Tech Will Not Save Us

Last week I saw this tweet from Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom and I can’t stop thinking about it. (side note – buy and read her book THICK: And Other Essays)

I’m a tech coach. I believe in technology. But I don’t believe it will save us. I want this shirt and I want to wear it and cause people to question what they believe too. What do you think the response to a tech coach walking in with this shirt on would be?

Let’s talk about a return to school this fall – lots of people are arguing for an in person return or a fully virtual return for a variety of reasons. Whatever those in power ultimately decide (and I believe it is likely to change more than once or twice over the next few months), let’s be clear.

Tech won’t save us.

No matter what tools are rolled out.
No matter how well trained everyone is on that technology.
No matter how many devices we hand out and how many options we put in place for internet connectivity (because broadband should be a utility).
No matter how many computer adaptive software subscriptions your school or division buys.
No matter how many Bitmoji classrooms we make.
No matter how many new platforms you learn this summer.

No, tech will not save us. But I know what will.

Great instructional strategies and relationships.
Teachers with a strong background in culturally responsive pedagogy.
Well trained teachers – trained in pedagogy, relationships and content.
TIME for teachers to put together that pedagogy with what they know about their students (who they will be building relationships with in a WHOLE new environment this fall).
TIME for teachers to share and plan together.
TIME for teachers to reflect on what worked and what didn’t, discuss with their collaborative team and adjust to meet needs of students who met objectives and those who didn’t.
Teachers who start planning with what they want students to know and do… and then strategically use tools and methods to ensure that learning objective is met.

Why do schools/leaders/teachers/divisions fall into this trap? It’s because it’s much easier to cut a check and sign a PO for a subscription than it is to teach pedagogy and change practice. It’s because these tech companies are FABULOUS and spend a lot on marketing to tell us how they will meet our needs. Because we want something to work… and make it easier… and this seems to be what they say it will do!

Let me tell you a story – last year I left a central office position to return to being a tech coach at a large public high school. In my interview for a TECH coach position, I told the interview panel that I didn’t believe technology was always the best tool for the learning. Full stop. That we have to start with what we want students to know and do, then determine a tool or strategy from there. Did I worry this would mean they didn’t think I was a good fit for their TECH COACH role? Sure. But if that’s what they believed, I knew our values didn’t match. And you know what, they hired me and we are changing practice and starting each coaching session with that significant question. What do we want students to know and do at the end of this lesson/unit?

So where do we go from here? We need to carefully examine our professional learning for the coming year. Is it rooted in teaching how to use tech tools? Then STOP. Right now. Is it built on strengthening pedagogy and relationships? PROCEED FULL SPEED AHEAD!

Need help with this? There are a whole lot of us out here shouting this from the rooftops. Whether you call your coach an SBTS, IFT, ITRT, ITC, TOSA or something else altogether, many of us know that tech won’t save us. Let’s plan together and ensure that our teachers have the pedagogy necessary to meet the needs of our students.

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