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Friday, February 10, 2012

The Questions We Don't Ask About Technology

The SpeEdChange blog had some interesting thoughts about schools, learning, and technology:

"The media you use makes no difference at all to learning," Clark, director of the Center for Cognitive Technology at USC, is quoted as saying. "Not one dang bit. And the evidence has been around for more than 50 years." Which is all quite true, and I do not know here if Clark's statement is being used completely out of context here or not by Hiltzik, because Clark is not heard from again.

And Hiltzik leaps to a different academic, and a different argument immediately. "Almost every generation has been subjected in its formative years to some "groundbreaking" pedagogical technology. In the '60s and '70s," he writes before another quote, '"instructional TV was going to revolutionize everything," recalls 
Thomas C. Reeves, an instructional technology expert at the University of Georgia. "But the notion that a good teacher would be just as effective on videotape is not the case."'

If you are a teacher, a parent, an administrator, or the President of the United States, I do not care how or what you learned in school. Or, let me put it this way, your experience in school, or in sitting with your mom studying books in the wee hours of the morning, is completely irrelevant to any discussion of the education of today's students.

Maybe worse than irrelevant. Maybe dangerous. The belief that "your" experience is relevant leads to a nightmare loop. 

And thus all who are "different" in any way - race, class, ability, temperament, preferences - are left out of the success story.

Technology is everything humans have created. Books are technology - a rather complex and expensive one actually, for holding and transmitting human knowledge. The schoolroom is technology - the desks, chairs, blackboards, schedule, calendar, paper, pens, and pencils. These are not "good" or "bad," but at this point, they are simply outdated.

Yes, we still have stone carvers. Yes, we still have calligraphers. But we no longer teach students to chase the duck, pluck the feather, and cut the quill. We no longer teach Morse Code. We no longer teach the creation of illuminated manuscripts.

Now we must give up teaching that ink-on-paper is the primary information source. It is not. We must give up insisting that students learn "cursive" writing. Instead, they must learn to text on their mobiles and dictate intelligibly to their computer. We must toss out our "keyboarding" classes and encourage students to discover their own best ways to input data. We must abandon much of Socrates' memorization and switch to engagement with where data is stored. We must abandon the one-way classroom communication system, be it the lecture or use of the "clicker," and teach with conversation and through modeling learning itself. We must lose the idea that "attention" means students staring at a teacher, or that "attendance" means being in the room, and understand all the differing ways humans learn best. We must stop separating subjects rigidly and adopt the contemporary notion of following knowledge where it leads us.

And we need to start by understanding that we are preparing students for the world that is their future, not the world that is our past.

Ira Socol

Read the full article by clicking here.

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