Unplug? I hope not


Many thanks to @sheilaspeaking for proofreading and making suggestions for today’s post.


I read this article three times yesterday morning during my reading routine before I elected to share it with my followers on Twitter and Facebook.  From TheStar.com, “Let’s unplug the digital classroom” is one professor’s thoughts about the presence of technology in higher education.

My first thought came in the format of a silly tweet that I had sent some time back asking people to refer to this resource “When someone whines about the good ol’ days in education”.  I had no idea when I shared that message just to share a smile with friends that it might actually be used in a serious blog post.

I find this statement so telling. “Almost all professors use computers, projectors, Power Point presentations and the Internet as part of their lectures”  His next sentence doesn’t deserve comment.  But the first, descriptive statement brings back memories of sitting in a lecture hall of 500 being treated as a learning vessel that could somehow be filled up just by the presence of the professor who sat at the front of the hall clicking his way through a canned lecture.

I didn’t have Facebook or a smartphone at the time but my mind managed to wander all the same and my notebooks were full of doodles at the end of the course.

In fact, I would suggest that my marks in university courses were directly related to the size of the classroom and the ability of the professor and teaching assistants to engage me in meaningful, active learning activities.

Elementary and secondary schools have fought this battle.  Students today own and understand different technologies, live in a different world, and have a different set of passions and social awarenesses.  Like it or not, you just cannot ignore it.  The author makes comments about the futurists who haven’t been in a university class for years.  I would ask if he had been in a secondary school classroom to see where his future students live and learn.  Here you will find a decidedly different approach to learning and teaching.  Students engage in smaller groups, invite technology to the journey, have and are encouraged to have different passions to pursue, and enjoy the educational benefits of education that respects personalization.  One size does not fit all here.

Thank goodness, we don’t have to dig through the “bowels of the university library” only to find that the one book is already checked out.  Today’s teacher-librarians are among the most progressive of educators.  They value the benefits of the research process and have updated it to leverage the technologies, and yes, student owned technologies, for the best results.

One of the most promising thing that technology does is provide a level and equitable playing field for students.  Not all schools are able to offer all courses to students and online learning now makes that possible.  How can we deny a student the opportunity to take a course prescribed by the Ontario curriculum just because they attend a school that doesn’t offer it?

Is it perfect?  I would question anyone who says that we’ve found all the answers.  But, I’ll throw my support behind anyone who is at least trying to meet students part way and recognize that the days that students sit facing forward, transcribing the wisdom of a single source in the room, and walk away filled with all the knowledge that they can absorb are long gone.




  1. I talked about this at EdCampTO and I still think it is very true. Educational technology is both a blessing and curse when it comes to changing how we teach and support learning. It can facilitate and help with all kinds of new methods and modes, but it misleads and tricks people. It leads people to think that it is actually about the technology, which of course it isn’t. We still have lots of educators who think it’s about projectors and slides and replacing textbooks with tablets. That, of course, is just window dressing for the more profound change in power that is actually going on.


  2. Let’s continue to power down the learner. I never stopped doodling or reading other material. Why does the student have to change, where is the life long learner at the post secondary level? I see no interest in harnessing the resource available in the classroom. I agree with the last comment !!!


  3. Thanks, Doug – I didn’t do that much really… thanks for engaging me in the process and I enjoyed discussing it with you (online) 🙂


  4. I read that article – still tabbed on my computer to revisit and then this came up. I’m glad this discussion started. Like what Andrew stated in the above comment, often people are easily misled, (or even confused?) from the ideas that surround 21st Century Pedagogies, as related to EdTech. For me, it really isn’t about the device – but about the internet and I wonder when we will say it is a “Rights” issue that children (or adults) cannot access information inside their classrooms the way they can outside. If I can follow along on my Professors lecture on Wikipedia (true story), then isn’t it time that we change how we are delivering information? I am terribly sorry if this offends anyone, but I can’t imagine that one person can deliver, engage, and facilitate the learning as effectively as the myriad of sources, people and networks that now exists from almost anywhere – especially when we can access so many different mediums now. I imagine this must be pretty stressful for those educators that continue to feel that their lecture style wisdom supersedes our information gateways that kids are growing into. More importantly – we no longer need to rely on that one size or style fits all approach. I resonate when you say, “Here you will find a decidedly different approach to learning and teaching. Students engage in smaller groups, invite technology to the journey, have and are encouraged to have different passions to pursue, and enjoy the educational benefits of education that respects personalization”. <– This is true beauty, what we can give to our learners today, isn't it?

    While I am known as being a "tech integrator" – if you come to my classroom, you will soon see that it is simply about learning and relationships. These kids need to feel valued and trusted and importantly not condescended with worksheets and direct instruction, lecture style or assessments that can be "Googled".
    Thanks for the post Doug and for distracting me from marking these math tests. 🙂


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