Unexamined Idolatry

Dina Strasser on Jeff’s voluntary withdrawl of tech from his classroom:

He has the right to refuse ill-supported tech; or obtuse tech; or irrelevant tech; or redundant tech; or tech whose outcomes have not been measured sufficiently enough to warrant its judicious use in a classroom by a thoughtful teacher.

And let me tell you: blogger and Twitterer and 1:1 lab-er and Goggle Doc-er and Webinar-er and Voicethreader and Skyper and nascent info designer though I may be, I’m beginning to suspect that the ed tech world is rife with the stuff enumerated in [the paragraph quoted here]. I’ve never in my life seen a phrase like “but it’s the 21st century” get more unexamined idolatry.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. Let’s not entirely mischaracterize this…I’m not withdrawing “tech from [my] classroom”–still running the iPod, still bitching when the classroom’s one computer is in the shop for a week. Just not fighting for lab space for something that doesn’t seem as important as it once did.

  2. Just hold still and be the poster child for frustration with technology, Jeff. This won’t hurt a bit.

    Also don’t want to mischaracterize myself here, either– I’m still learning a lot of the techs I listed. This is one of the reasons tech currently makes very limited appearances in my classroom, but there are others. Extremely circumscribed support is one reason, as Jeff notes. A fervent desire to think about my computer, and how it affects my and my kids’ very WAY OF BEING, is another. I’ve blogged pretty extensively on this recently.

    I also think that there’s something to be said for subject-specific applications of technology. Let’s take “the juicy detail” of good writing, which often comes out of strong sensory awareness. Witness Dan’s last post on the blogger anecdote.

    Do I therefore want to take the majority of my instructional time to work on Voicethread (and in the process extend the time their senses are stripped down to two out of five), or take kids outside and brainstorm adjectives that describe how the trees sound when snow falls off their branches? Which will result in the best learning outcomes for this group of kids– in ENGLISH class? Where are their foundations best laid? Where is the balance?

  3. Right. Sorry if I’ve associated the two of you too closely with my personal causes.

    What I appreciate about the four parties loosely sucked into this thing (me, the two of you, and Scott) is that each seems to take the burden fully upon his- or herself to not bore kids. Which is great.

  4. Aw, Dan, the poster child thing wasn’t a shot at you– much more at myself. No apologies required. I think we’re on the same page. And I am grateful to be hashing my thoughts out with good minds.

  5. I recently downgraded the use of technology in my classroom which resulted in increased student involvement in the lessons. The reason I did this is that I share a data projector with the next-door teacher and I think she’s better at bearing her fangs and growling than I am.

    For her, the means of the presentation is the whole shebang. For me, I can teach just as well with an overhead or some colorful chalk and my board.

    And wouldn’t you know it, I get more student buy-in this way. When I don’t readily have a visual but ask my students to go up to the board and work it out, they no longer sit like passive lumps.


    All that said, I think that even with focus on design –
    (by the way, all my worksheets and lab procedures use the same design now and the students are much better at putting their names on their papers)
    – I still think that good design does is a poor sub for lack of content. And I believe that students are incredibly tolerant of design, when the content is engaging.