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Why Do You Ask?

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

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Great Debates - Chicken or Egg & Teach or Tech

Thanks to the Washington Post article that says Interactive White Boards are basically bunk, the conversation has begun again.

Gary Stager wages his ever-popular war on the "big mouse" technology on Twitter.  It's great entertainment.

Sylvia Martinez jumps ahead (and saves us over $6000) on the the next big thing - the interactive tabletop.

Technology for the sake of technology.  How long will it take to figure this out?


Teaching is an art.  I am writing a book, with a deadline of December 6 (my birthday) about this topic.

The "profession" of teaching has been run roughshod over because we collectively believe teaching can be reduced to a scientific approach of dumping learning content into the heads of children.  Teachers have been forced to teach in worst of circumstances.  I don't care if you are in inner city, urban, suburb, or rural areas, teachers have been given a difficult task and told they must perform the impossible.  I'm not talking about violence in schools, or the oddities that make the news.  I'm talking about the day-to-day work of a teacher in America.

Through the "let's not hurt feelings" decades of the last 30 years, teachers have been forced to have a classroom of students ranging from high intelligence levels to language learners to special education (low intelligent levels), to behaviorially maladjusted, to whatever category we seek to deny exists in a single classroom with a few minutes to "do the miracle" of teaching every child in that setting.  And we accepted it, because to do so was to say that you did not "care about" all the children. I contend that we do our kids a disservice by including such a "diverse" cast of characters in a single classroom, most times with one teacher, and then playing charades that every child is equal, and will be given the best education they could receive.

YET - teachers do this every day!  We somehow take a messy palate of various shades of intelligence, opportunities, experiences, hopes, and dreams and struggle to make sense of the situation in an effort to create a masterpiece out of the lives of the children under our instruction.

Enough on that...for now.

Because of this mass of confusion we have created in public education over the past generation or two, everyone (teachers, admins, parents, politicians, test companies, publishers, and now tech firms) have bastardized (or standardized) the process of learning and the intent of education.  We run numbers, manufacture data (as Alan Levine said in Twitter "we torture data until it confesses" - Jan 30, 2008), and seek to uses scientific structures to perform artistic feats.  We treat our students as robots. We provide input (standards) in hope of future output (high-stakes tests) in the name of efficiency and a false sense of effectiveness.

Since we devalued students to robots, the role of technology in the process is not a big leap in modern pedagogy.  Be it PowerPoint, IWB, SMART, Computer labs, tablets, smart phones, iPods, or any other tool, the tool in and of itself will never answer our questions of what works in helping a student learn. 

These tools (and tools yet to be invented and sold) will never be a magic bullet to solve the question of improving learning or increasing achievement or decreasing the achievement gap (whatever "achievement" we're talking about - it seems only to be measured by questionable test scores anyway).

In the hand of an artistic teacher, a marker and butcher paper is all they need to reach the children in their classrooms.  For an artistic teacher, a stump of a tree and a well conceived story is all they need to make an indelible imprint on the mind of a student.  In the hand an artistic teacher an IWB might open the world to a single-town young person's vision, but so can an ancient map.

However, in the hand of a teacher who has relegated themselves to a scientific, mechanical approach to teaching, you could give them a space shuttle, and the kids may never leave the force of gravity (or racism, or oppression, or opposition) that holds them back from becoming a successful, happy human.

Education - It's not about the tool, or the technology.  It is about the relationship between student and teacher. Use the tools to develop relationships with students and parents and watch improvements in learning happen...or is it already too late?

Posted via email from Murry's World


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