Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Fear of Change

The Luddites were early 19th-century English textile workers (or self-employed
weavers who feared the end of their trade) who protested against newly developed labor-economizing technologies by destroying the mills and factories that were displacing them.

These Luddites "protested" by destroying the machines and factories that disrupted a centuries-old craftsman tradition. These craftsmen had guilds, apprenticeships and a way of life that dated back to the high Middle Ages. What they labored at for years perfecting stopped mattering as soon as the factory was built. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for these Luddites.

Today, luddite is used to describe a person opposed to new technologyAs an ed tech specialist, I work with more than a few tech-Luddites. Folks are right to point out that important things honed over generations are at risk of being irrelevant and thus folks embrace them all the harder. I'm willing to concede that things that worked well will be lost.

I get more than a few emails from faculty that point out technology's flaws. It might be an article about how some Silicon Valley CEOs send their kids to tech free schools, or perhaps an article on how cursive penmanship wires our brains in a way more conducive to learning. There are thousands of such articles. (I wonder if the authors of such articles first write them out in in cursive. And I also can't help but noticing that they use technology (google+, email) to broadcast the message to a wide audience. Irony?)

But again, these folks actually have my sympathy. Some good things will be lost. What is crucial going forward is thinking about how technology can let us do things we never did before; not in a willy-nilly way, but in a thoughtful, serious way.

What is essential to hold on to? What is essential to add? Here's what ISTE feels what students should be able to do. It seems a good starting point.

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