It’s Not About Technology

Posted by on Oct 17, 2008

Sometimes we experience things that just won’t leave us alone. Something profound will leave an indelible mark, and later, we’ll be engaging the routines of life, and our minds will bring us back to the thought we assumed we had forgotten. A thought we can’t seem to leave alone. This week, that thought was brought on for me as I was experiencing an incredible, beautifully sad website.

I’d try to capture the essence of the site in a summary, but I know that’s an impossibility. You honestly have to take ten uninterrupted minutes of your own life to see for yourself. I promise it will be worth every second. The site is original in its navigation, and it takes a couple seconds to get oriented, but once there, I’d highly recommend you read every word and take in every image. When you’re done, come back to discuss the implications on education if you have the time. Here’s the site. Days With my Father.

The thing that I can’t shake about the website and the experience I had with it is the fact that somehow it’s entirely about technology, yet absolutely not about technology all at once. The site is ingenious in its design and layout, and the pictures are stunning. But it’s the story I can’t stop thinking about. And there’s the issue.

Without the technology, it isn’t likely I would have ever read the story, or stopped to reflect on what I’m doing to make my days with my family count. I wouldn’t have been entirely captivated by the haunting image of Toledano’s father with his eyes closed as he experiences a moment of absolute melancholy and understanding. But for all its ingenuity, the technology simply isn’t the point here.

I’ve heard too often lately that technology is the point. I don’t think it’s ever about the technology. I think it’s always about the story. Everything we do with technology is done to communicate information. Think about every great technological advance that has changed the course of our culture. It has done so through the communication of information. We communicate more effectively and on a more massive scale now than ever before. The very fact that you’re reading the writing of a traditionally unpublished person you’ve not likely met is evidence of that.

Technology pundits will tell you we have to focus on integrating technology in the classroom. I find I’m getting integrating fatigue. We certainly need to utilize technology in instruction, but I think we need to find a different way to communicate with teachers, students, and the community how technology fits into all this. We don’t use technology so we can check off a box saying that a student knows how to execute some skill in isolation like delete files from the desktop. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a teacher mark the “effectively uses pencil eraser” field on any report. Technology is just a tool that gets us deeper into the richest part of learning where we want our students to be.

Obviously I’m still working through the implications of all this. Like I said before, sometimes we experience things that just won’t leave us alone. I’m there right now, and it’s because of technology and one really incredible story.

Image used with permission from Phillip Toledano.


  1. Damian
    August 13, 2008

    Ben–I agree. There’s a techno-glut in the education business. Everyone thinks they have to use it all the time if it’s there. I’m probably the most (or 2nd most) tech savvy person in the science dept., but I probably use it the most sparingly. I’ll jump on the bandwagon to see what something’s about, and stay long enough to see if I can make something of it in the classroom, but I also know when to get off of it and use the tried-and-true. It drives me crazy sometimes trying to explain myself. OK, mini-soapbox over.

  2. Dahlia
    October 28, 2008

    This is great info to know.

  3. Patricia Haughney
    September 4, 2009

    As is true with any industry, many experts make their livings by consulting on topics such as ‘integrating technology into the classroom.’ Those who are doing the best work in the classroom are often too busy or non-wired to tell their individual stories of using technology to meet students where they are and to expand their horizons with connections to other parts of the country….or world. I’d especially like to hear from students how allowing them to power up at school increases their interest and involvement in school. This is one time that it’s truly about the kids, not the adults!

  4. Jen
    September 5, 2009

    I agree completely. When I was working on my undergraduate degree, I had to write a paper about my ultimate purpose in teaching English. I wrote about communication. My professor told me that I needed to change my focus because I was not a communications major; I was an English major. What is language if not for communication? And the higher goal? Relationships. I agree one hundred percent that technology is about communicating, and I will continue to engage my students with the belief that communication is the heart of the matter. Thanks for the article.


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