How to avoid becoming a caveman!

Photo credit: Public Domain Pictures

In this day and age, how has it come to a point where we have children whose skills and understanding of the digital realm far outstrip the people they are supposed to be learning from?

I guess that the obvious answer to this question is that this has always been the case and that when we were younger we also began to access areas of understanding that our own parents never had access to. So what’s all the fuss about then? Hey, let’s just let the kids sort it out themselves and we will keep teaching them what we know works well for us. We will be safe, sticking with our tried and trusted methods, until the Earth finally turns cold and we are buried with our pencils, papers and wooden desks with a small inkwell in the corner!

Now this is exactly the sort of attitude that does nothing to help anyone-students or teachers! What we need to do, as educators and parents, is provide a learning platform that allows our children to become more proficient in the current digital realm. If you like, we need to become their guides on the journeys they will take through their time with us. I think this line from an article by Shane Gower on ‘living and learning with New Media’ sums it up nicely:

Teachers need to evolve to become Connectors or expert participants.

How do we do this when the introduction of new technologies to help teachers guide students on their journeys has become a real issue for many educators though? Quite simply many teachers are unsure of how to use these new technologies and fear that they will have to rewrite their own internal teaching manuels in order to participate. Of course, not every educator feels this way!

There are many other educators who want to experiment and investigate the digital ‘New World’ and then adapt and implement what they find there. I have noticed that this educational fork in the learning highway is already starting to cause quite a dilemma for schools, teachers and parents. I have also become aware of the feelings of disatisfaction and irritation that many teachers have when confronted with the use of technology in the classroom. So what do we do when we have those who want to go forward yet we also have those who wish to remain stationary?

Well over the last year, I have done a great deal of soul-searching over this very question. On the one hand, my answer would very definitely be “Move forward and don’t look back!” But on the other hand, I also like a lot of what the children learn (and how they learn it) in my class, and I’m not sure that I want to give that up. Perhaps though, it could be said, that therein lies the beginnings of an answer to the question.

I think that there is definitely a case for using what we already have in our current units of work and lesson plans and tweaking them to get the best of both worlds. This seems to be the safest option and the course that many schools would logically move towards. In fact, this strategy could be likened to ‘dabbling’ and ‘doing old things in old ways’ as Marc Prensky mentions in his article on shaping tech for the classroom.

However will this strategy ultimately be the best cause of action for a school to take? Surely if you really want the students, your working with, to maximise their learning opportunities then you will have to take option four; which means ‘doing new things in new ways’. In my mind there is no doubt that option four would lead to more of an emphasis on digital tools being more fully integrated into a school’s curriculum. This in turn would lead to a larger focus on PBL.

Peer Based Learning-where learning is characterized by a context of reciprocity, where participants feel they can both produce and evaluate knowledge and culture-Living with new Media, The MacArthur Foundation, page 39

However, in order for us to give our children the best opportunities to learn, then we can’t let our own feelings about the digital realm and it’s new technologies get in the way of our responsibilities as educators. Those teachers who actively resist the new technologies and tools that are available to us are ultimately going to fall further and further out of touch with the realities of being a global citizen of the modern world. It is no good saying that I can make do with what I already have or that I don’t need to worry  about learning to operate a new application or program because the students don’t need to use it until later in life. NO! That is unfairly disadvantaging the students we are teaching. We are responsible for making sure that we understand which tools are the best for us to provide the best learning experience possible. We also have a responsibility to know how to use those tools in a way which benefits the students otherwise we will become no better than cave dwellers trying to work out what the big round thing is for!

Is this where teaching could end up if we are not careful?
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5 thoughts on “How to avoid becoming a caveman!

  1. I think to often we think that is has to be an “all or nothing” game. That we can’t blend the new with the old. It’s funny I find that this is a global issue right now. We’re almost polarized in our views/thinking and we leave very little room for middle ground.

    Do we need to change our practices to keep up with brain research, what we know about good teaching and learning? Yes

    Does that mean we through out all the old stuff? No

    What old stuff get’s replaced? That’s the real question that we should all be asking.

    Cursive Writing vs Keyboarding or both?
    Multiplication facts vs Calculator or both?

    The list goes on and on…..but in the end we can’t do “both” of everything…there isn’t enough time in the day and so we make choices. Teachers choose to do one or the other because we only have about 180 to teach them everything they need to know. So we makes choices and we have to decide moving forwards what’s the best course of action.

    Is it learning what the round thing does and use it appropriately with students or keep pushing the square one because we know how to do it and it gets the job done?


    1. Hey Neil:

      I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading your blog post here. You made some really good points that caused me to reflect on my sometimes overzealous approach to teaching. I appreciated your reflections.

      Take care,


  2. We seem to be in the middle of this fast moving debate in Education (which is not new is it?) keep it or throw it. I guess it goes back to all our educational practices, like Jeff said in his comment ‘cursive vs keyboarding’ or ‘rote learning of timestables vs understanding timestables’ what do we keep, modify and change and what do we throw out. I have a feeling, this is going to be a discussion that will continue for many years to come …, isn’t that Education?

    I loved this statement of yours ‘we can’t let our own feelings about the digital realm and it’s new technologies get in the way of our responsibilities as educators’.

    At the moment, my team and I, are going through all our units and deciding on what tools and skills we can implement, change, or throw, with our 1 -1 lap top program. I often feel a little overwhelmed and can let my own feelings of inadequacy hinder me, when using technology, which as a result impacts my students. I have started to realize though, that we are all on the ‘tech’ journey, no one has arrived yet, as it is an endless, finite. I may be further back along the road than others, but as long as I am willing to have a go, be open minded, to get out of ‘my comfort zone’ and to ask for assistance, play and aim for option four, ‘doing new things in new ways’, then hopefully I am equipping my students and preparing them for their future.

    So as I lauch into using ‘mine craft’ into our space colony unit this week, I will keep your final image with me, ‘ Is this where teaching could end up if we are not careful?’ I don’t want to be a cave man!


    1. Dear Cynthia,

      I honestly have no idea! I originally got the image from google images(although I can’t remember what search I used) so I’m not sure how tight the restrictions are on using it. I hope this helps!



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