What can Avatar teach us about technology integration?

Photo courtesy of Avatar photo stream on Flickr

Over the holiday break my wife and I saw the 3-D version of Avatar. If you have not seen this version of the movie, go watch it to see how the use of technology gives the audience a better experience. What movie makers can do to enhance films is amazing. At least that was what I thought after watching the movie. After reflection, I have thoughts about Avatar. However, remember I said to go see the movie for the technology, the movie as a story is something different. 

The plot is an old story. A group of natives happen to be sitting on some valuable real estate and won't give it up because of some spiritual connection to the land. An organization, who stands to make lots of money off the land, decides the natives have to go and attempts to use it's technological superiority to evict them. Sounds like Dances with Wolves and other movies of that sort? How about history? North and South American conquest by Europeans. Africa and Asia too. Stories always have some hero who either by chance or design mixes with the native population, learns it's ways, then adopts the native culture. The hero learns of the impending onslaught and leads the natives in a defense of their land and way of life. Usually, the natives win the battle but history says the natives will be crushed in the end.

However, what grade would you give the story itself? While the story was entertaining I thought it was average. All I hear in the press is about the 3-D technology used in the movie. After my reflection I asked myself if the technology glitz mask a mediocre story? Would I purchase this movie when it comes out on DVD or Blue Ray (which I don't have yet)? Would I see this movie a second time in a theater without 3-D? The answer I came up with is probably not. 

After this reflection that I thought of what I always tell teachers about integrating technology, don't get caught up in the glitz. No amount of technology will make up for a poorly written content. Yet, I have seen teachers give high marks to an otherwise average or poor project because it was a blog post, podcast, video, or some other technology because technology was used. Nothing beats good planning and writing, something teachers and now movie critics need to remember.

Enjoy Avatar. See you at the movies!