“Stupid” Tech is a Matter of Perspective

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Published on: March 10, 2014

“Chromebooks are stupid.”

This is what one of our high school teachers told a group of students not long after we introduced staff members (this teacher included) to the Google Chromebook. He didn’t see the use of it, didn’t like the fact he could not install Microsoft Word on it, so he declared it stupid.

This is one of the biggest obstacles to technology adoption in the district I work for: teachers don’t see the use for a device, therefore it is useless.

What is not stupid? What already works. What they’ve been doing for years.

Last week, my 12-year-old son and I had a discussion about television. When he was born, I already had satellite and a DVR. He had access to 24-hour kids’ programming from networks like Disney, Nickelodeon, and the Cartoon Network, as well as whatever we recorded (and he got good at skipping commercials early). A few years ago our family became cordcutters, and he and his younger siblings are now used to watching their favorite shows on demand on Netflix and YouTube.

In short, they’ve always had TV available any time they wanted.

I explained to them it worked a bit different when I was a kid. We had a few cartoons before school started (at least in our market), and then there were cartoons after school until about 5pm. I told them how we used to look forward to Saturday morning cartoons for our biggest block of entertainment.

“So, you could only watch TV at certain times of day?” he asked.

“That’s right.”

“That’s stupid.”

Wow. We certainly never thought so, but that was the technology and availability at the time. Compared to the way things work today, though, it would indeed be stupid for the networks to return to that setup.

It occurred to me, then, that “stupid” is just a matter of perspective.

What will these teachers think of their classrooms after we introduce technology? If we can get to the point every student has a device—any device—in hand daily, and they’re collaborating, communicating, and creating electronically, what will teachers think of their traditional pen and paper homework? Of having to compete for lab usage? Of spending prep time making photocopies? Of chasing down students for lost/missing homework?

To be clear, that’s not to say they’re doing anything “stupid” now. It works, and students are learning and getting their work done.

But what’s the role of technology? To make things easier. It streamlines processes and brings in new capabilities. If a teacher finds an electronic workflow that works for him, then maybe he has his own epiphany:

“Wow, why didn’t I start doing it this way sooner?”

I’ve seen it time and time again. The trick is bridging that gap in perspective.

Once we can get our staff across that gap, we’ll start seeing some real progress.

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