From Now On

The Educational Technology Journal

 Vol 13|No 4|December|2003
Please feel free to email this article to a friend, a principal, a parent, a colleague, a teacher librarian, a college professor, a poet, a magician, a vendor, an artist, a juggler, a student, a news reporter or anyone you think might enjoy it. Other transmissions and duplications not permitted. (See copyright statement below).

What is Smart Tech?

By Jamie McKenzie

(about author)

© 2003, Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved.
  • Knowing how to design worthy lessons and activities.
  • Knowing how to pick the right tool to get the job done most effectively and most efficiently.
  • Knowing when to go unplugged.
  • Knowing when to use classic tools.
  • Knowing when to employ new tools.
  • Employing the classroom management strategies to create an engaged and productive classroom climate.

What are the traits of Smart Tech?
See below.

Click on the diagram to open in new window at full size.

The traits identified in the cluster diagram above fall
into three main categories:

  1. Purpose - The learning goals, the understandings, and the types of thinking desired.
  2. Pedagogy - The approach used to develop a lesson and the strategies employed to orchestrate learning.
  3. Choice of Tools - Finding the right tools for the learning challenge.

During the past two decades, too little attention was devoted in some schools to the first two categories as there was inordinate pressure to employ new technologies without first determining if they were the right tools for the job. Note FNO article, "The Technology Presumption: Could Integrating Technology Sometimes be Wrong-Minded?" at

If states, districts or schools presume that new technologies are always preferable, they might not consider the efficiency, cost, reliability, learning power and the capacity of such tools to extend the learning value of the curriculum unit beyond what might be achieved with more classical tools and approaches. Such presumption is both groundless and dangerous, leading to the kinds of folly portrayed in Oppenheimer's book. Sometimes it is smart to "Just say No!" rather than blindly troop down to the computer lab or take out the laptops. Sometimes paper works better. Sometimes books work better.

While some schools have swallowed the technology presumption, they may have also neglected purpose and pedagogy, offering little in the way of professional development focussed on how and when to use new tools to the best effect.

To make appropriate use of new technologies teachers require 40-60 hours of support for lesson design and classroom management, knowing how to structure the learning tasks while creating a classroom culture conducive to rigorous learning. Unfortunately, much of the focus thus far has been upon the learning of software and tools separate from a curricular context and a pedagogical framework.

  • "How do I keep all students on task?"
  • "How do I stop them from IM? (Instant Messaging)"
  • "How do I manage support when I have 30 students all working on separate parts of a complex task?"
  • "How do I teach students to think for themselves?"
  • "How do I get them to paraphrase accurately and cite sources?"
  • "How do I teach them to be wary of bias and weak information?"

Smart tech offers many advantages. It costs less money, it creates student learning gains, it appeals to a broader group of teachers and it helps a school avoid Powerpointlessness, Mentalsoftness, toolishness and other foolishness.

Back to December Cover

Credits: The photographs were shot by Jamie McKenzie .

Copyright Policy: Materials published in From Now On may be duplicated in hard copy format if unchanged in format and content for educational, nonprofit school district and university use only and may also be sent from person to person by email. This copyright statement must be included. All other uses, transmissions and duplications are prohibited unless permission is granted expressly. Showing these pages remotely through frames is not permitted.

FNO is applying for formal copyright registration for articles. Unauthorized abridgements are illegal.

From Now On Index Page