I firmly believe that if we are to make progress then we have to question current assumptions, beliefs and practices. This is true of ICT or educational technology just as much as in other areas of life and work. With this in mind, I present here what I am calling education technology myths, these are commonly held assumptions, beliefs or statements that anyone in the field are likely to come across at various times. Like all good ‘myths’ there may be, or at some time there may have once been, a grain of truth in them but, again like traditional myths, if we believe them unquestioningly then we are simply fooling ourselves!
I present these myths in no particular order, that is to say that number 1 is no worse than number 6 nor is any one more prevalent than others.
- The role of technology is to save teachers time on admin tasks so that they can spend more time teaching. This belief has been around for a long time, I would go as far as to say this is more than a myth, it is a lie that no teacher should fall for.
- Pedagogy comes before technology. This is a difficult one to argue against but it is one that must be strongly guarded against. Technology is not the enemy of pedagogy, in fact it is important in teaching and learning. For that reason, the pedagogy versus technology debate is specious.
- Technology is a distraction in the classroom. I recall in the very early days of educational computing how some teachers would cover the computer with a tablecloth when not in use, I kid you not! Their reasoning being that pupils were looking at the computer and wanting a go on it instead of doing what they should be doing. Over time we managed to show to these teachers that once the learners got used to the presence of the computer and knew they would be able to have their turn on it, then it ceased to be a distraction and became a part of the classroom and the learning experience. This myth is still doing the rounds, though, and we see it when learners are prevented from using laptops, smartphones and mobile devices on the grounds that they might be distracted by email, Facebook or Twitter.
- More is more bigger and better. For many years, this would seem to have been a mantra in education technology. At first it was evidenced by schools collecting software which, regrettably, then spent time lying unused in cupboards, latterly it has been seen in schools creating first one suite or computer room, then another and another, all linked by more and more complex networking infrastructure. Education technology is very varied in nature and smaller, more personal devices, are now readily available. Using such devices could allow a more flexible approach to using technology in education and help sway us from the expensive ‘one size fits all’ approach of ‘big’ technology.
- Teachers need training before they can use technology. The key word in that sentence is ‘before’. It cannot be denied that teachers can benefit from training and that training can produce benefits for education. However, the notion held by some that teachers need training before they use technology is somewhat erroneous, especially when the excuse is one used by those teachers themselves who are not using technology. Did you receive training in using a washing machine, a television, a radio, a video recorder (remember them?) or mobile phone, before you started using them, almost certainly not. Electronic technology is different in that it is more versatile and significant than any one of those other devices but you do not need training beforeyou start to use it. Indeed, training in education technology use is often more effective when taking users beyond the basics of operating the device(s)/service(s) and developing their use in the curriculum.
- Technology should be used to cut costs and save money. In a climate of financial uncertainty and restraint, this belief could hold a great deal of sway. However, it is a myth that is sorely misplaced. The focus of educational technology is, and quite rightly should be, on the education of learners. It is on the education of learners that schools are judged, far more than the ability to balance budgets. It may be true that better (not necessarily ‘more’) technology could help a school administer itself but spending educational technology budgets on this would be very inappropriate.