I spent today with a small group of teachers discussing ways to integrate technology as part of their differentiated instruction design. It was a fun day!

But I was struck by the conversation that developed around the room about working to find a balance between too much technology and too much traditional method. And for a while, it seemed as if we weren’t going to be able to agree.

One group suggested that basically technology was a solution in search of a problem. Like crows bringing shiny objects back to the nest . . . not because the objects are useful, just because they’re shiny. Others insisted that technology integration is essential to 21st century learners and to think otherwise is simply ignoring the facts.

It was a friendly discussion but one that I think happens a lot.

What is the balance between too much or too little?

And the discussion was especially interesting because of a series of events that happened last night at my house. We had just gotten back home and settled in for the weekly fix of Pysch when the electricity went out. The Pysch lovers were not pleased.

So like everyone else in town, the kids and I jumped in the truck and drove around. You know, just to see what was going on, cause . . . that’s what you do when the lights go out. We discovered that the outage was pretty widespread. But an interesting thing happened when the three of us jumped out of the truck back at our street.

The stars were . . . amazing. Bright, clear, no moon.

We soon found ourselves lying on the grass, hands behind our heads, just gawking. I mean, it was old school. And very cool. The problem was that we soon ran out of constellation knowledge and we were left simply looking. Nothing wrong with that but we wanted to finish the constellation search. A problem in need of  a solution.

My daughter soon remembered an iPod app I had showed her several months ago called Planets. I remembered that I had synced that app to an iPad and she ran to get it. And all of sudden we had old school and new school.

A very cool evening just became cooler because we could lie in the grass with the iPad above our heads and the app could highlight constellations and show us where they should appear. Soon, with the memory kick start of the app, we (okay . . . my daughter) were able to begin dragging different constellations out of our heads and find them. We even learned some new ones.

A nice balance between traditional kinds of learning and new tools.

Eventually the teachers in today’s conversation saw the same thing. It’s not either/or,  it’s both/and. Finding the best bits of each gives kids more of what they need.

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