Never mind the toys

Oh, how many toys exist to consider.

Kindle! Nook! Reader!
iPhone! Droid! Nexus!
Ning! Twitter! Facebook!
Netbook! Apple tablet! XO tablet!
Smart Board! Active Board! Wiimote!
Google Apps! Chrome!

Education technology blogs appear obsessed with tracking the latest gadgets. Certainly, new product announcements provide a rich source of content for writers. It is easier to reflect on the latest company news and speculate on its effect on education than to consider the core question of education. How does one design rich learning opportunities that will make the greatest difference for students?

Face it: most of the devices above won’t make a bit of difference to teaching and learning. Let’s stop talking about the devices and start talking about students, teachers, and learning environments. I think Warlick has got it right. So does Larry Cuban. Tom Frizelle, too.

Some of our teachers have also got it right. Suspicious about education technology, they tend to shy away from trainings and conversations about computers in the classroom. It’s too bad, because ed tech professionals deserve our reputation for relentless optimism about new technologies. It’s up to us to sing a new tune: all about teaching and learning, all the time.

Let’s promote with our teachers only the technologies that show real promise and stick with them for at least a period of years. Focus on how a technology integrates with an existing, well-designed learning unit or activity. A little skepticism about new technologies may also help demonstrate our ability to think critically.

Forget the new toys. Let’s think deeply about our students, curriculum, and pedagogy.


  1. Vinnie Vrotny says:

    So aptly put, Richard. The focus is on boxes, wires, and software, and not on how this fits in. We have to make sure that we don’t get caught up in the buzz and make sure that we focus on what we do best, which is educate.

    The focus needs to be on teaching and learning communities, empowering and enabling teachers and students to do more and share more than ever before.

  2. Emily Jones says:

    Hear, hear. Some of the technology out there is good, but the conversations about it so seldom are.

  3. Richard says:

    Thanks, Emily. Good to hear from you! I’m curious to hear how technology integration has gone at Putney in the past year.

  4. larry cuban says:

    Dear Richard,

    Nice to connect up again through blogging. Thanks for mentioning my blog in one of your postings. I also read your take on 1:1 laptops at Catlin Gabel and your memories of conversations we had when you were in our class years ago. Larry Cuban

  5. Richard says:

    Thanks, Larry. I’m so glad you’re blogging now.