Two Worlds Reflecting

For almost twenty years, my professional life has centered around EdTech. Using the tools that are available to extend the ability of individuals to communicate with each other, and in so doing, teach and learn in more efficient ways. I haven’t abandoned my interest in that sphere, just shifting it away from the tools toward the product. The product is the story, and the tools? Well they can range from the most basic technology of spoken language, to well, nothing. Our technologies are all used, in some manner or another to communicate with each other, and in communicating, we learn and grow.

So this morning, when I saw this (NYT original), story online, and heard it on CBC, it got me thinking. For a very long time, people have been talking about using computers in the classroom. But it seems that this use, hasn’t been as an extension to the abilities of the students or teachers/instructors, but as a replacement. And there is why, I believe that laptops in the lecture theater are failing students. As a replacement for pen and paper, it has become too each for everyone involved to process the information only once (if at all — image directly linked from NYT).

So while the research talks about other reasons, from the storytelling perspective, I’m thinking what’s missing is that people have forgotten that notes taken in meetings are stories that we will later tell to ourselves or to others. The words on the screen, or on the page are nothing until they have been processed through reflection.

“Learning without reflection is a waste. Reflection without learning is dangerous” — Confucius

Looking at the quote from Confucius, I realized how/why I had to put down some words when I read and heard the story. I’m under no impression that what work I will ever do will “save” EdTech, Teaching, or Storytelling, that’s not the point, what I’m interested in, as I mentioned before is how we can use stories to improve teaching. And all stories are told in some manner through technology. But because so much of technology makes things “quick and easy”, we have fallen into the trap that Confucius is warning about.

In a lecture (already a barely adequate teaching paradigm, it’s really just spray ‘n pray), we perform an action that we believe to be learning, using technology, that cuts out the reflection. In a lecture, this would have been re-copying notes, or doing further research. To Confucius’s point, it is learning without reflection.

But what about the second point? Reflection without learning? I think that is what we are doing now. We have seen what poor integration of technology in the classroom (or other meeting spaces) has done to the quality of the learning environment, so how can that be changed?

Perhaps by telling students about what they need to learn, versus talking at them. Perhaps by creating a grander context for details versus merely dumping facts. Perhaps by leaving space for students to think, and not just boxes to check off on an exam.

Originally published at