to align with our tech integration action research at my school so staff can connect in distributed ways. I'm also working on an initiative (collaborating with a major mobile provider) to put 1 to 1 MLD's in the hands of our fifth grade students. A colleague who we've given 0.3 equivalent time on our schedule to provide tech support to teachers (team teaching, planning, software and cloud computing support) and I offer "Tech Tuesday's" every second Tuesday for staff interested in exposing themselves to a new skill or service.

    Amid all of this I remain vividly aware that technology is a valuable tool that can enhance already good pedagogy, but also that each teacher is traveling a unique path of their own relative to tech integration and falls somewhere on the spectrum of proficiency. I am sensitive to this as I lead by example without judgment regarding the personal choices our teachers make as they explore technology on their own distributed terms.

  7. The difference is that in education, I am not worried about losing money; I am more worried about losing our kids.

    Young people today are building a new language, not demolishing an old one.

    thank you George. we could eat up those 2 sentences alone – for a whole week – and still have so much more to learn.

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