It is not About the Bicycle

Last year during the first summer session on campus of the doctoral program I am in, we were shown the video where the late Steve Jobs compares computers to bicycles. Hence, the quote attributed to Jobs “computers are like bicycles for our minds.”

This statement clarified the notion I had of using technology in the classroom as a tool. Yet a year later and after many books and articles read on technology implementation in the classroom, I still struggle with looking at technology as the vehicle of instruction and not the instruction itself. The conflict of the concept is such that during the second summer session this year, more than one professor said to me “Ericka, it is not about the technology,” when discussing topics for my doctoral dissertation.

As I was starting my day today I had a random recollection of Memorial Day weekend in 2014. I spent the weekend in New York City with four of my closest friends whom I have known since high school. A particular memory played vividly in my mind. It was the afternoon we spent a couple of hours riding bikes. I can’t help to smile every time I think about it and experience the thrill, hear the laughter and even feel the wind blowing on my face, just like that day, all over again. It was just a simple bicycle ride yet it was an unforgettable event.

And then…AHA! Job’s quote came to mind and I thought: “If I look at a bicycle as a technological tool (and it is) then, it is really not about the technology. Just like that afternoon was not about the bicycle but about what riding the bicycle allowed me to do.”

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That Saturday afternoon, two of my girlfriends and I decided to rent bicycles at a place near Central Park. I had not ridden a bicycle in years and it felt incredibly awkward to do so. We couldn’t ride the bicycle on the sidewalk so we had to take 5th Avenue to make it to Central Park. It was about four to five blocks away. I didn’t think anything of it, until I found myself in the middle of the road between cars, buses and cabs! “What in the world was I thinking?!” I said to myself. “I’m going to get hit by one of these cab drivers and regret every minute of it.” We arrived safely to Central Park and it was glorious to ride along runners and walkers while looking at the park filled with people of all ages and cultural backgrounds.

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The goal was to visit Strawberry Fields. My father is a huge fan of John Lennon and The Beatles. I couldn’t pass the opportunity to take a picture to send to my dad in Puerto Rico. So when we arrived, we parked our bicycles, took pictures and hopped back on the bikes. Our next stop would be “Gray’s Papaya.” And as you can imagine, my internal prayer began as we ventured outside the park and into the streets of Manhattan again. We spent some time at Gray’s savoring the delicious hot dogs (yes, you can’t just have one) and the signature papaya drink. Then we headed back through the streets (I was feeling more confident in my bicycle riding skills by now) and Central Park, before getting off the bicycles and walking a couple of blocks to the place where we rented them.

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It was quite an adventure that I now have in my collection of anecdotes. But let me go back to the analogy of bicycles and computers. My experience riding a bike in New York City had nothing to do with the bicycle. It didn’t matter whether it was new, expensive or whether it had good features. It didn’t make the Saturday afternoon memorable just because it was a bicycle. The experience was memorable because I stepped outside my comfort zone, I did something for the first time, I took a chance, I felt excitement, I rode along Central Park in New York, I visited Strawberry Fields and tried a famous hot dog, along with two wonderful friends. The bicycle was literally the vehicle that helped me do all those things that brought so much joy to me. I could have walked or driven a car to those places. Yet, the bicycle made the experience unique. However, just riding a bike without a plan or purpose wouldn’t have given me such a treasured experience. Getting on the bike doesn’t magically create extraordinary memories; because it is not about the bike. It is about what we do with the bicycle and how meaningful it is.

So, Steve Jobs was right. A computer (and technology in general) is like a bicycle for our mind. And my professors are right. It is not about the technology. Using technology in the classroom focusing on a piece of equipment or software does not guarantee an effective lesson. It doesn’t mean that the students will automatically be engaged either. By doing so we, educators, run the chance of using technology as a mother would use a pacifier with a crying baby. It is the purpose and the elements of the lesson, along with the experience and approach of the teacher that makes teaching with technology valuable and hopefully life changing for our students.

Hasta pronto,

Misi

Copyright © 2015 Ericka Collado
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