swim, chem, baseball, I talk with my hands

Conceding the Conversation

Tech Support Comic
I have noticed something about my approach to educational technology that isn’t as common as I had thought. My thinking is always centered around this single point: who owns the conversation? First off, let’s define “conversation” before proceeding.

Let’s get real here: I have never backed off of the assumption that I control what goes on my classroom. In every manner I know that it is my central duty to create an environment that supports learning. This includes all steps in the process, of course. Think of these questions:

  • Have I prepared a lesson for the day?
  • Am I on time to class?
  • How have I centered myself to be ready for the students that greet me?
  • Have I properly acquired the materials necessary to perform the laboratory investigation?
  • Do I have a backup plan in case the lesson fails?
  • How do I support those students who learn differently than I teach?
  • Is my classroom in order – inviting yet ready for the work of the day?

I can’t imagine anybody challenging me on any of these topics in a serious manner. (Oh, I suspect that we could get into a philosophical discussion about the construct of the classroom and the paradigm of the teacher as facilitator as compared to content provider but this is built into the above questions.) Yet I am constantly amazed by thoughtful, accomplished educators conceding the next questions to others:

  • What technology do I use to support my teaching?
  • What new tools are available to implement to help my students achieve?
  • How am I helping students see beyond the boundaries using tools available right now?

There is an odd notion present among teachers of many ages about students and their use of technology. “Those students in my class are so tech-savvy that I am not sure they need to be coached.” “They know so much more than me that I don’t try and teach them because they teach themselves.” “What I am doing is just fine and the technology just takes care of itself – besides, the computers will change every few years anyway.” Um, yeah, right?

Students know a great deal about technology alright, but they know about THEIR technology. They know how to use their phones, their iPods and their computers to surf the Internet. I am sure they know how to find porn and I am pretty sure they know how to communicate using messaging and any other form of chatting possible. What they don’t understand, though, is how to truly optimize the meaning of all of this information. While they may have access to all sorts of info-crap in this small venue, they have certainly never been coached about how to make sense of information.

While I love that over the past 20 years students no longer think of me as the sole answer to their science questions, I loathe that they think any answer obtained is valid. In fact, they are less skeptical of information than they might have been in decades past.Imagine this scenario:

  • 1980 Teacher – the electron, proton and neutron are the fundamental particles of matter and form the basis of all the material you see in this room.
  • 1980 Student – Really? You are full of shit! You have a degree in PE and you coach the basketball team. What do you know?
  • 1980 Teacher – It’s in the book, you smart ass.
  • 1980 Student – What if the book is wrong?

Compared to this scenario:

  • 2010 Teacher – the electron, proton and neutron are fundamental particles
  • 2010 Student – whatever, I already Googled this – tell me about Super String Theory
  • 2010 Teacher – well, in order to understand advanced topics we need to start with the basics
  • 2010 Student – whatever
  • 2010 Teacher – String theory is complex and requires a strong basis in physics and, at its heart, is still a theory. I am glad that you are inspired but let’s use this as motivation to learn the basics
  • 2010 Student – It says here on “” that you rarely know what you are talking about and I have Google to tell me the truth

So, is this the same form of insubordination or a new phenomenon not seen before? Well I suggest that the answer lies in the fact that we have to own to conversation by providing these fertile minds with opportunities to understand the variable nature of knowledge and how to sift through the crap to find meaning in the vast arrays of data that could mean absolutely nothing.

We may not know the specifics of the technology involved at any moment but we should never give up on the central purpose: making meaning of the information. Regardless of how the information is obtained, it is our job to help students be judicious consumers of knowledge and information. How are we doing in this arena?


  • How do see this conversation in your teaching role?
  • What challenges might you face in this conversation?


This entry was posted on 2011-04-14 by in EDU4113, Philosophy, Reflections, Stories, Technology and tagged , , .


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