What Happens When Students Use Technology Better Than Teachers?

flcikeringbrad-students-use-technology-better-than-teachersWhat Happens When Students Use Technology Better Than Teachers?

by Terry Heick

You know the content, you understand pedagogy, and you can navigate the minefield of diplomacy when dealing with parents, students, administrators, literacy coaches, and the local news station when they want to see the iPads glow on the students faces.

You know how to manage and coddle, inspire and organize, assess and deliver content.

But the technology is different. That part you do okay with, but, truth be told, the students are geniuses with technology. Born hackers. And of course they are, you tell yourself.

They’re digital natives.

You were born during a better time–more pure, full of John Milton, philosophy, and having to knock on doors or yell down the street to find your friends.

A time uncorrupted by facebook and cyberbullying.

So you’re doing the social media thing to make up for lost time. Got yourself a twitter and a blog. You even keep some of your curriculum on Dropbox, and sold enough brownies last year to buy three iPads–then went to a conference to learn how to teach with it.

But you hear how students talk about technology–what they’re able to do effortlessly–and it kind of intimidates you. And a tempting spot to retreat to is to say that learning doesn’t need technology. That it’s difficult enough without it. You can’t keep them in their seats without smartphones. Let them use them during class?

Have you seen the stuff they share? How hateful they can be? And Flappy Birds? This can’t be real life, can it?

It’s all enough to make you want to curl up on the couch under an afghan and watch Andy Griffith.

But what happens when the students can use technology better than their teachers?

Who does this discredit?

What processes and outcomes does this undermine?

How strong is our collective ability to rationalize away the impact?

Who benefits? Who suffers?

Who goes on together, and who stays behind alone?

And by not getting out ahead of this thing–technology in learning–what have we cost ourselves? What kind of panic and rhetorical hysterics will we fall for because haven’t been prepared for the day students can use digital tools better than teachers?

And use it so with such great conviction and thoughtless habit that they won’t listen to a thing we tell them about it all because they can see the gap themselves?

Image attribution flickr user flickeringbrad; What Happens When Students Use Technology Better Than Teachers?

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Stella Berdaxagar

Learning is lifelong and knowledge is ubiquitous.We learn from one another.The teacher ´s role is to guide within his or her field of studies and become fluent in digital literacies.


It depends on what you call “better”. When I taught, the students were more up on memes and the latest apps than I was, but they didn’t know about best practices. I focused on how to use tech well, no matter what the state of the tech, and we discussed bleeding-edge tech, even if we didn’t have the gear or the software to use it. To some extent this is the old education vs. training debate.

I appreciate this article, but I think the discussion should focus more on ‘how’ to apply the technology. Sure, many students can ‘use’ technology better than their teachers, although at the college level this is not always the case. However, very few of them use these devices, applications, etc. for any truly worthy purpose. So what!? My ENGL 150 students can Snapchat better than I can, but does that mean that they implicitly know how to use Snapchat to start a campaign for healthy school lunches? Teachers shouldn’t focus on just using the technology; their role is, and likely will… Read more »

When learning new technology, it is important to embrace it. If you, as the teacher, are afraid or intimidated by technology, it will never be able to be fully implemented in your classroom. Yes, your students will know more about how to use it, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying it out. Technology can be an incredible tool in the classroom if teachers are willing to embrace it. Stop worrying about whether your students know more about it than you do, and embrace it. After a while, you won’t even think about it as technology anymore, it will become… Read more »