ICT and learning: 5 myths – busted!

A recent conference I attended was a hotbed of exciting ideas, inspirational speakers and wonderful stories. Many of these focused on how to make the most of what technology can offer the learner.

But whispered amongst the enthusiastic conversation and bubbling excitement, there lurked a handful of myths.

Myths that need busting.

  • MYTH 1: All students are Gen Z, they use technology all the time, they’re all on Facebook and so teachers should be too.
No, they’re not. Some of them are. Some of them are on MSN, MySpace, Twitter, their phones…some are on all, and some are on none (Check out the Pew Report, from 2010).  The concept of ‘digital natives’ has been debunked. And it’s naive to make blanket assumptions about learners. We should do our own research on our own students, be more nuanced as we plan learning with them. They’ll tell us where they are, what they like, how they like to learn. And they’ll appreciate it far more than being signed up for a site where they don’t want to be for a lesson that is driven by some mythical assumption about how young people learn. Myth: Busted!
And the myth that technology must drive learning brings me to the next myth….
  • MYTH 2: I have a whole bunch of iPads and this year I’ve got to figure out how to use them. But they’re bound to make a difference.
The theme here seems to revolve around the perception of technology as the only factor in student learning. Build it – buy it – and they will come. Well, they might, but whether it will help students move towards learning goals, or effectively support key competencies is up for debate. Making learning decisions based solely on access to a particular technology is rather like trying to butter toast using a food processor. You might manage it eventually, but you’ll have wasted a lot of bread, and may not achieve that lovely breakfast you planned. Check out www.tpack.org for an alternative view.  Myth: Busted!
  • MYTH 3: Beginner teachers are behind in the way they use technology for learning, and they have some catching up to do.
Some are. Some aren’t. Some will be young, some will be mature students. It’s likely that many of them will be finding their way through the highly complex spaces of curriculum and pedagogy that lead to effective learning. But that is no predictor of their understanding of the affordances of technology. And the idea of ‘keeping up’ is a fallacy. No one truly keeps up with the firehose of technology development; you may swim in it, direct it, dip a toe in it…but you can’t drink every drop. Myth: Busted!
  • MYTH 4: Older teachers are behind in the way they use technology for learning, and they have some catching up to do.
Ageist. That’s what this myth is. And it deficit theorises that people can’t learn. Those so-called ‘digital immigrants’ may get their passports stamped, apply for citizenship and marry into technology. Who knows? But the myth is no reason to generalise about why people may or may not learn about how to support teaching and learning with tech. Myth: Busted
  • MYTH 5: The minute the 21st century began, we had to teach differently.

And on the stroke of midnight, suddenly we were all getting ready to collaborate, be flexible, creative, make connections, join the dots and go global. No one’s denying that all these are important – but to reduce effective teaching and learning – which, in many cases is more aptly described as socio-constructivist – to the buzz phrase of ’21st Century learning’ is to starting to sound a little dated already. And it is not justification enough to alter the way we teach. Our student and the curriculum should be driving that. Myth:Busted!

So there you have it. A lighthearted shot across the bows. What myths would you like to see busted?

[with apologies to Mythbusters; image source: A Vista de Cerdo blog]

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