There is a belief – all too common – that technology in education is the magic bullet that will get the result we all wish for, an education system that builds critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity. Alas, there is no magic bullet.
Seymour Papert, back in 1987, warned against technocentrism, a belief that technology in itself has an effect. He pointed out that it is always about how the technology is used. An axe, alone in a forest, unseen, untouched has no effect at all – it is just a tool. A herring, in the hands of a knight who says Ni, despite its flacidity, is far more likely to chop down a tree simply because it is being used with purpose. The image is mine, not Seymour Papert’s! I will try to introduce a shrubbery later to sustain the allusion.
There is also a belief, rather more sympathetic, that technology automatically supports constructivist pedagogies, and that the mere whiff of a computer will dispel all the evils of instructivism. Learners will instantly become active, and engaged. One wishes that it were so, but alas, as anyone who has taken a MOOC recently may attest, technology is far more likely to be used as an instrument of lecture and passivity!
The only way to ensure that ICTs are used in education to support active learning is to ensure that ICTs are used to support active learning! As teachers we need to experiment and enact our ideas, be prepared to fail, and build and reflect on our successes. In short we need to find out what works and what doesn’t – for us, for our learners, in our schools. That’s where the shrubbery comes in! The only way to get a shrubbery is to plant one. It takes planning, work and a certain touch! There – I managed to get all my Monty Python allusions in!
The serious point is that we also need to share what we are doing. Sharing best practice lies at the heart of transforming education.