Alexandria Online

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Serving Versus Selling

I read a fine phrase used by Tim Fish in his article in the Winter 2009 edition of Independent School Magazine: "servant leader." It captures nicely the dichotomy of teaching, and, to a large extent, the role that different technologies play in teaching and learning. Tim, a former director of technology and writer and speaker on the subject of technology in education, stressed in his article the importance of community, relationships and a sense of place in schools. Teachers serve the community and lead the community.

Digital technology comes from a very different world: the marketplace. From the moment it became possible to type one's credit card number safely into a website, selling, marketing, promoting, has been grafted onto what was once arcane science. Digital culture intrudes, with its brassy self-confidence; it calls us all old-fashioned, hopelessly inadequate, unprepared for the future. Selling is in its nature. Upgrading is mandatory. And this approach is anathematic to serving and leading. Your doctor should not promote or sell you an antibiotic; she should heal you with it if that is the appropriate measure.

We should offer digital technology in clever ways that respond to genuine needs, not sell it or market it to create a need.

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