Call Me Hammerhand

I am still buzzing from all the ideas percolating from SLOAN International Conference on Online Learning, but today my buzz was from two totally unrelated (and yet totally related) blog posts from my PLN.

At the conference, there were many of us who cautioned people to not fixate on the latest digital tools, because the tools come and go, and what is important is teaching and learning.  After all, Jane Hart noted in her 2013 Top 100 Tools for Learning that the Number One tool of 2007 (Firefox) is now #97, and the Number One tool of 2008 (Delicious) has slid to #60 (and one I have abandoned for Diigo).  Things like WordPress or Pinterest or Poll Everywhere are “just a tool.”

How many of YOU have said similar words!?!

So, this morning I am reading a post from Gardner Campbell entitled “Doug Engelbart, transcontextualist.”  Gardner writes:


“There is no such thing as “just a tool.” McLuhan wisely notes that tools are not inert things to be used by human beings, but extensions of human capabilities that redefine both the tool and the user. A “tooler” results … The way I used to explain this is my new media classes was to ask students to imagine a hammer lying on the ground and a person standing above the hammer. The person picks up the hammer. What results? The usual answers are something like “a person with a hammer in his or her hand.” I don’t hold much with the elicit-a-wrong-answer-then-spring-the-right-one-on-them school of “Socratic” instruction, but in this case it was irresistible and I tried to make a game of it so folks would feel excited, not tricked. “No!” I would cry. “The result is a HammerHand!” …

So no “just a tool,” since a HammerHand is something quite different from a hammer or a hand, or a hammer in a hand. It’s one of those small but powerful points that can make one see the designed built world, a world full of builders and designers (i.e., human beings), as something much less inert and “external” than it might otherwise appear. It can also make one feel slightly deranged, perhaps usefully so, when one proceeds through the quotidian details (so-called) of a life full of tasks and taskings…”

Let me repeat, a HammerHand is something quite different from a hammer or a hand, or a hammer in a hand.

Which brings me to the second post I read this morning, from Jane Hart entitled “The Social Learning Revolution and What It Means for Higher Education.”  Jane provides the Slideshare below which she used for her closing keynote at the WCET Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado last week.

Jane discusses her latest findings for the Top 100 Tools for Learning, where free online social tools dominate the top of the list.  She also notes that  learning, working and personal tools are merging, and that personal and professional learning is under the control of the individual.  She suggests that in the workplace learning revolution, individuals now have the tools to solve their own learning and performance problems.  The connected workplace with its wired workers – what Harold Jarche and Jon Husband call a “wirearchy” – increasingly demands new skills and practices.

Jane then suggests that what this means for higher education is that it is not enough to just add social tools to instructional practices.  Our students need to build social competence within a Personal Knowledge Management framework to prepare them for the new world of work.  They need to learn how to leverage social tools to solve their own learning and performance problems, as they will be expected to do when they enter the world of work.  Their “school work” should not be done in isolation, but integrated with a professional external network.  Working with this external network, our role as faculty is to help students make sense of what they find in the confusing world of the web – learning how to filter, synthesize and analyze, then encouraging them to share their learning back with their network.  In other words, our role as educators is to help students develop their digital identity.

She asks “How are you preparing your students for this new world of work and learning?”  Which begs the question, how are we in Centers preparing faculty to help them prepare these students?

Gardner’s post has me considering that whether working with faculty or students, when we begin to use a digital tool in our instruction, a HammerHand is something quite different from a hammer or a hand, or a hammer in a hand.

How does our use of a digital tool change us, our students, and the teaching moments?

As I said, my brain is buzzing.  Would love to hear your thoughts….

Graphics: {Recon Construction}




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3 thoughts on “Call Me Hammerhand

  1. Are we fundamentally different because we use a hammer or a digital tool. How has our humanity been changed, altered, or colored?

    I don’t think we are fundamentally different. But perhaps we have realized potential not yet manifest in our lives. Perhaps we are MORE human because we have mastered a tool, made it a productive part of our lives.

    I’m just sayin…

  2. Two phrases that stick out for me in this blog are to “build social competence within a Personal Knowledge Management framework to prepare . . . for the new world of work. They need to learn how to leverage social tools to solve their own learning and performance problems”, and to develop “my digital identity.” The first seems to be a different way of saying “life long learner”. The digital identity will most likely be a permanent fixture versus the individual characteristics of a person being forgotten over time. In my work with college students, I talk with them about how their online actions now will impact their future. I wonder how the impulsiveness and daring of their developmental stage being documented on the web will affect their future selves. A digital identity is one that is “always on” and could affect how one views self as well as how other view the person.

  3. I could not help but muse at the reference you made to Hart’s question, how are you preparing your students for this new world, because I used to work for the Kentucky Department of Education and in Digital Learning. I was responsible for the May 2013 Digital Learning Summit in Frankfort, KY, and one of the things that I advocated was something I called “digital pedagogy”. The focus of Digital Learning was to promote the idea that using digital tools in K-12 would improve student performances. It’s a dumb idea actually because it’s the wrong approach. I tried to make the case for pedagogy and the belief that training teachers to use digital tools and technology not as an alternate way of learning, but rather as a toolbox approach to teaching. There are probably 500 SmartBaords in classrooms all over Kentucky that have never been used. It is technology crammed into the classroom by superintendents who thought they had a solution to low test scores, or poor enthusiasm. However, what they didn’t invest in was pedagogy. Can you teach with a tool you don’t know how to use? The answer is, “no”. I got in trouble for pointing this out.

    Check these two videos out:

    Both of these videos are already dated and the point is how to keep up. Most Kentucky teachers use 20th century technologies (albeit LATE 20th century) to teach. What should they be doing? Hmmmm?

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