Teacher-Authors: From my Education Blog–Face-palmed myths about tech ed

Here is one of the popular posts from my Ask a Tech Teacher blog for March-April:

Face-palmed myths about tech ed

I’ve been teaching technology for over fifteen years. While student familiarity with this tool has improved, one thing that never varies is the myths surrounding how to teach with it. It’s a constant struggle with parents and colleagues who have far more enthusiasm regarding this subject than expertise. Just when I think I’ve got everyone coloring between the lines, things change and I have to get a different paintbrush.

Here are some of the most common face-palming, head-slapping myths that I have to correct:

Kids are digital natives. They get it.

Let’s look at that term, “digital native”. Techopedia defines it as:

a person born or brought up during the age of digital technology and therefore familiar with computers and the Internet from an early age.

I agree about the familiarity. When these “digital natives” show up in my classroom, they have played with iPads and their parents’ smartphones enough to know how to swipe, tap, squeeze, and shake, but they know none of the nuances required to morph the device from a toy to a productivity tool. This is contrary to popular belief — that being raised with iPads means they understand them.

To be fair, kids who use technology regularly at home do have both a baseline set of skills and a fearless enthusiasm for anything with a screen and a power button. We adults envy that confidence, unlike our abject fear that touching the device wrong will break it.

But what kids possess is bravado, not knowledge. Knowledge must be taught.

It’s important to remember that lots of kids aren’t raised with technology. The reasons vary, everything from their parents don’t believe in it, can’t afford it, don’t trust it, or have no way to connect to the Internet, but the result is the same: No technology for kids considered to be the “digital native” generation.

You don’t have to teach keyboarding.

Lots of teachers don’t believe kids need keyboarding classes. They assure colleagues and parents, “They’ll figure it out when they need it.” But that’s not true. Well, they will figure out a method but it won’t be fast or accurate enough to serve their needs. I’ll never forget when the Director of Technology at my school decided kids didn’t need keyboarding lessons until middle school. Within a few short years, bad habits like hunting and pecking, thumbing keys, and eyes on the keyboard became so ingrained they couldn’t meet State and National keyboarding standards (like those required for online tests and Common Core).

Another clever twist on the argument against keyboard training is that audio input will soon take over. If by “soon”, experts mean in a decade, they could be right, but it won’t happen until we figure out how to keep audio output from disturbing the entire class and how to perfect voice recognition to accurately display what is said.

Teach the digital tool and then use it.

Here’s how this works. Many teachers decide, say, a slideshow would be nice to support a lesson they’re teaching. First, they teach kids slideshows and then explain how to use them with a project. Quickly the lesson becomes about learning slideshows rather than the Big Idea and Essential Question. That’s not the goal of technology which is to enhance learning, not distract from it.

A better approach is to use tools students are familiar with, that are intuitive to use and within the students’ age range for understanding. Then, students figure it out themselves while completing a project that shares their knowledge.

Kids love tech.

What they really like is that it’s easy (they too have bought into the myth about digital natives) and adults are intimidated by it. When they can’t immediately figure something out, they become intimidated or lose interest. Or worse, think it’s too hard. It is your responsibility to show tech as an exciting tool for learning. Don’t minimize the joy students will experience conquering something new. Those huzzah moments make learning fun. Students will continue to love tech, just in a more informed way.

You’re a geek; I’m not.

computer guru

Many teachers think that a certain type of person loves tech and the rest of the world slogs through, at best tolerating it. Math is like that. Only math teachers like formulas and scripts. In fact, using technology well is more about problem-solving than brain power. Those unafraid to engage their brains in critical thinking excel at it. Those who think “it’s just too complicated” — well, it fulfills the prophecy.

Let’s take a quick test. Do you use a smartphone and all of its scintillating apps? Do you click, swipe, squeeze, and drag like a boss? Of course you do. 36% of the world population does. Are you a geek?

Technology will replace me.

No, it won’t, despite the 2009 robot who taught a Tokyo class and Elias, the Finnish primary school robot. Teaching is as much about interacting with students, collaborating, and solving problems as dispensing of knowledge. It will be years before that can be incorporated into a robot or AI (artificial intelligence). Long before that happens, a classroom version of Siri or Google Home will be partnering with teachers to more effectively and efficiently perform everyday tasks, freeing teachers up for the greater rigor of teaching students to think.

Technology is less work.

Or more. Pick your answer. They’re both right. The best response to this complaint is that technology is a tool for doing your job better. Done right, it automates repetitive tasks and quickly differentiates for student needs. Done poorly, it’s an albatross around the teacher’s neck. In balance, teachers work just as many hours with or without technology but those who embrace technology work smarter.

Someone has to teach me how to use technology.

This myth is often the one that shuts down all conversation. “I would use technology if only someone would show me how.” In fact, technology is as much a personal responsibility of educators as it is the purview of schools and districts. Teachers who want to excel at their job will embrace technology because with it, they reach more students more effectively.

What’s subtly changed over the last decade is that developers realize for their tech tool to be adopted by educators and schools, they must be intuitive, easy to set up, and easy roll out. If they aren’t, there’s another one that is. Moodle is a great example of this. Moodle is hands down, one of the most powerful free LMSs, but it’s complicated to set up, confusing to use, and just hearing the name intimidates most people. Where it should be the most popular in the extensive LMS field, it owns only a corner. In Moodle’s case, someone does have to teach educators to use it and that holds it back.

I don’t have time.

