Is Stoicism Appropriate in Ed Tech?

Jan 19, 2016 by

I’m supposed to be an educational technology cheerleader for my school district. I’m supposed to champion the unrestrained exploration and adaptation of technology in all areas of K-12 learning. I’m supposed to network with individuals that have an insatiable curiosity and enthusiasm for educational technology in all of its many forms. And yet, the older I become (or perhaps the farther I get from the classroom), the more restrained I find myself when it comes to pursuing new technology.

I feel like the stoic Samurai in Yojimbo, or Clint Eastwood’s character in “Fistful of Dollars” (minus the penchant for violence and gunplay). I feel reserved compared to more fresh-eyed techies that make Kermit’s signature arm flail celebration look tame when they gather at large ed tech conferences. I’m not sure if this is a natural evolution of thought, practice, or just a result of where my professional path has taken me (farther from pure tech, and more towards curriculum and facilitation of groups).

get-off-my-porch-kermit

I can’t help but feel like the “man with no name” when it comes to educational technology at times.

I’m quite comfortable with this development, but it makes me wonder if a healthy dose of stoicism is appropriate for those managing and driving the use of instructional technology. I’ve found myself drifting towards celebrating and uplifting transformative teaching and learning practice, regardless of whether it utilizes technology or not. At the same time, I don’t see many educators that have become “edu-famous” for their contributions to the realm of instructional technology transitioning to a more openly thoughtful reflection on instruction and learning in general. It makes me beg the question if perhaps I’ve drifted too far away from my old enthusiasm for instructional technology to truly be effective with it anymore.

I’m excited about where I’m headed, and still confident that I can edu-craft my way to successful use and implementation of instructional technology; I just don’t see it as the end all, be all means of education transformation that I once thought it to be. I hope I’m not alone in these thoughts, as it would make me more than a bit forlorn to be drifting away from so many educational technology enthusiasts that I call friends.

At the very least, I still have ds106, and excellent digital storytelling friends like Michael Branson Smith, to prompt me to write reflections like this with the help of some clever animated GIF challenges.

7 Comments

  1. Ben,
    You’re getting older, Dude! As we get older, our interests and focuses shift, realign themselves with new stars. Your concerns have deepened, become more humanistic. Your tech interests have entered the state of “unconscious competency,” and something deeper is driving your Soul Train now. When you retire, you may drift far from your teaching interests and concerns as you allow yourself to flower open and follow your bliss on around your cosmogonic round. I’m a few years ahead of you, and that is my experience, at any rate.
    Thank you for your thoughtful essay.

    • Thanks, Sandy! It feels so strange to have so much of my professional identity wrapped up in something that doesn’t fully reflect my current thoughts and feelings about education and technology. Makes me think about what I might be missing if I fully embraced a new path.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with you on this post. Now in my 2nd year as an admin away from the ITRT world, I find myself looking for excellent, transformational, and engaging lessons in the classroom-regardless of tech use. Two of my recent favs have been “Number Sentence Headbanz” and “Vowel Surgery” (http://bit.ly/1K6toii & http://bit.ly/1QvfhV9).

    Don’t get me wrong, I still love attending amazing conferences like FETC, but the biggest take aways I took from this year was the reaffirmation that engaging lessons and relationship building with students trumps all. Sure there will always be flashy new apps and “movements” but without amazing teachers and strong relationship building all those “innovations” fall flat.

    Thanks Ben!

    • Exactly, Tyler!

      It’s not that I don’t still value the cheerleading and the enthusiasm; it just feels as though my place isn’t among them as often as it used to be. I continually find that it’s really not about which new technology is being used, but rather the intent and ability of a teacher to continue to build relationships and community with it.

  3. I love the reflective thoughts. I’ve felt this same way. I’ve often compared the scene at the conferences you referenced as the “Everything is Awesome” scene from The Lego Movie.

    I would encourage you not to feel self-conscious about being focused on transformative teaching and learning. It’s never been the tools that have made the difference anyway. The game-changer has always been the tool in the hands of an effective practitioner.

  4. Ben,
    I couldn’t agree more with Sandy Brown Jensen…except I had to look up comsogonic! Growing older doesn’t mean growing up, but I have found that my passions within he education world have changed. I my early twenties, I hadn’t considered being in education because EMS was my passion. Now I can’t consider anything else, but the interests and ideals shift as we are in a game longer. Fully expect to have feelings of remorse (question) like this over the next 20 years as your children grow and your reality changes.

    With great teachers, our identity is so entwined with our service that it’s hard to allow ourselves to evolve that identity. Probably harder yet for you and your peers who have developed such broad recognition through social media. Being okay to channel your great energy and creativity in the direction YOU want will be more rewarding than fulfilling a role you, your followers, or your employers, think you are supposed to. Enjoy the ride and steer for yourself!

    • Thanks Walt. I’ve found myself pulled increasingly to notions of playful learning, and that doesn’t always coincide with the ed-tech world that I “grew” up with, professional speaking that is. I’m not sure if what I’m feeling is full on remorse…I certainly don’t regret anything I’ve done; just curious if it’s the best path forward for me still.

      Looking forward to enjoying the ride, once I figure out which one to get on 🙂

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