The Real Game Changer in Education

Recently, I read a great post about social media as a potential “game changer” in education. It got me thinking about the concept of a so called game changer. Personally, I have a tough time buying into the idea of a game changer in anything, let alone education. When it comes to education many people think various pieces of technology are game changers with social media being one of them. I will be the first to say that technology has made me a better teacher. It has given me a better way to differentiate my instruction and has allowed my students access to resources and perspectives never before possible. Social media in particular is one of the single most positive things I have done in terms of a professional development. I have educational resources at my fingertips and the amount of expertise available is staggering. In many people’s minds that right there would be a pretty clear testimony to social media being a game changer. Yet, I don’t think so.

At the end of the day all of these advancements in technology are simply tools. Yes, they are powerful tools, yet it comes down to a teacher using them. I work in a building where we have a great deal of technology in every corner of the building. However, there are still many teachers that refuse to utilize its power to enhance student learning. Technology has power but it is still comes down to who is using it and how they are using it. All the web 2.0 tools in the world will do nothing in the hands of an incompetent or disinterested educator. Is it the tool that is a game changer, or is it the user that uses the tool to better learning for their students? I feel as though every teacher should be using the most recent and relevant technology to do their job, but just having it in your classroom does not guarantee it is a game changer for student learning.

To use an analogy, my younger brother owns his own home renovation company and does some amazing construction work. He talks about some of the tools that he has that make his job easier and could very well be called game changers in the construction business. However, if you were to put those tools in my hands, they would just be expensive liabilities. Again, it comes back to the user, not the tool itself.

As I have said very publicly, I am a huge fan of technology and the power it has to transform learning for our students. Yet, I still think it comes down to the user and not the tool. I would rather define game changers as individuals who choose to use the best tools available to better learning for students. Tools will come and go, but game changing educators are what we need in schools as a constant. As an educator do you define the effectiveness of the tools in your classroom or do the tools define your effectiveness as a teacher?

If you look/read around long enough you will see what game changers really are. They are principals that push their buildings forward and fight archaic traditions in education. They are teachers not afraid to stand up for what is best for their students. They are parents and students not settling for mediocrity in their education. Tools are great and can make our lives easier and learning more effective. However, at the end of the day, it is educators wielding these tools for greater learning that truly changes the game. 


Suzie Nestico (@nesticos) said...


Great post. Certainly thought provoking and for the most part, I agree wholeheartedly. While disheartening, likewise I see many of the same examples of uninterested folks with acces to great tools. Yes, it does come down to the person, the educator. The key here is your last sentence, "However, at the end of the day, it is educators wielding these tools for greater learning that truly changes the game."

As with anything, though, it can always come down to a matter of perception. Or perhaps perspective is a better word. Let's level the playing field and put all of us who are the diehard edtech folks who can use the tools to make the learning even more meaningful for our students. For many of us, social media and technology is the game changer. Can I teach without it? Yes? Can I still engage them? Most of the time. But, social media has literally opened up opportunities for my students that I could have never given them without it. Social networking and collaborative work online took them to the other side of the world, to work with teammates, in person (Well, we raised the money, but you get the point). Granted, I had to teach it to them and do it effectively. But again, on a level playing field, it can be the game changer, especially for a small-town, rural school where many students would never even come close to opportunities like this.

From a generalized standpoint, it may not be the game changer, but it certainly has changed the game. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It really made me think about it.

Douglas Green said...

It's the user, not the tool. That is the nut of this fin post. Posted this as a quote at Thanks and keep up the good work.

Geralyn said...

I totally agree with your last paragraph about the game changers being principals, teachers, parents and students. I believe that need to stop focusing on the tool but focus on updating on HOW we teach what we teach. The "how" must take into consideration what is revelent to my students TODAY ... in the 21st century NOT how I was taught in "bc" ... before computers.

Lyn Hilt said...

You're right, the people are the game changers. The tools make it easier for us to connect, collaborate around common visions, share ideas, offer support, and be more efficient and effective in our communications. Nice post!

Terri said...

Excellent! Yes, it is the people who are the game changers. How do we motivate those to use the tools that can enhance their instruction? As an elementary principal, I encourage those who want to use these tools and applaud their efforts but I am still stymied by those who want to do it "the way I have always done it" even when they see the results that others achieved. Any suggestions?

Orlando Ribeiro said...

Dear Josh, congratulations for your post and for the clear vision on technology applied to education. In fact technology is only part of the problem as well as the solution too. People like to transfer responsibility to things instead take charge of the situations and do their job. Indeed it is easier to bet on "game changers", for if things go wrong it will always be possible to wash the hands as Pilates did!

Anonymous said...

Josh. I agree that the tools are just that - tools. People are the real wielders of change. I love your analogy of you using your brothers tools - highlights your point perfectly.
I'm working at being a game-changer in my building. I work with some more advanced at the game than I, but I think the fact that I recognize, embrace and support the people as they use the tools is a huge start.

Wonderful post that I will share with my staff.


Brian Kuhn said...

Josh, I agree with you, today... but imagine 10 years from now. Machine innovation is accelerating and we haven't seen the game changers yet. in 2021, students may be immersed in 3D worlds that look, feel, smell, and for all intents and purposes are "real". They have access to limitless information, knowledge, and even some assemblance of wisdom. Instead of researching and writing about ancient Egypt, they research it by talking to Pharoahs and citizens of ancient Egypt and then build virtual replicas. They participate with famous figures in writing the American constitution or the forming of the Canada. They join with students around the world "in person" learning together from diverse perspectives.

What role do you see principals and teachers playing in a future where all learning is technology powered, where it is inseparable from technology? Where virtual and real world experiences are blended into rich learning environments. I think that type of world is possible, maybe not in 10 years but surely in 20.

Dorian Love said...

To my mind the real game changer is the cognitive shift that is slowly gathering pace. Stevan Harnad, the cognitive psychologist called it the Fourth Revolution, after the invention of language, literacy and the printing press; the power of the Internet to bring the immediacy and interactivity of Oracy together in the same space as the reflective power of literacy.

It is really about how we as teachers help our students manage these changes in cognition. We know what we want; we want critical independent thinkers - it's what we've always wanted. But the problem is we have no idea what living in a world which is always on, always connected means. We are still in the early days, and things are going to change rapidly down the road. As teachers we need to make sure that we are constantly reflecting, thinking and passionately caring about where we as a species are headed. If we do that with honesty and openess, we will serve our students well.

Josh Stumpenhorst said...

Thanks for all the comments guys! I understand that technology will continue to change the way in which we do our jobs as educators, but we will always be there to decide how to teach. We as educators will be making the choices about how and why to use the tools available. You can also argue that for something to truly be a game changer, everyone should have access to it. That is clearly not the case with all technology right now.

I put a lot of stock in technology but I put even more stock in human beings and their ability to use technology to increase learning opportunities for students.

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Gérard Gatoux said...

Blogs, Skype conferences with our sister schools and podcasts have enhanced my teaching. Technology has definitely made me a better teacher!