Dancing with Robots: A Book Review

I’m teaching a doctoral class on Emergent Technology in Education this semester and I’m really enjoying it.  It’s the first I’m teaching a course with doctoral students and I’m finding the class and the discourse really engaging.  Developing the syllabus last fall, I really struggled with finding appropriate texts.  I wanted to include some research-based journal articles and some practitioner focused texts.  I checked out books that were being used by colleagues and ones that came up in the citations of different publications.  Ultimately, I chose to use a book that the spinning gears and algorithms of Amazon recommended for me.

The book, Never Send a Human to Do a Machine’s Job: Correcting the Five EdTech Mistakes, was written by Yong Zhao and his colleagues and takes a critical perspective on the use of instructional technology in schools.  When I previewed the book last year, I was instantly amazed at both its brevity and its depth.  Despite being only 144 pages long, the book covers a lot of territory and really challenges readers to examine how technology is used in schools and what that use says about us as humans, philosophically, emotionally and educationally.

The book posits five “wrongs” that have created the instructional technology “mistakes” we see in school.  In each, Zhong and his co-authors dig deep to examine how the technology can better support learning.  My doctoral students were really taken with a phrase that the authors offer to consider a better co-existence with technology, the concept of “dancing with robots.”  In this conceptualization, technology doesn’t replace human beings or makes our roles easier.  We work with it to create something unique and beautiful, something better than either could do alone.  This conceptualization is captured across the wrongs that the authors outline.  These wrongs include:

  1.  The Wrong Relationship between Teachers and Technology:  Complementing in an Ecosystem versus Replacing in a Hierachy
  2. The Wrong Application:  Technology as Tools for Consumption versus Tools for Creating and Producing
  3. The Wrong Expectation:  Technology to Raise Test Scores versus Technology to Provide Better Education
  4. The Wrong Assumptions:  Technology as Curriculum versus Digital Competence
  5. The Wrong Technology Implementation:  Top Down versus Bottom Up

Across the five wrongs, the authors skillfully navigate research-based topics such as constructivism, technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) and Communities of Inquiry.  But the book isn’t entirely research-focused.  The authors also dive into practical applications of the concepts and demonstrate better ways to integrate technology into our classrooms that are more consistent with how students and teachers learn and work. Returning to my doctoral class on Emergent Technology, since the class is in a program on Educational Leadership, I found the text to be an ideal starting point for an evidence-based examination of technologies for schools.  While I supplemented the text with other a bunch of other readings, I found that it offered a well-written challenge to the status quo that set the stage for the whole semester.


One thought on “Dancing with Robots: A Book Review

  1. Pingback: Are the bots taking over? | The 8 Blog

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