Doug Belshaw, in his post A non-Luddite rebuttal of technology integration?, used a quote of Chuang Tzu as a way of approaching the question of technology integration. It is an argument that I have been playing with for several days now, and have come to some conclusions about it for myself. Technology is a tool or a collection of tools. I would no more dismiss the use of technology any more than I would the use of a hammer. Both are of equal value, but I think some teachers give technology greater value simply because it is new and appeals to them in some way. First, here is a version of the story, slightly different from the one that Doug used.
Chuang TzuI would argue that the old man was using a "cunning implement" himself to move the water into the ditch, a pitcher. It is a tool, and the leap from the vessel he held in his had to the well sweep isn't that great. There will be some differences. He may not have to stand in the water. He may not get his hands wet. He may not have to use as many calories in moving the water with the well sweep. It isn't nearly as huge a leap from the pitcher to the sweep as it would be from the well sweep to center-pivot irrigation. It also isn't that I don't understand what the old man is saying. By using technology, we make a trade off. We sell something to get something. The further the old man gets from standing in the water, irrigating with a pitcher, and the closer he gets to center-pivot irrigation, the further he gets from his land as a living, interdependent whole. The closer he gets to the huge disconnect we have now between the food that we eat and the environment that provides it. Not much Tao in that. I use Twitter. I have a blog. I have email. And as much as that brings me into contact with people that I would have otherwise never have met because we are continents away or because our paths simply would not have crossed, my life is enriched. It's difficult to express how fulfilling it is to make contact with people like that. But I do not use this same technology with the students that I meet every week, because we can have a different kind of interaction. My class and I use English Log 2.0 to communicate and express ourselves with each other, and it is a tool that no computer can match now. We write about what is happening in our lives. We draw pictures of things that inspire us. We keep lists of stuff we are learning. We send each other candies or origami taped in the pages of our notebooks. We tape pretty leaves and flowers that we find on our way to school. If another teacher were to pass through our class and suggest, "Hey, you know, you could do that on the Internet," I would reply, "It is not that I do not know of these things, but I would be foolish to use them."