Technology: Tool or Toy?


Technology has evolved since I first started teaching 33+ years ago. I was the person in the room who had the computer and students went to the computer lab to access technology. Cell phones today should really be called personal portable computers that also happen to have phone capability.  Cell phones can be used to access the internet to find any information instantly.  I see kids even as young as 2 using these tools fluently and successfully!  I hear people in the workplace, at coffee shops saying things such as   “Google it”, “IM me”, “”Ping me”, ” Let’s FactTime” among others.

With instant access to information, education faces a challenge. How do we as educators effectively use this tool and other tech tools such as laptops, ipads, effectively in classroom learning to optimize this tool?

This looming question has brought about some innovative answers. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math,  STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) , PBL (Project Based Learning) are forces behind the successful implementation of these academics using technology as a tool to further curious minds with collaboration and problem-solving, teamwork and communication skills. Educators across the country are diving into these learning structures with success. Students are discovering the importance of STEAM, STEM, PBL in their learning and loving the challenges these present.

I would like to remember when these purposeful activities or units aren’t running in the classroom environment, are we as educators using technology as a tool or toy? I ask this and I have been guilty myself, when  I let students use the laptops to play games when they had free time.  Ten minutes couldn’t hurt, could it?

Technology is so much more than a toy, especially in classrooms.  It is a tool when used to meet the needs of students on an individual or small group basis. Teachers who create customized lessons of reading passages, math skill races to memorize facts, blogging with others across the world, writing scripts for a presentation on shared documents.  These are purposeful examples of technology as a tool. Students understand the “why” behind the assigned lesson and its application to real-world experiences or skills. If my students can understand why they are learning their math facts and can see the increase of their facts which thereby support their work with multiplication problems, then technology is valuable.

Students are so tech-savvy today. They are on their cell phones, computers, tvs with tech games for hours. They have Instagram and other kids friendly apps and games.  As educators, it is up to us and I can proudly say to anyone who doubts this, we as teachers continue to use technology as a tool. There is plenty of time to use it as a toy outside the school day.




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