Technology should not be transparent

When educators say, “technology should be transparent” – what does this mean?

I fear that it means that:

Cookiea) We believe that people are so scared of it that they need to be fooled. So if we downplay the technology, perhaps they won’t notice and will eventually come to accept it. Sort of like hiding spinach in the chocolate chip cookies.


b) The use of technology just supports the existing paradigm, so of course it’s transparent. It simply makes it easier to follow the same comfortable path.

I know that many people actually advocate hiding spinach in cookies, but I believe that ultimately, deception comes back to haunt you.

What if the technology is so transformative that it can’t be ignored? What if the learning experience could not be achieved without the use of technology? Isn’t that the ultimate goal?


6 Replies to “Technology should not be transparent”

  1. I couldn’t agree more Sylvia and I wish it were possible to shout this more loudly. We are collectively guilty of downplaying technology as a result of disenfranchising a whole generation of teachers with our rhetoric many years ago. Now we take the tack that its all about learning, not technology, and that appeases those who fear it or fail to see its relevance in their own classrooms. Certainly, some learning activities cannot occur without using technology, but teachers will argue about the need for such things as social networking, writing to a wide audience etc. They are so focussed on syllabus content that they overlook the skills associated with life-long learning, and there is a “Hey, once I’ve got them through the exams, I’ve done my job” attitude.
    I think we need to redefine the role of the teacher and I commented on Scott Mcleod’s blog recently (
    Unfortunately, these conversations are all to brief as we all rush on to the next topic. I do agree with Scott, there should not be a right to refuse when its the kids who suffer as a result.
    They just don’t get it do they?

  2. I agree with all your points except that you might say my use of technology is transparent to me because I don’t think, “How can I use technology in this lesson?” The technology organically comes to play as a tool for whatever I’m teaching. So I think you might consider this transparent in a good way. To people observing though the technology probably doesn’t seem transparent.

  3. Allow me to wax philosophic on a Friday afternoon…

    Technology should be transparent!

    Transparency does not mean hidden. We do not put glass in our homes to fool people that an opening exists. We put glass in our homes to reveal the other side.

    When we look through a window, we do not see the glass; we see through the glass to reveal the beauty that lies beyond.

    When we use technology to help children learn, we should not see the technology; we should see through the technology to reveal the brilliance of human potential.

    That is what is meant by “Technology Should Be Transparent.”

    On the more logical side…

    The pencil was once the height of technology in learning; people were very aware that they were using a pencil. Today, people do not “see” the pencil when they use it, they see what they create with the pencil.

    This is what is meant by “Technology Should Be Transparent.”

  4. Sylvia,

    I agree with what you are getting at. Like so many of us over the past few months, you are trying to help create a vocabulary that holds the true meaning of what technology should allow teachers and students to accomplish. I’m reminded of a post by Jeff Utecht about “embedding” technology rather than “integrating.” I proposed the word “grafting,” but I am still not happy with that analogy.

    I struggle with transparent, because unlike Jim’s experience (above), the teachers I know do not define tech transparency as he does. As Jim defines it, I agree with him too.

    Somehow we have to arrive at a story, using words that will have meaning to the “uninitiated.” In my mind, the use of technology is the way we should conduct the business of teaching and learning; but I know I am in the overwhelming minority with that opinion…all of us are who participate in the edublogosphere. Out of the 980 teachers in my system, I am the only one I know who participates in a PLN online. I taught myself, through the use of the online communities. I do not consider myself a “Digital Immigrant” at the age of 45. I consider myself a “Digital Translator” for those who do not yet speak our language; which includes teachers and students.

    The idea of “transparency” to most teachers (in the context of technology use in the classroom) is that you simply don’t see it. That which is unseen is often undone. By using the word “transparent” we may be sending one of two messages to teachers who are uncomfortable using tech: 1) It’s not necessary (as in invisible) or 2) the tech is so ingrained that the teacher must be so comfortable with it that they don’t even have to think about it…thus making it untouchable for teachers who are not that comfortable.

    See, I’m grasping (and gasping) for words we need to be able to use to tell the story of the importance of tech in the way we do business in classrooms.

  5. Sylvia,
    I think everything that has been said here has merit. I’ll just add that I’ve always interpreted transparent in this regard as “focus”.

    Is the pedagogical focus on the technology or is it on whatever content we are teaching? To me, “making the technology transparent” means something like “keeping our focus off the cool technology and on the learning” that it is delivering.

    Just one example of non-transparent technology…kids doing a multimedia report…some spend hours picking out the music soundtrack, some spend hours putting together other more “cosmetic” elements of the report (spinning logos, etc.) In the meantime, the actual research and writing is neglected. (I understand there is value in all these elements; but not at the expense of the underlying purpose of the report.)


  6. As I read the comments, I realize that I agree with many of them, as Pete says. I guess it just reinforces the danger of using cliches and phrases that carry no meaning in themselves. “Transparent technology” can mean anything you want it to mean, and we all go away thinking we agree.

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