Selling the Product – Tim Holt, Guest Blogger

March 24, 2009 § 2 Comments

A few weeks ago, I had asked bloggers to work with me to do an experiment on guest blogging: I would write an article for their blog if they write one for my blog. Scott agreed to exchange, so here is my response for his blog. Thank you Scott for being brave and taking part! –TH

We do a crappy job of selling technology.
Sure, we are great at convincing ourselves that ed-tech is good. We are great at throwing big parties like NECC and TCEA to convince ourselves that that we are doing the right thing. We read a lot. And we write a lot. We podcast a lot. And we RSS a lot. And we hire each other to speak at each other’s conventions and workshops. We have done a great job of convincing ourselves that technology is important.
The trouble is, we are not convincing anyone else outside of ourselves.

The kids are convinced, but they would be convinced even if we were not around. The teachers are somewhat convinced, and a chunk of them are doing the right thing and putting technology into lessons. Principals and administrators are kind of convinced. If they see a lit LCD projector and a Smartboard then they are convinced.
The trouble is, after having computers as staples in schools for over 25 years, there are large groups that are not using technology, large groups that don’t understand how it should be used, and even a larger non-education population that does not see the value of technology.
So what is wrong?
I was reminded again of how much the public does not understand the use of technology in schools when I read a comment that was left on one of my columns for a local newspaper. In it, the responder, as part of a larger comment said:

“ Sorry to sound so prehistoric to all you tech buffs but it’s the truth. Technology is of no account if they can’t put together a subject, a verb and an object in a coherent sentence, or can’t write a coherent thought, or understand a coherent essay, or reason with the logic of numbers. Without these tools there is no possibility of ever developing the capacity for critical thinking. And that’s not just the latest buzz word either, it’s the thing lacking in 95% of everyone you will encounter in your life, including many professionals on which you rely.”

These tools are the real value, not technology. Technology is only incidental, like learning the typewriter was to students of old. You needed it to type your college papers but it didn’t teach how to write or think. Creating media is no more than doodling on the etch-a-sketch. You can become gifted with it but unless you become a professional doodler, whither media skills?
We are crappy at selling technology. We have sold it to ourselves, but we haven’t sold it to the public. Yes, this is one person’s comment, but I kind of think that a community online newspaper is a better gauge of public opinion than people that subscribe to my RSS feed. These are the folks that are out there.
We need to do a better job of selling technology use to our communities. It is obvious that this guy does not see technology as the one thing that it needs to become: a tool.

Technology is a tool. That is all. Technology, in any form is merely a tool to help get a job done. But the public does not see that in education because they are comparing the technology they mostly see with the technology in a classroom. And the technology the public mostly sees?

Home computers

Video games

Cell Phones

DVD and Blueray Players

MP3 players

Satellite and Cable television


What do all of these things have in common? For the most part, they are used for entertainment. So, when the link is made from one to another, they link the technology (entertainment) in their personal experience with the technology at school. If Jimmy uses a computer at home to surf the Internet, he must be doing the same thing at school. If an iPod is used to listen to music that must be the only thing you can use it for.
They see big bucks being spent on technology, just like at home. They don’t understand why.
We have not done a good job at showing how technology is a tool, just like a pencil, or a textbook, or a calculator. When we show off technology, we often show kids using the computer for remediation, which in many cases is not much more than a glorified video game, thus reinforcing the belief that technology is entertainment.
Kevin Honeycutt once presented to a group of parents in El Paso and showed a typical “diorama” of a western town: Saloon, barn, stables, hotel, etc. These were made out of shoeboxes and wood, and had cotton balls for clouds. You have seen these. He then showed a kid’s version of a stable made with Google SketchUp. “Guess which one is teaching kids a life skill that can be used in a real 21st century job?” he asked the parents. (Go ahead, I’ll give you a minute to guess.)

THAT is the kind of thing we need to be shouting from the mountain tops to parents and community members and anyone that will listen: Technology is a tool that will give your child a leg up in the workforce in the 21st century. Every parent in the world wants to see that.
Every parent and community member in the world wants to see how his or her tax dollars are being used to create meaningful content. Once the parents are convinced, the teachers that shy away from technology get convinced and the administrators that don’t understand technology begin to understand.

Then we won’t be doing such a crappy job of selling technology.

I am Tim Holt

I have a blog called Intended Consequences

Tim is the Director of Instructional Technology for the El Paso ISD in El Paso, Texas.  His blog is one of the first Ed Tech blogs I started following.  I always appreciate his honest, and I thank him for gracing my blog with his post. ~SL


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