Monthly Archives: July 2015

Another koan from the Tao of Education Technology

From Confucius in the Technology Realm – Coming in October 2015!


What is technology but a tool?  An implement no more important than the novice’s pencil and paper, or the chalk and board upon which the apprentice demonstrates.

What of the pencil and paper?  The chalk and board?

What is the significance of one without the other?

What is the effect of one with the other?

Once the novice utilizes the pencil upon the paper, has any problem been solved? Wrong righted? Need fulfilled?

Once the apprentice’s chalk acts upon the board, what of the apprentice?

Has the novice learned?   Achieved?

The tools cannot enable the apprentice to assess and evaluate just as the application of pencil upon the paper doesn’t enable the student to propose and solve.  It is at once a memorial and a message.  A question answered but the result undetermined.  

It is but part of the Myriad of Things.

The application of the myriad of things for teaching and learning can be equally beneficial or flawed.


We’ve had it drilled into our heads since the early days of computing in education – It’s not about the technology.  But in this passage, we understand the Yin and Yang for technology tools.

Although they aren’t the focus, they must first be.  For I cannot write without sharpening the pencil, just as I cannot write on the laptop, without first knowing how to turn it on and double-click on the word processor.

Yet to hear endless discussions and debate surrounding 1-to-1 computing and BYOD (bring your own device), one would think that every school and teacher is concerned about what type of device will be used in the classroom.  This is like asking what is the best pen to write with?

What series of inquiry could be more flawed?  This technological debate is like going to the fishing tackle store without know where you are going fishing and what you are fishing for.

How could one technology tool be the right one for every student, in every school, and every curriculum?  Answer, it can’t and won’t.

But in the example of the pencil and paper, we see a different more noble entreaty.  The use of tools so fundamental as to be simple enough to be used by every student to solve any problem and detail any solution.

In essence, the pencil and paper has achieved something that the tablet and laptop for the classroom has not, the ability to be all things to all people.

And this is strictly because the complexity of the technology tool in-and-of-itself.

Although we tend to tune these issues out, the issues surrounding student technology and computing are anything but simple and all-encompassing.

This myriad of considerations doesn’t even take into account the curriculum and the classroom management questions.  “What of the pencil and paper?”

What would it take to render classroom technology to be as simple and useable as pencil and paper?

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