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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Has Technology Led Teachers Astray

I just finished reading about how three separate GPS-led traveling parties have gotten lost in Oregon.  All were rescued, thankfully, but it made me wonder about teachers who have had a love affair with technology and how tech will change education.

Have teachers who relied on technology to attempt to change education been led astray from the real purpose of educating children?

Using the analogy of GPS, and how people "believe in the power" of GPS to get them where they are going, I wonder what technolgies have been espoused as directional tools to change education but have only made us lose our purpose. 

I have been less than impressed with the GPS assistance I have been given as I have travelled.  I have never been "lost" because of the bad directions through GPS, but I have been extremely disappointed in the accuracy of the instructions.  And the voice telling me to "turn left" annoys me, especially when turning left would lead me the wrong way down a one-way street.  I've been late to dinner reservations, and had to "re-wait."  It is frustrating - so I don't use it anymore. 

What happens when we begin to rely on things that don't work? 

What I use instead of the newer technology, GPS, is a folding map to get an idea of where things are. Then I'll use Google Maps for details as I get closers (usually on my iPhone, but sometimes printed on paper).

In it's simplest form, I use what works for me.  Technology is meant to make life easier for the user.  If it does not make our life easier, it is bad technology for us.

Now back to education. What is the PURPOSE of education?

My goodness, how the answer to that question has been debated over the past 10 years. And through the debates, I wonder if we (all of us who really care about the future of our children) have clouded the answer with supporting statements, rather than clarifying the true purpose of education.

Is the purpose of education...

  • to prepare students for their future?
  • to provide students a basic knowledge base?
  • to prepare students to be productive members of society?
  • to identify specific talents among individuals to connect them with their potential livelihoods?
Because the purpose of education is clouded, we have multiple opinions as to what will help our students succeed.

I would like to think that purpose of education could be to prepare students to experience the best life they can achieve.  There are some presuppositions to make this happen. 

  • Teachers have to care about the best of each student, not about the prejudices we may bring with us about the students in our classrooms.
    • Things like race, socio-economics, gender, and all the other ways we classify students today (in the guise of leaving none behind).
  • Teachers have to accept that students have differing abilities, and that is a good thing.
    • Since we have artificially inflated the need for college (all kids should go mentality) we have left behind those children who will become the electricians, mechanics, woodworkers, plumbers, and other service needs personnel.  We will soon find ourselves void of craftsmen...none of whom need a college education, but will have to find some way to learn the craft because we have all but eliminated these classes from our high schools, because they do not fit into our public education system any longer.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I stopped in a wood works store today.  In the back they had a classroom where people could learn to use table saws, lathes, and routers to do "projects." Everything there reminded me of my high school woodworking class.  I learned to make tables, desks, and tried my hand a cabinets.  I was 15 years old. I enjoyed the work, and many times call on the skills I learned there to do odd jobs around the house. 

The store was not as busy as Lowes or Home Depot, but they had customers.  I overheard one of the men working there say to a customer, "We can teach you how to do that. We have a classroom in the back of the store. You can use the equipment, and be finished in about a week."  Educrats would call it mentoring.  It is a form of apprenticeship that they are hoping to bring back to our area.

I liked what I saw - no pun intended. They are meeting a need for people to turn hobbies into income. As colleges price themselves out of students, I see these kinds of businesses having a place and purpose. They will train the students we have neglected by thinking the best hope for all students is to go to college and "find themselves."

I don't claim to have all the answers, nor should anyone else.  I just know that in an effort to "leave no child behind" we have interpreted that to mean "all children go to college" and thus have downgraded the value of a college education (now that anyone qualifies). Sir Ken Robinson said it this way (paraphrase) - what used to take a high school diploma, now takes a bachelor's degree and what used to take a bachelor's degree, now takes a master's degree. 

This can only be true if a) doing the same tasks we did in the past have gotten harder, or b) we have reduced education to the lowest level of student ability (dumbing-down), thus requiring more time to provide the same material.  Personally, I believe it's a little bit of both with a much heavier dose of the latter.

What do you think the purpose of public education should be?

Posted via email from Murry's World

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