The Hammer or the Curious Mind?

Disclaimer: This post is my reflective response to Bryan Wehrli’s article “Technology as a Fence and a Bridge”.


Ok, ok, so at least two of these videos are staged events to prove a point. But, even if these professors are not rampantly destroying the personal property of their students, I think that the message that they are sending is still troubling.

Let’s see…

  • Never let your attention stray from the teacher.
  • You cannot be trusted to use technology appropriately.
  • Your concerns and affairs outside of the classroom not allowed in here.
  • Tech devices have no place in the classroom unless the teacher introduces them.


And don’t forget that videos are taking place in COLLEGE CLASSROOMS with ADULT LEARNERS (Yes…18 year olds are in fact adults.). Even if these represent isolated incidents, policies, and attitudes at institutions of higher learning, they are in fact quite representative of the current climate in K-12 public schools. It’s bad people, and teachers are not trusted with the technology anymore than the students. No cell phones, restrictive Internet firewalls and usage policies, teachers encouraged, or directed, to refrain from using social media even for personal interactions outside of work, “technology classes” that only teach keyboarding and outdated project presentation methods, insufficient technology support or professional development for hardware or software application

The paradigm is shifting, and the change does not originate from the schools. And that’s a scary thought for teachers, myself included. Because what is my role in this new world that neither my formal education nor my ongoing professional development have prepared me for?

Well, do I want to “reach out with a hammer or a curious mind” (Wehrli, 2009)? Do I draw a line in the sand and say thou shalt not pass…or else? Or do I recognize my new and powerful role as a facilitator, modeler, and collaborator?

It has occurred to me that there is a bit of a negative feedback loop in place, one in which I too have unconsciously participated.

In the absence of specific class assignments, students will generally default to using computers for social interaction, gaming, etc. –>

As a teacher I am mad, because the students are wasting valuable technology on useless purposes. –>

I don’t trust students to make good decisions using technology. –>

I don’t develop assignments or activities around technology. –>

In the absence of specific class assignments, students will generally default to using computers for social interaction, gaming, etc.

I think that there are two key, and related, assumptions in this cycle that must be recognized and addressed before it can be transformed.

  1. As a digital immigrant, I incorrectly believe that my students, as digital natives, automatically know how to use the Internet and social media for any desired application, including education purposes.
  1. My students mistakenly assume that the primary power of the Internet is in distraction or casual social interaction.


In other words, the kids don’t know any better, and the adults are too intimidated to inform them.

I don’t know the latest cool game, I don’t communicate primarily by chat, and I am never going to be as comfortable using digital technology as my students.

But so what?

  • I can teach you how to perform a proper search function.
  • I can teach you how to filter out the useful information from the static.
  • I can show you how applications can be used to gather, organize, process and share information.


I am still a teacher. I have the skills and training to find the answers if I don’t have them. My skills are still relevant IF I don’t spend valuable and limited resources trying to hold back the ocean.

The tide is coming in. Swim or die folks.

Reference: Wehrli, B. (2009). Technology as a Fence and a Bridge. Horace, 25(1).

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