What social media does for Connected Educators today is amazing. I noticed an inbound link to my blog Thursday, likely because it was “funny” Spanish to me – also known as – not English or Spanish. I followed it to an interesting blog in Italian. I am so glad I was able to read this via Google Translate {My Great Grandma who taught in a one-room school-house would have been astounded!}

During this meander through a fellow-educator’s blog I encountered the phrase “New Containers, Old Methods.” Which I followed back to his original post about the difficult marriage of digital to school. My new-friend-I’ve-not-yet-met, accurately points out that technology in education does not “improve” education under the current measurements. He also cites Yong Zhao (Never Send a Human to do a Machine’s Job: Correcting the Top 5 Mistakes in Ed Tech) and individually addresses each of Zhao’s explanations of how we have gotten these fives things wrong. Please pop over there and check it out. But it is the measurements versus the learning, interest, and enthusiasm we sense through #edtech creations which are not aligned. You are not wrong, kids are learning aided by technology. However, the misuse of educational technology – cramming those new containers with old methods – is giving educational technology a bad name within education. The incorrect methodologies disguised as #edtech (predictably) do not show gains under current measures. The misconceptions and old methods must be addressed to move forward productively.

Captured by the phrase “New Containers, Old Methods,” I started thinking about what those new containers are. I started identifying the old methods educators try to squeeze in to them too.

New Containers Old Methods SMThe New Containers

New is a relative term. Students many times are not excited to use technology from before they were born; and often teachers are reticent to use technology introduced since they entered the classroom. Still, looking over the past ten years I spot some trends:

Interactive White Boards (IWB)

I have some pre-existing thoughts on IWBs. These are expensive solutions for classrooms and so the stakes are higher to use them correctly. Correct usage should include a high rate of student usage of the IWBs in any room where these are installed. Optimal usage should include a plethora of open-software files for use between brands, with less emphasis on individual teachers creating differing files depending on curriculum and brand of IWB.

Google Drive

Remember when everyone used to charge for all storage? And then in 2012 Google gave you massive free storage? Yeah, that was great.
And it was a revolution.
While Microsoft and others followed, Google has inserted itself into most people’s cloud strategy as where to save – something – to Google Drive. And because of that ubiquity, the ‘Login with Google’ is as popular as the Facebook or Twitter login.

Learning Management Systems (LMS)

An inheritance from Higher Education, the Learning Management System (LMS) of old added new features to enforce the old methods of classrooms. Look to newer, more open LMSs for open architecture which encourages/promotes using the assets of the current interactive Internet to assemble content as a teacher and mash-up and share submissions as a student.

The Old Methods

Usually teachers who have time invested in their current practices, often with positive results, or maybe under an Administrator who does not know how to productively challenge them, cling to these practices:

Teacher Centered

Have you ever called out to a teacher over a bull horn, “Put down the pen and back away from the White Board,” have you ever wanted to? When teachers routinely dominate a space or time in a class it is not desirable. This indicates the class is centered on the teacher versus on the learners. How many educational technologies have been commandeered by the teacher and are out of reach of the students – and therefore not as useful as possible in learning.

Individual Work

When collaborative work is avoided systematically, when assessments or projects are constructed with the purpose of thwarting “cheating,” when the desks must stay straight – and in the same lines all year – the deity you worship may be the God of Individual Work. Consider the maneuvering needed to avoid collaborative interactions, it must be exhausting!


I believe every teacher is an Instructional Designer, face-to-face included. The Instructional Design of any learning experience needs to be crafted by the educator for the student. If a teacher allows the features of any LMS to dictate the instructional design of the course, it is no different than flipping page after page in a Teacher’s Edition of a textbook. A LMS is a facet of the classroom, and what it lacks the teacher must provide along side that piece of technology.

Sometimes the security of using a educational technology (exclusively) is attractive because it is a way to replicate, maybe even amplify, the control of one teacher over many students. Used inappropriately, a LMS could be anti-choice. Allowing for only use of approved features or tools. While it is technology strictly speaking, used this way the LMS is replicating a very old-school model of teacher-centered instruction. And a very expensive version as well.

Where do you observe “New Containers and Old Methods?”