We have advocated for many years that technology is only a “tool,” and thus a means to an end. In our rationale, a tool is vital and important, but is used to reach an end result. Thus, “curriculum” was the given component, and it was the teacher’s task to determine what tools best facilitated the reaching of the desired end. It now seems to us that this is changing and that technology is now a method of instruction. It is no longer sufficient for an instructional leader to view technology as just another tool in the classroom as it now provides a method for teachers to transcend instruction beyond traditional direct instruction models and more into the social aspect of learning. Technology is no longer an instructional novelty.
The concept of technology usage in society is really making educators rethink their definitions and beliefs of what a teaching method is. In the past, we desired methods to be sequential, or at least prescribed. This was probably the nature of our needs as teachers (and not necessarily that of the students’). Time and instructional motivation are always a primary currency for educators and having expected processes (methods) helped me to maintain the momentum. We often found that my instructional planning was more a process of “frankenstein-ing” by conforming instructional tasks to expected outcomes and learner needs. Most educators plan with the following formula:
Students are going to do A, because we want to achieve B with these students who are C.
Technology used to fit into this formula very nicely as an "A" variable. I can hear most of my teachers now saying, “Please type this document using Word” or “Navigate to this web page where you will complete a learning applet about electrons.” But technology has advanced beyond being an instructional tool to being more a vector/ of instruction. And, there is a difference.
Consider an analogy using boating...there are many types of boats; canoes, jet skis, kayaks, freightliners, shrimp trawlers, etc. Each is created with a specific purpose in mind, similar to how instructional methods lend themselves to certain content. However, the common goal of all types of boats is to move something from one place to another across water (from point A to point B). Instruction has its own common goals that can be best be described in Bloom's Taxonomy’s domains of learning (Anderson, Krathwohl, Airasian, Cruikshank, et. al, 2001). As instructors we all want to achieve some sort of change within our students, whether it is cognitive, behavioral or psychomotor. In the context of instruction, technology, in our opinion, has transcended itself from merely being a tool (or type of boat in this analogy) to being the common vector (a path), itself. Even Twenty-first century students may be digital natives but a more appropriate label for them when considering instructional planning, and one that instructors seldom think about, is that students today are also classroom aliens. As a...