Do we swoon too much over touch screens?

I have to preface this by saying my family uses three touch-screen devices.

But as a teacher I often wonder if have we are falling on our swords by abandoning the deeper values of techno-literacy for the latest shiny new object. Whenever I have spoken of wikis, or podcasts, I get the same complaint: “It’s too complicated!”  Does one really need to pay attention to pointy brackets and end tags?

Touch screens have done a great job of hiding the complexity behind code. Which is wonderful. I wouldn’t want to go back to the blinking cursor, and DOS. The Graphical User Interface has smoothed out the wrinkles of things such as maintaining a blog, uploading images etc.

But does this mean we should retreat from looking at the underbelly of technology? The previous post, about learning a bit of code inside of the Lego Mindstorms,  opened this topic.

I was therefore glad to see is a good discussion of something broader, by Doug Rushkoff where he warned us of what happens when digital literacy ceases to become a priority. He is amazed at why our priorities have changed.

“Yet I fear this promise is increasingly undermined by our widespread unwillingness to seize the abilities they offer us. Although we live in a highly digital age, digital literacy is not a priority among us. And as a result computer science is not a priority in our schools.”

This Tuesday, on Digital Learning Day, I came across about a dozen of cool collaboration tools that teachers are now using. From Apps that help with note-taking to blogging and wiki software. But I couldn’t help noticing how tablet-centric many of these were. In fact Digital Learning Day’s mission was defined with the tool mindset. The Twitter account described it as “an effort …to engage students & empower educators through effective use of digital tools.”

Let’s face it. Not all schools will replace their PCs in one fell swoop and introduce tablets. That iPad classroom will require an education dream act for which school districts have no appetite. Meanwhile we ought to teach kids to fit the tool to the solution, not vice versa. It’s just that the shiny new objects always barge their way in, if we aren’t careful.


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