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EdTech: Driving Penguins

Sometimes people are too busy to actually hear what you are saying.


Start with a joke

Typically they tell you to start a lecture or speech with a joke. Sometimes I carry that a bit too far. Usually my entire lecture is one long extended joke—one with a direct relevance to the subject at hand, I have been assured. The following joke I truly love and believe to be very relevant to the state of education today:

One hot summer day, a man is driving around in a station wagon with a flock of penguins in the back. While driving down the road he is pulled over by a cop.


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The cop says, “What are you doing with all those penguins?”

Man replies, “Taking them for a ride.”

Cop says, “I want you to take those penguins to the zoo right now!”

Man: “Yes, officer.”

The next day the cop sees the man driving around again with the penguins in the back of the station wagon. Again he pulls the man over.

Cop says, “I thought I told you to take those penguins to the zoo.”

Man replies, “I did. Today we’re going to the park.”

Obviously he didn’t get what the cop meant because he was so busy driving the penguins around.  This is kind of what it is like dealing with academics. They are so busy following curriculum and orders that they don’t realize what they are doing to the “penguins.”

What does this have to do with the use of technology in education? Well, kind of everything! Most of the time academics are so busy with their own solution to a problem they forget what the actual problem is. They are so caught up in the solution they don’t stop to take a second look and say, “If it is this difficult, is it right?” Instead they just think how hard they are working and think this must be worthwhile because it is taking them so long, it must have relevant content.

After almost a quarter century in teaching I have come to realize if you can’t explain something in 10easy steps it is probably too difficult and not going to work. All you will do is confuse students. Now I am not saying students shouldn’t learn to keep a concept for extended periods of time; what I am saying is do it in short digestible bursts. Then put them all together in one longer project or exercise. Of course we need a rubric. Paaleeease. Rubrics are for administrators who don’t get the concept of teaching.

It is very simple. If the student can get the answers right and understand the concept in a practical sense and can then apply that to other initiatives then they have learned something that day. We are making things too difficult in order to please the Paper Gods of administration and budgets. You know, the ones that justify their high six-figure salaries to whomever by presenting such a mound of paper no one has the time to actually check it for validity and worth.

This is what is happening when it comes to the use of technology in education. Companies are snowing administrators into thinking the bigger the technology, the better it must be. Well I am telling you are, those theories are wrong.

Bigger isn’t always better…

Just try to keep it simple. Follow all the old criteria—it is valid—just do it in a new form of interactive multimedia. Use everything at your disposal. But you must use it appropriately. Video for performance, interactivity for testing, the Internet for research, Web applications for documentation. Make sure you have the ability to share the content at all times and allow for the ability to scale the content. Let the students add on their research for all to share—of course it has to be validated. This is the proper use of technology in a classroom.

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