Technology in the classroom: lessons learnt from a mountain bike ride

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Technology in the classroom.

What is the relationship between a marathon mountain bike ride and a classroom experience?

Last weekend, I spent the whole day mountain biking in the country side near Barcelona. For 120 km, our group of 14 bikers rode through small trails, many of them hard to find, and we came back at night using headlamps to find our way through the woods. Another rider and I had brought a GPS. We started following our tracks, sharing indications that appeared on our screens, looking for consensus each time we had doubts or different interpretations. Following GPS indications is not as simple as it may seem, especially in a group. It requires technology understanding, interpretation skills and consensus. Working with technology in the classroom requires the same ingredients, and consensus is hard to reach. Students using tablets in the classroom may be tempted to “follow their own track”, i.e. make individual use of technology. The teacher in the classroom is, like any GPS holder, challenged by another GPS holder to find the right trail.

After a few hours, the rider that held a GPS gave up, and I was in charge of leading the group. I made mistakes, we did more kilometres than needed, but I was an unquestioned leader. I became obsessed by my GPS screen and no longer looked around me to enjoy the view and the ride. The teacher in the classroom may also lose track of the reality as long as he or she relies exclusively on technology.

At sunset, in the middle of the last climb, my GPS battery progressively ran out. No more indications on my screen! My status changed instantaneously. New leaders emerged with a great sense of orientation and a long mountaineering experience — just like a classroom where teacher and students together realise they have much to gain with dialogue, creativity and mutual trust.

Technology in the classroom is just like the GPS on my mountain bike: essential as long as you don’t question the information you receive. Once you realise the batteries can run out (or the server can fail), you suddenly remember that learning from others and with others, is at the core of the classroom experience.

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