I jumped into the car last Saturday with family members for a “quick” trip to St. Louis. It was during the “quick” seven hour drive that I was reminded of something that I haven’t thought about in a while.

It’s not either / or . . . it’s both / and.

Meaning simply that the use of technology in education doesn’t limit or reduce face-to-face conversation. The use of technology encourages and supports face-to-face conversation. And vice versa.

And I know that for most of us, this fact is so ingrained that we sometimes forget that others don’t get it yet. I still hear arguments from teachers, admin folks, parents and BOE types that using technology makes learning impersonal and reduces social skills.

It was during the drive to St. Louis that I was reminded again about how powerful technology can be when it’s used to encourage conversation and thinking.

I was busy getting information from the GPS, my daughter was listening to an audio book on her iPod, my wife was interacting with iPod Touch apps and my son was online with his laptop via a data card. The traditional argument would suggest that everyone was so busy with their own tech tools that they ignored the others in the car.

But what I started to realize is that throughout the trip, small and whole group conversations sprung up based on the tools we were using. Jake and I discussed possible higher ed options while he surfed to various college web sites. This led to a conversation concerning political differences between campuses and how future elections might be influenced by younger voters. As that conversation died out, a discussion developed between siblings about current tweener fiction and its influence on behavior and relationships among teenagers. Other exchanges followed that focused on food, history, literature, geography and why Kansas football fans don’t like Missouri football fans.

And, of course, all of it supported by some sort of online access.

Could the conversations have happened without the technology? Yes. Would they have been as rich? No. The digital access enhanced the analog conversations. And the analog drove the digital access.

Schools work the same way. Technology, done right, means richer conversations, deeper thinking and socially competent kids. And while there are still those who would disagree, we need to continue to find strategies that encourage high-quality technology integration.