Leonardo Da Vinci is a hero of mine. He’s a polymath. We know him for his famous paintings, some (if not all) of which are priceless embodiments of the man’s genius. Not only that, he was an inventor, biologist, musician, writer, sketcher, anatomist, sculptor and sportsman. He could bend iron bars with his bare hands. He was as proud of this skill as he was his paintings.
His inquisitiveness and insatiable curiosity led him to moments of genius, and occasionally, moments of despair. His “last supper” painting was a fresco (painted on a wall) in a monastery. He circumnavigated the accepted method of painting a fresco, using a one he invented instead. Leonardo was a slow and detailed worker. Traditional frescos required fast painting before the plaster dried. Any errors could not be amended. Leo’s method enabled him to work slower and fix mistakes. Trouble was, his method ended up fading and crumbling quickly. The painting started to disintegrate within a few short years. There have been many attempts at restoration, but what’s left of the “Last Supper” is a shadow of its original glory.
Another hero of mine is Brian Lara, the cricketer. Brian was, quite simply, a wizard. I am a left handed batter. When I played cricket in my back garden as a youth, I wanted to be “the left-handed Lara.” Then I realised Lara was left handed. I became just “Lara”. He was brutal. Bowlers who missed their mark by millimetres were destroyed by Lara’s flowing willow. He had a style so distinctive it was almost impossible to copy (I should know, I tried enough times). A cricket bat in Lara’s hands was like a paint brush in Leonardo’s: it was a facilitator of artistry.
Ed Tech is like a cricket bat. Left alone, it is a motionless piece of wood, of no use nor ornament. Give the bat to a layman, and you’ll see awkward swings and uncoordinated swipes. Pass the bat to Lara, and it is a thing of beauty. The end result is magnificent. Ed Tech is also the paintbrush. Left alone, it is a piece of wood of no use nor ornament. Give it to a layman and you’ll get incoherent squiggles on the canvas, a fine mess of no aesthetic beauty whatsoever. Pass the paintbrush to Da Vinci and you get masterpieces by the bucket load. He uses the paintbrush to make the world a better place. Brian Lara makes people smile with a swing of his willow.
Give EdTech to the layperson and you’ll get little effect. They focus on the tech itself. Just as a lay painter admonishes a brush of insufficient quality, and the poor batsmen bemoans the plank of wood he’s wielding, the lay user of ed tech bemoans the ineffectiveness of the system and produces poor results.
Give great ed tech to a great teacher and they create the Mona Lisa. They realise ed tech isn’t a magic wand: it won’t make poor teachers great. They realise it is their paintbrush: a tool to facilitate creativity. The amazing lessons they plan for their students can be enhanced by technology. Amazing teachers use tech to bring their ideas to life. Amazing teachers find new applications for ed tech; applications the creator of the product never imagined. Amazing teachers are creative. They see possibilities for ed tech and they use it to their advantage. They pick thge right brushes for the right job.
Technology isn’t the teacher, it is the facilitator. Ed tech allows great teachers to become even greater. Hand Lara the best bat in the world and he would be unstoppable. Give Da Vinci the best in artistic material available and he’d be even better. Give great teachers great ed tech and they become unstoppable, their lessons unforgettable, and their students’ experiences incredible. It’s time to remove focus from the tech itself, and place it firmly on what we are able to do with it. That will make learning even better.