Technology for Technology Sake…The Gilligan Approach.

Growing up in the 70s, after-school TV was a big part of my life…right or wrong. It was entertainment for entertainment sake…and that’s ok…not every minute of your life should be devoted to learning something IMHO…chillax’n is good. But as I think back today to some of those entertainment moments, there were several that speak volumes to me today.

I won’t go into them all…but…

One such moment comes to mind from an episode of “Gilligan’s Island”, it was a flash-back type episode where the gang was thrust back into the Stone Age, though still on the island…and the Professor invents the “wheel”. The Professor talked about how important this invention is and Gilligan had to have it to use on some trip they were taking. When they cut to the scene of Gilligan using the wheel, it was attached to a stick and he was pushing it in front of him with one hand while precariously balancing a load of something with the other! Hilarity ensued! Obviously he had no clue how to really use the wheel but he knew it was a great thing and he just had to have it!

Sound familiar?

Using the wheel just to say he was using the wheel, aka The Gilligan Approach. Not only did he not “employ” the technology, it was actually a distraction to his mission. Unfortunately I think there are many teachers today who pull a Gilligan, they acquire education technology just to say they are “using” education technology. Or, teachers are often put in a position by their administration where they feel they must have education technology in their classroom…but it ends there…no support or assistance so they end up not employing it at all or use it improperly or unwisely and therefore ineffectively.

I do ultimately admire Gilligan’s initiative. He believed in the Professor and knew that if he said the wheel was a good thing, he was going to use it! And while I also believe jumping in with both feet, sink or swim is a great way to learn new things, a little direction from a peer, mentor or other knowledgeable type goes a long way in reducing the dreaded learning curve.

Education technology can be amazingly transformative and can bring a level of student engagement rarely seen before in education. But if you are one of those teachers who have been given, or force-fed the education technology and are stuck in the “now what” mode, what can you do?

Option 1: Reach out to your school or district’s technology director/integrator, assuming you have that resource. Talk over a couple projects you are contemplating soon and ask what kind of technology, hardware/software/or both, would improve the effectiveness of and the student engagement in the upcoming projects. Also talk over things you do on a regular basis such as handouts, homework assignments, etc and figure out how you can use technology to improve the day-to-day as well.

Option 2: Social Networking/Blogging/Microblogging/Twitter/Facebook/Wiki. Build a PLN (Personal Learning Network) using the communication tools above and participate in it. Share ideas with others and don’t be afraid to ask your PLN for help with something you don’t understand. I’ve found most teachers love to teach, be it students in the classroom or peer students around the globe. For help here, check out the PLN link above and The Educators PLN or these articles, How to Use Twitter to Grow Your PLN and PLN: Your Personal Learning Network Made Easy.

So let’s remember the Gilligan Approach and all its downfalls and leave it on that deserted little island…don’t let the technology be a distraction to your mission, learn how to use it effectively…maybe I should print a bumper sticker to help me remember that reads, “Don’t Be A Gilligan”. 😉