Monthly Archives: November 2011

when is technology not technology?

I’ve recently been going through the Technology subject documents of the Middle Years Program (MYP) of the International Baccalaureate’s (IB) Online Curriculum Centre (OCC). Aside from being a lot of letters, it’s also where I have to go to get the latest on the MYP program that I teach. The other day, I came across this document, which has added to a stream of information that has changed my thinking on what I can and am supposed to be doing.

Download this file

(source: IB OCC)

So when is technology not technology? When it’s better.

The stuff of technology no longer matters. As a society, I think we’ve all become adept enough at embracing some form of technology. People I never suspected would do so are tweeting, gaming, checking in, and blogging. Today’s software and tools (and much of the hardware, too) have a approachability to them that we haven’t seen before.

But back to that document I linked to above. What I’m not supposed to be teaching in a technology class are discrete skills like graphing, spreadsheets, and video conferencing. And that’s great because, taken at face value, they’re really just a snapshot of what someone can do in front of a computer. I’m supposed to teach how to think about a problem and design a solution using any of a number of technologies, preferably left up to student choice and their analysis of the best tool for the job. I’m supposed to teach them how to think, apply, and make.

Speaking of making, I was absolutely blown away by an Ignite presentation given by Jaymes Dec on the Marymount School’s Fab Lab. I can’t do the talk any justice by trying to summarize it, but we’re talking palm-meets-forehead obvious — kids inspired to design, create, and build using technology, obvious connections to school and community by creating amazing signage for a new building, and in general taking technology use and creation to a whole new level.

It’s not that other schools aren’t doing it — we have amazing things like MakerBots, laser cutters, and power tools — but I don’t know that they’re doing it on this scale. 

What I love about this is that students can find themselves in uncomfortable situations while still utilizing technology. When we change the task, they can still be digital immigrants. And if we teach them how to think, design, and iterate, we’re teaching them much more than we could in a conventional technology skills class.