Clarifying the purpose #edchat #edtech

I have struggled mightily to sort out why it is important for educators to become ICT leaders rather than ICT resistors or luddites. We know that effective teachers have practiced in public education without the benefit of ICT. We know the use of ICT in educational practice does not necessarily determine effective teaching and learning. We know that the use of ICT in educational practice can contribute to the success of students who normally struggle to succeed in traditional, text-based educational practices. We know that the presence of ICT in classrooms can act as a distracting influence, drawing student’s attention away from intended learning activities.

So there is no deterministic argument for incorporating ICT into learning in schools. The quality of learning in schools is not determined by an educators’ use of ICT, although an effective educator may amplify their efforts through the use of ICT, just as an ineffective educator may amplify their efforts through the use of ICT.

ICT neither determines effective, nor ineffective teaching and learning experiences in a classroom. So, why should any educator take on the difficulty of incorporating ICT into their teaching practice?

I argue that this approach to considering whether ICT is valuable in educational practice is a red herring that distracts from the real issue of ICT in human society. We are a technology dependent species. If we stripped away every instance of technology in our human existence right this moment, our human species would cease to exist within short order. Even in the most favourable climate conditions, without the use of technology, we would soon perish. In fact, it is quite likely, if all our existing technological devices, processes, and networks vanished, we would probably immediately start scrambling to take advantage of whatever resources were at hand, to use them to enable, enrich or enhance our survival.

This is the critical aspect of ICT that is not discussed in education. It isn’t whether ICT will enrich, enable or enhance current educational philosophy, curriculum, or pedagogy. It is that our human existence is dependent on our relationship to technology. Our relationship is not determined by the technologies we have available, neither are the available technologies we have at hand determined by our use. Our relationship with technology is constantly evolving, in response to the dynamic contextual conditions of life. Our uses of technology are informed by cultural practices and our individual perceptions of possible applications of technologies to improve our condition. The technologies we have at hand are informed by evolving technological capabilities, both in our increasing skill with particular technologies, but also our adaptations of technologies, to better suit our particular purposes.

Our relationship with technology is evolving, necessary, and co-creative. This is the aspect of ICT that is neglected in educational discussions about ICT. This is the discussion that will change educational practices to adapt to the evolving technological conditions that are being co-created on a global scale outside of educational institutions.

When educators reduce their conversations about ICT to the use of ‘tools’ in an educators’ ‘tool-box’ to accomplish pre-determined educational objectives, they are doing a profound disservice to their profession, but also to the students they teach and the society they serve.

There are alarming examples in all areas of human endeavour, that our uses of ICT need to be educated, in terms of the significance of these uses and an evolving human consciousness, cultural practices, and sustaining productive human communities.

This is the argument that needs to be made. We do not engaged with ICT in education for the sake of particular curriculum nor pedagogical techniques. We engage with ICT because the future of our human society depends on an informed, critical, and co-creative relationship with this new class of technological involvement. Educators must take up a leadership role in preparing subsequent generations for these evolving conditions because no one else is.

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