Shovel or Spoon?

I read an article by one of my favorite writers in education, Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) .  In it, Bill asks tweeps “what one bit of advice” he should give district leaders around technology.  Tim Wilhelmus (@twilhelmus) responded:


Behind Tim’s statement is the belief that people will use tools without understanding why.  Better put, they will design lessons with the tool at the forefront, instead of designing  for efficient and effective learning.  This may happen, often, I am sure.

However, when we spend time debating whether or not a tool should be used, we are again putting the tool at the forefront.  We end up with two camps:  those for the tool and those against the tool.  This argument is not the best vehicle for discussing effective lesson design.

I’ve written about the problem with false dilemmas in my post:  The Genius of And :

If we all focused on the big idea (say, student learning) and truly know where our students are and what they need,  we will free ourselves up from this false dichotomy.  

My point?

  • Start conversations about learning with the GOALS/concepts/outcomes at the forefront
  • Avoid talking about the tools until the goal is transparent
  • Add supportive tools when they make sense and are supportive of the goal
  • Assess the learning to determine if the tool worked and the learning happened

Shovel or spoon?

It depends on your goal.


4 thoughts on “Shovel or Spoon?

  1. ……..usually it’s both; “learning and tool use” go hand-in-hand with our old, and reliable, mentor “failure”…..practice the skill in the context of the learning and embrace failure.

  2. This is such a great message that I found at just the right time. I am tired of the shiny, new tool dictating the learning instead of being clear about what you want the learning to be. If you are hungry, the goal is to eat. Based on what you want to eat (meeting the goal) you choose the tool; spoon for cereal, fingers for grapes etc. The tool didn’t drive the goal, the tool supported meeting the goal.

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