Technology is considered a layer on top of the usual classroom responsibilities. “I have to teach [fill in this blank with what you do every day] and now I have to teach technology too!” Done right, technology makes teaching faster by automating boring tasks to free up time for the critical goal of student education. For example, grading is a black hole of time-sucking duties. Teachers spend hours grading papers rather than interacting with students, revising lessons, and differentiating for varied student needs. Thanks to tech tools like Google Forms and Flubaroo (and many more), chunks of grading can be automated (like spelling tests and multiple choice), giving teachers more time for the parts of teaching that are more critical.

Technology turns kids into zombies.

To be honest, I never thought of this one. As I researched this article, “zombie kids” popped up often as a side-effect of technology in education. It has to do with students glued permanently to their screens, passively watching videos and not interacting with each other. Truthfully, that may be how technology looked decades ago, when it first arrived in the classroom, but not anymore and if that’s how it looks in your school, get it fixed! Done right, technology turns kids from passive learners tied to textbooks and worksheets to active learners engaged with each other.


Did I miss any myths? Share them in comments!

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.


47 thoughts on “Teacher-Authors: From my Education Blog–Face-palmed myths about tech ed

  1. Thank you for sharing!!.. “The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” (Kahlil Gibran ).. 🙂

    Hope all is well in your part of the universe, your path is paved with love and happiness and until we meet again…..
    May your day be touched
    by a bit of Irish luck,
    Brightened by a song
    in your heart,
    And warmed by the smiles
    of people you love.
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. These are great points. Keyboarding class? I don’t know if their parents will remember but in high school in 1977 I had to take typing class and not look at the “keyboard” and also set margins and tabs. As much as I hated it back then I became grateful over the years for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good points. I took a class on typing in Jr. High. It at least taught me hand placement which was important to be able to use a keyboard fast as computers came along.


  4. I was labeled a “key watcher” by my typing teacher in front of the class. I was so embarrassed when she taped a piece of paper over my keyboard. Looking back, maybe she was preparing me for when the keys on my keyboard that wear off. 😳

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Maybe I’m an outlier. I learned “keyboarding” in the service on a KSR 28. While I can’t manage 100 wpm, I hanged sure clock at over 60. Which, as any writer knows is not enough to keep up with even the slowest brain, but it serves my purposes. Now, with chatbot cheats proliferating, students will type simple verb-subjects and leave the adjective-adverb [and footnote citations] hard work to their buddies, ChatGrammar and ChatCite.

    Let us look back, wa-a-a-y back to when Chris Sholes determined a dexterous typist would poke keys faster than the mechanics of [his] early manual mechanisms could accommodate without jamming, so devised a way to slow-down human typists. That was what 150 +/- years ago? It might just be time for a radical change, typists not poking individual letters, spaces, and punctuation, but fully-developed interfaces taking spoken word directly to [electronic] memory. I.e. an electronic secretary taking dictation. We’ve a start on this, but I expect it will be greatly enhanced. Free to simply “compose,” youthful writers may opt-out of AI cheats.

    Lovely brain food, your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. lots of good info her Jacqui!
    This stood out..
    “That’s not the goal of technology which is to enhance learning, not distract from it. A better approach is to use tools students are familiar with, that are intuitive to use and within the students’ age range for understanding. ”

    also “take your pic”. easy or hard. 💗

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great stuff, Jacqui! Over time, plenty of these myths have been disproved. My wife and I are at that point where we don’t feel a need to learn everything, but we also don’t want to be left behind at the train station.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. When I started (and continued) to teach online college courses, I was surprised to discover that the so-called “digital natives” were the least computer-literate. The adult students (with a handful of exceptions) were the most tech-savvy, probably because they had been in the workforce for a number of years. An instructional designer clued me into this one: “Teach the digital tool and then use it.” (Yes, there was scolding involved.) I used Moodle for about five or six years. I agree with you about its difficulty of set-up and use. Students never could find anything, and much of the time I couldn’t either, even though I’d but it there! When it came to designing a course or an assignment with Moodle, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks Jacqui for teaching the necessary skill of technology. The future of our children depends on it. I embraced the new world of computers in the seventies and eighties which launched my career in marketing and business development. Keeping up with the innovative technology is a challenge as there are so many new tools available. Google Analytics and SEO boggles my mind. And it does take courage and fearlessness to venture into the world of bots.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The ninth grade: toughest three years of my life 😉

    Not really. It was the year of my typing class. Roll forward decades. Touch-typing gave me a skill that continues to offer an intuitive and productive advantage. Fingers still fly, entering concurrent text and formatting.

    I’m so glad my parents nudged me to take that ninth-grade class, a lesson that influenced my entire life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely, Grant. My son really struggled with typing. Turned out he had a disability. Once we solved that, he–like you–flew, and loves it to this day.

      Kudos to your parents for fighting the good fight.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Great post. I think keyboarding skills are more important than they were in the typewriter days. Unfortunately, many of us, including me, skipped that step. The result, as you say…eyes on the keypad instead of the screen, resulting in compromised productivity.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Teacher-Authors: From my Education Blog–Face-palmed myths about tech ed — – uwerolandgross

  13. first-born first experienced tv during their first admissiion for tractiion at 14 mionths before the first of three hip procedures and months in body casts. They taught themsekf tio read iut of boredom. Kay was on the s;ectrum and troo socially anxious to tolerate even Waldorf school. once they went online, they proved to be good at evaluating skurces and syntghesuizing knfo. We never demanded Kay stuff themselves full or mr gradgrind’s facts.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hi Jacqui, this is a good post. Both my sons took/take IT at school and it is not an easy subject or particularly intuitive. They have to learn the necessary skills. Learning to type is a huge plus and both my sons have been taught this skill at school.

    Liked by 1 person

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