It is easy to be impressed (and for many, understandably intimidated) with today’s quickly advancing technology.  It is easy to get overwhelmed by the number of apps out there and to get caught up with finding the newest and latest ones all the time.  And especially now, with Apple’s launch of new tools that will allow educators to make our own, interactive e-books, it is easy to find an app that can pretty much improve upon, enhance, or replace nearly everything we do – even in the classroom.

There are apps that simulate a white board and marker or a paper notebook and pen, so do we still need to use the real thing?  There are apps that simulate magnetic poetry, board games, and puzzles, so do we still need the real thing?  There are apps that  simulate science experiments and dissections, the sound of the ocean, the call of birds in their natural habitats, and pretty much anything else you can think of, so do we still need the real thing?

Yes, of course we do.

My answer is actually a resounding YES!

Especially in education, we need to keep low-tech options available, updated, and as current as the latest apps.  The apps we use today were not born and raised in an entirely virtual, digital world.  The technology we are using was born out of a tangible, and tactile world.  Much of it exists because its “real-world” counterparts exist.  Tomorrow’s technology may be even more advanced and even more realistic and thought-provoking, but as educators we need to ask ourselves, as we immerse ourselves entirely into a high-tech world, “Will it really?”

The famous quote by Frederick Douglass, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress” comes to mind whenever I ponder this question.  The answer I come up with, is that the thought-provoking struggle and conflict that arise when using low-tech supplies, dimensional and malleable materials, substances that we can smell and taste and get our hands dirty with, will generate new, original thinking in our tech-friendly students.

As we explore the newest advances of technology, the smell of a brand-new composition notebook, the quick click of the buttons on a calculator, the gurgle of liquids as they are poured into beakers, or the sensation that a newly sharpened pencil sends up the arm when it furiously flies across a sheet of paper, can not be left – entirely – behind.

Combining high-tech with low-tech resources will undoubtably enhance our students’ learning opportunities.  I believe that the combination will result in tiered, differentiated, multi-sensory, and self-selected learning experiences that will take our students to even higher understandings and more creative thought.  If they are constantly exposed to what the technology does not do, but what its “real-world” counterpart does, and vice versa, the possibilities will be – virtually – endless.

Our world has a place for all of the above, and so do our classrooms.  Our role as educators is now to figure out where and when – and in what combination – each tool and resource is best utilized.

What did YOU do in school today?