kitchen table math, the sequel: The black magic of "technology"

Friday, June 19, 2015

The black magic of "technology"

If you haven't read Education Week's new article on education technology, you should. I'll try to get a post up excerpting it later.

Why Ed Tech Is Not Transforming How Teachers Teach
Subtitle: Student-centered, technology-driven instruction remains elusive for most

"Why Ed Tech Is Not Transforming How Teachers Teach" explains, as clearly as anything I've seen, why constructivists want mobile devices in the classroom.

Constructivists want mobile devices in the classroom because mobile devices create student-centered learning.

That's what they think.

And that's what is happening here.

For the administrators who run my district, aided and abetted by a 3-person board majority, "technology" is magic. Nothing matters more.

Nothing matters more because once you have mobile devices in the classroom, the teacher decamps to the back of the room, from whence she can survey students' Google docs.

In the wake of today's traumas, I've discovered yet another horrific aspect of our administrators'  "passion" for technology.

I've discovered a double standard where disciplinary actions are concerned.

An infraction involving technology is punished far more harshly than the same infraction involving paper.

Swipe a set of teacher notes from the teacher's desk and you get detention.

Swipe the same set of notes from the district computer system after having been given the system password by a district technology advocate and you get two hours of interrogation without your parents present and a year's suspension from school. And the police sent to your house.

Because technology.

And see: help desk


Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, the wide-eyed fanatics ready to prepare everyone for "the world of the future". According to this article ...

... here's what they were saying in 1968 (with comments):

"The New Book of Knowledge is written for the children of today, who are standing on the threshold of a new world. These children will be citizens of the 21st century" (ah, proving that the editors could add). "They will travel in space" (well, a couple dozen will), "set up stations on the moon" (nope), "build homes under the sea" (nope).

momof4 said...

I didn't see any mention of using technology to provide more, deeper material and/or acceleration to the strong students - which is what many kids and parents would like to have (since leveled grouping is now a cardinal sin). Using it with kids at the other end wasn't mentioned, either. I also hated the glowing account of using Googledocs for group work. The preferred learning style for some kids - like me and my kids - is working independently, either from a book or from a good teacher's lecture. Funny; that learning style is getting ignored.

Auntie Ann said...

It's cargo cult education: if we only had these shiny objects, we'd be just great!

Barry Garelick said...

See also this article from the Washington Post.

Froggiemama said...

I am on the district technology committee in my school district, and see a lot of the same things going on. But you need to realize that much of this is parent driven. There is enormous pressure in our district to move everything to mobile devices. I hear parents saying things like "Our kids won't be educated for the future if they don't use tablets because those are more hi tech than computers". Never mind the fact that a tablet is nothing more than a braindead computer - the parents don't really understand the technology. But believe it or not, it is the educators on the this committee who are trying to hold the line and make reasonable choices. Knowing your town pretty well (I used to live in the next town down), I can't imagine that things are any different. Parents are really a huge factor in the push to the "shiny new thing".

Anonymous said...

I agree that much of this is parent-driven (at the hardware and OS level, anyway). In the late '80's, our PTA had an argument over which computers to put in the lab, and what software would position our kids for success. A few of us shook our heads and said, do you really think those choices will have any lasting effect?

Glen said...

I've said this before, but I'm a strong believer in the power of technology in education, and I use it a LOT with my own children at home. The problem is that schools just aren't likely to do what I do. Sometimes they can't; other times they could but won't; and sometimes their circumstances are different enough from mine (classroom vs semi-private, their students' characteristics vs my kids') that it wouldn't work even if they did.

My kids aren't allowed to use calculators for school math homework until Algebra II, but after some brief play with real coins and dice, I have them write little computer simulations of more interesting questions in combinatorics and probability to extend the range of experiments they can do. So, are there online sites that claim to teach kids to write code like this? Yes, lots of them. Will it work? Not very well for most kids. I have to painstakingly teach mine both the programming and the math and then do several of these simulations with them before I can turn it over to them to do related simulations on their own. LOTS of hand holding to prepare them to do a little self-teaching. But, gradually, they gain the ability to further extend their own programming skills without my having to teach them. It takes more direct teaching than I expected to get them to that point, though.

For geography lessons, we often sit down in front of Google Earth and explore the planet. What an unbelievable thing to be able to do. Early on, I tried to hand the reins over to my kids for them to explore Google Earth on their own, and I quickly discovered that it went nowhere. I knew what I was looking at, and it was breathtaking; they didn't, and it was...shrug. So, I have to take them on tours, point things out, ask them questions, and so on: direct instruction.

I'm happy to use technology for drill-and-kill, too. I write and rewrite little apps to provide practice in one thing or another, not just for my kids, but for myself. My older son has started doing the same thing, for himself, for his younger brother, and for his classmates. His classmates could pull out their phones during the long ride on the bus, log in to my son's Web app, do a little easy drilling, and get an A on Friday's Latin roots test, "without doing any homework." Wow, flash cards, what a useful concept.

Sometimes, such as a typing tutor program or a YouTube video teaching a Photoshop technique, technology really can replace the teacher. A textbook is one such technology. In most cases though, for most kids, you first have to be taught how to read to use a textbook. You have to be taught how to write to use pencil and paper to take notes. You have to be taught how to program to write useful programs. These technologies don't replace teachers, but they eventually provide great leverage if you are taught enough to be able to use them well.

Catherine Johnson said...

It's not parent-driven here **at all.**

Back when the district was buying SmartBoards for all the classrooms, parents were completely behind it.

But today, in my district, "technology" means mobile devices in the classroom and group learning. Parents don't like that at all.

People were completely horrified that our administrators might be contemplating bringing in Pearson's iPad curriculum.

Catherine Johnson said...

Glen - it's not just that schools aren't going to use technology the way you use it, it's that schools actively reject using technology in 'teacher-centered' ways.

I first discovered that last year, when I was trying to combat flipped classrooms.

Catherine Johnson said...

Barry - thanks for reminding me of that article! I saw it a couple of weeks ago & then completely forgot it.