Note: I didn’t get a chance to finish this blog entry when I started it some time ago, and so, have decided to leave it in its “unfinished” state and just put it out on the blog before I inadvertently delete it.


If the role of the computer is so slight that the rest can be kept constant, it will also be too slight for much to come of it.”  
The quote is from Seymour Papert, ascribed to him by Peter Skillen in the comments of DougPete’s blog entry below. The quote struck me, since it appears to challenge the idea that technology will become “everyday,” common to all situations without having a profound effect on the way we do business. I’ve often found the success of the “integrating technology” perspective to lack substance, as DougPete has, because traditional technology integration approaches have failed so utterly in schools today. 

That’s not to say the approaches might not have worked, but the culture of schools resists change something fierce, and often, we lack the individual leadership to facilitate change needed for technology adoption to become widespread. That, in itself, might be taken as either a condemnation of how we’ve setup schools today, or a simple acceptance that you can’t make anyone do anything…you can encourage them, woo them, to try new things over time and by example.

Papert’s quote helps me imagine technology as a stick of dynamite, which when embedded into a situation, explodes our limited concept of how learning should be approached. When I only had 3 Macintosh computers in my room, I spent an awful lot of time crafting activities that involved cooperative learning. As a fairly new teacher, after using the technology then ending up in a non-technology environment, I found that cooperative learning continued to be a worthwhile approach to facilitating learning with at-risk students. Over time, my passion for using technology has dragged me into many an approach that I probably would not have considered relevant.

Finding relevance in instructional approaches–cooperative learning, differentiated instruction, problem-based learning, project-based learning–has often involved trying to exist at the intersection of these approaches with technology. I am reminded of TPACK and how difficult it is to exist at the center of the diagram. Often, these diagrams and blendings of approaches with technology appear to be much ado about nothing. I can say that since I’ve spent my share of time blending approaches. I still recall the model I came up with that put together Dr. Judi Harris’ activity structures, Eisenberg and Berkowitz’ Big6 and problem-based learning. Even with problem-based learning, an approach I was introduced to by Bill Stepien at an ASCD special event convincing me that I’d achieved the pinnacle of instructional approaches, it’s clear that implementing PBL in schools is challenging.

Implementation is challenging because people seldom believe or get bored or whatever. That’s why stakeholder support–until they change due to attrition or other factors–is so powerful when combined with planning. Still, this kind of commitment rarely lasts longer than a few years. At least, that’s been true in my experience. I’ve come to see this as “The Golden Age” only last 2-3 years…then, a new boss comes in with a different vision, a fundamental shift happens that makes the previous vision untenable, or, as Peter Senge points out, the System Strikes Back

One can almost imagine institutional change, not unlike Star Wars, where Obi Wan Kenobi sneaks in to disable the shield generator or power generator (you know what I mean). Chris Argyris’ Good Communication that Blocks Learning reminds me of what happens when the System wakes up….

Organizational Defensive Routines consist of all the policies, practices, and actions that prevent human beings from having to experience embarrassment or threat and, at the same time, prevent them from examining the nature and causes of that embarrassment or threat.

View a highlighted version of “Why Isn’t It About the Pedagogy? « doug – off the record” at

Just the highlights:

* Why Isn’t It About the Pedagogy?

* Posted on January 10, 2011                                                                                                by dougpete                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               5

* I’ve railed against the concept of “integrating technology”.  The term itself implies that technology is an additional part of the classroom where it really shouldn’t be.  In a perfect world, it should be just another tool that a teacher may or may not elect to use to meet a specific purpose.

* From where I sit and gaze into the future, the conversation will always be about the technology.  In education, most really haven’t got their heads around the use of technology and what it could actually do and, more importantly, what it should look like.

* There are lots of supporters, few blockers, and an understanding of what can be done when the technology fits.

* Access and abilities differ from district to district, from school to school, and even from classroom to classroom.  We’ve got the high flyers who have a sense of where they’re going and we also have those who aspire to be a high flyer but are held back by their abilities, the access to technology, the type of technology, or even does the technology work.

* There isn’t a single answer except that standing still isn’t helpful.

* Today’s reality is more like what we see in the foreground – students collaborating using a piece of technology.  It’s a matter of staying current.

* If embracing current technology is OK for them to use to reach their clientele, why isn’t it for classrooms that are trying to do the same?

* if you care about those faces that are smiling back at you, you need to be part of the discussion in this less than perfect world.  That discussion absolutely needs to be about the pedagogy but it also has to include the technology

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure