Thursday, February 2, 2012

"Technology Is Neutral" - Reflections on Noam Chomsky at LWF12

I recently attended the Learning without Frontiers conference in Olympia, UK, as I mentioned last post.  There were so many great speakers, and I took a lot of notes as I listened (love my Goodnotes app!) With so much information to digest, I realize I can't do justice to it in one post. What I thought I would do is post once or twice a week about my personal reflections connected to each speaker.  Sort of a LWF12 reflection series you might say.  I know at some point, LWF will be posting the talks in their entirety, so I can then link my reflections to the actual talks.  Thankfully, Noam Chomsky's talk is already posted.  Take some time to watch it:

There is a lot of great stuff in here, most of which I agree with, some of which I do not, but I want to focus on one point Chomsky makes - that 'technology is neutral' - we must know what we are looking for and how to use it. This resonates with me, since I am so immersed in technology education, both in my professional career, where I train teachers on how to integrate technology effectively and appropriately into math instruction, but also in my personal life, as I work on my education technology doctorate. As Chomsky points out, it is important to ask, before purchasing any technology, does that technology tool fit into the framework of what you are working with (meaning your curriculum, your standards, your school culture, your pedagogical beliefs)?

Particularly lately, technology is being portrayed as the 'thing' that is going to save education. From iPads, online learning, 'flipped' classrooms, to etextbooks, you name it, technology is everywhere and everyone wants it.  And there is some amazing technology out there that is definitely proven to help students learn and achieve.  But, what I think Chomsky is saying, and what I personally have experienced in my years as a classroom teacher, school administrator, and now a professional development provider, is that technology is only as good as the strategies used to implement it and the research done beforehand to make sure it's a good fit for it's end purpose.

Technology in itself will NOT solve any education problem, will not help students learn better or achieve more - technology is neutral until it is used in the right way. This takes training and know-how and understanding of not only how technology fits into what you are teaching but where it fits best. This means doing research before making any technology purchases, including identifying the school culture, the goals and expectations for our students and our teachers, and really researching the variety of technology options out there and which ones best support your goals. What type of training and support are teachers going to need to make sure they have the right strategies and resources to truly make the use of whatever technology is ultimately purchased engaging, relevant to the topics being used, and appropriate?

Technology can be an amazing tool for taking learning to a deeper level, but only if it is purchased with purpose and implemented with training, resources, and support. Just buying the latest and greatest technology device or software or ebook does not mean students are going to learn more and better - it's just a tool, just like a pencil.  And like a pencil, you have to learn how to hold it, sharpen it, and ultimately write with it.  You may have to erase a couple mistakes as well.


David said...


Obviously, I agree with you that the purpose of technology is to act in a supporting role to education, not the other way around. I think you might find a document I'm working on for a keynote next week interesting. See


Karen Greenhaus said...


Thanks for the link and for reading! Going to check it out right now.