When it comes to edtech, be like Siddhartha

One of the conundrums within the field of education is the schizophrenic understanding of best practices. All you need to do to get a taste of this is create a Twitter account, follow a whole bunch of teachers, and read their tweets. Better yet, follow along during a Twitter chat. Edtech platitudes are plentiful.

There’s nothing wrong with teachers tweeting at each other in 140 characters or less to share ideas, but it sure is confusing when you sit back and try to decipher what our best practices should be as educators.

Should we spend time learning how to be better presenters, or should we become more accustomed to a student-centered, project based learning (PBL) approach? Is “play” important or is it better to squeeze each instruction minute through the use of Direct Interactive Instruction (DII)? Is spending money on 1:1 devices essential for students to learn in the 21st century, or should we listen to studies that say technology isn’t an important factor? (Side note: Many edtech proponents have marginalized the use of “Studies say…” when arguing against technology in the classroom. Unfortunately by doing this, these edtech proponents are doing a harmful spin job.)

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” I think there’s a lot of truth to this sentiment, and maybe that goes for education as well, but it sure is hard as a teacher to always feel like you should be doing something other than what you’ve planned to do. This is why the advice of edtech gurus is so attractive right now.

I’m weary of the edtech experts out there who claim to have the solution for student learning. I’m reminded of Siddhartha, who came to the realization that truth isn’t going to arrive from any one enlightened person. Teachers must view the plethora of edtech opinions through this same lens, even if it’s uncomfortable. In this way, the Twitter cacophony can be harnessed effectively.

Yes, we have a lot to figure out in the field of education, mostly because every student is his and her own universe. My only suggestion is to avoid making gurus out of people who have Twitter accounts.

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One path

I finished reading Herman Hesse’s novel Siddhartha this past weekend, and there’s a lot for the reader to unpack at the end. One of the many threads running through the story is the role of teachers in our lives–especially teachers who tell us how to live.

Siddhartha meets Gautama, the famous Buddha, toward the beginning of his journey for enlightenment. Even though Siddhartha finds the Buddha’s teachings very wise, he can’t square the nagging concern that following the wise sage means rejecting his own path. He believes that following a man instead of discovering truth for himself will lead no where. In other words, Siddhartha has to work out his own truth.

The Apostle Paul speaks in similar terms. He warns his readers to not be followers of men:

What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephasb ”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Live long enough, and you’ll realize finding your path relies upon you and not the cacophony of the world.