New Technology for learning is like new technology for driving  

I was recently driving a rental car full of advanced features that car companies hail will help me get from point A to point B safely. But in fact, I felt the car company labeled me an inattentive, high-risk driver in need of a crutch to protect me and those around me. These features actually made me just that, an inattentive high-risk driver, because the features were nothing but a huge distraction. The rear-view mirrors were flashing messages that someone was in my blind spot, which took my attention from the road (even though I didn’t want to change lanes). I was fighting the wheel when changing lanes because it was trying to keep me within the lines. My flasher was on but it was still a battle, which took my concentration from the road. Was this technology helping me? Was it improving my driving habits? Not at all.

In addition, when someone else took the wheel, he tried to pass on the right but we were forced on to the shoulder to avoid colliding with another car changing lanes and who didn’t know he was being overtaken on the right. The car’s safety features weren’t prepared to save us from other inattentive drivers.

I have a solid driving record, and always do a shoulder check so I don’t need or want these features but they were forced on me by someone who didn’t ask what I needed.

So, what about technology in the classroom? I feel it’s the same as driving a high-tech car. In Teaching Naked, Bowen tells us that “it is certainly not necessary to give [technology] to everyone what only a few really need” (2012, p. 269). I feel that it would be great to ask students what they need to succeed in the classroom. Do they need laptops, video assignments, paper-based assignments, recorded lessons, etc.? At first, they probably won’t know what they need to succeed in your course or in higher education in general, but you could ask and have the discussion. Bowen (2012) feels a good Wi-Fi and projector is all that is really needed and additional technology is based on request. So, be careful not to take your students’ focus off the road, sorry, I meant focus off of learning with unnecessary technology.

Perhaps, when we own a Tesla and don’t have to drive at all, and with Google we also don’t have to learn many facts at all.

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