by Mike Ribble
In the classroom, technology provides many opportunities to research, communicate, and understand the world around us with new tools and ideas that we never had before. There are some outside the education field who say, “Why can’t the technology teach the students?” or “Why do we need highly educated and expensive teachers in the classroom if a computer can do the same thing?”
The answer is that these tools do not yet possess the ability to realize all the complexities that go into educating a student. We need to be trained educators to help students focus on concepts because teachers bring experiences to students that would not be available without them.
Teachers understand the balance that is needed in the classroom. Students still need many basic skills that can be difficult to grasp from just reading a computer screen. For example, if students just learned by using the shorthand writing of their peers online, then even language skills would begin to deteriorate. Some would contend, “Why is this such a big deal if someone understands what we mean?”
The goal of education is not simply to share words but to expand on them, to build on the ideas of the past. Language and our human interaction allow us to understand better and empathize with one another. Our ancestors had basic language skills and ability to share them, but it wasn’t until they built on these ideas to build tools, cities, and communities that we became more than what we were before. Our hope is to refine and expand our language and skills, not to just understand our wants and needs.
The goal of education is not just to pass along what has been done in the past to those in the future, but to improve on them and make us better people. Technology has difficulty with these concepts because it does not understand concepts such as “good,” “bad,” “beautiful,” or “ugly.” Computers understand what we provide to them but make no judgment on these ideas. This is why, if there are issues with the use of technology, it is not the system’s problem. It's a problem of those who use the system. We should embrace the skills from the past but not just learn for learning’s sake. We need to take these skills and help ourselves and others to become not just better people, but better citizens.
Dr. Mike Ribble is the director of technology for the Manhattan-Ogden Public Schools in Manhattan, Kansas. Dr. Ribble has been working on the topic of digital citizenship for more than a decade. His work includes the books Digital Citizenship in Schools, 2nd Edition and Raising a Digital Child. He is also co-leader for the Digital Citizenship Professional Learning Network for the International Society for Technology in Education. Dr. Ribble has presented both in the United States and abroad on the topic of digital citizenship.
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