A Matter of Perspective
AS I SEE “IT”
By Don Hall
Don Hall is the CIO
for the Muscogee
County School District
in Columbus, Georgia.
He has experience in
teaching and administration and is a veteran presenter, author,
and consultant. He
serves as a volunteer
columnist for L&L.
One of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes
is called “In the Eye of the Beholder.”
The premise revolves around a female
patient who spent most of the story with her face
hidden in bandages because of terrible disfigurement. She was in a hospital where doctors were
performing surgery to restore her so she could
function in society. At the end of the show, they
reveal her and you see a beautiful woman. Then
they reveal the doctors and nurses, who are horribly misshapen creatures, and the narrator ends,
by saying, “Yes, beauty truly is in the eye of the
beholder.” I felt the same way when I read the
theme for this month’s issue of L&L, innovative
Each year at technology shows there is always
that breakthrough device or application that
captures the imagination and stirs the creative
energies of ed tech pioneers, who then return
to their districts and lobby for the funding to
secure it. Finally, they set about finding some
amazing way to use it in the classroom to justify
the expense. Sometimes it turns out to be a resounding success, but other times it’s merely an
amusing experiment that is soon forgotten when
the next new thing comes along.
Unfortunately, this hit-and-miss approach to
innovation is all too common. Every couple of
years, a new buzz phrase pops up, and everyone
jumps on the bandwagon without really thinking
about where it is going. People think they have
finally found the idea or strategy that will make
instructional technology matter, but it doesn’t.
This cycle gets at the heart of what innovation is
really about for me.
We are innovating the wrong thing. Our instructional practices are what need changing,
not the technology. We must go back to the
basics. Every learner is unique and has different
learning styles, interests, and proficiencies, yet
we still teach to the norm and use technology to
automate poor instructional practice. I believe
we can do most instructional activities even if
technology is not present, and if that is the case,
technology is not providing significant value to
the instructional process. Technology should be
able to enrich our ability to individualize, extend, and support instructional experiences and
connections in ways that would not be possible
otherwise. That is innovation to me.
Real innovation also helps students discover
that they can develop a personal vision of a
future that is far beyond the one their socioeconomic or ethnic backgrounds would normally
provide. Technology in the hands of a skillful
teacher can remove barriers for all children so
they not only see that future, but also embrace it.
It is about changing beliefs, values, and cultures,
not about just teaching skills and constructing
creative projects. When children realize they are
part of the global society because they actively
participate in it from their classrooms, they
know the world of possibilities for themselves
is much bigger.
As you read about learning technologies in
this issue, I hope you get some great ideas about
innovative ways to use technology in the classroom. I also hope you ask yourself how technology can innovate the right things in your district, such as basic instructional practice or the
student’s personal vision.