Technology: Either you’re for it or against it

So the new teacher program I referenced in my last post is in full swing, and I was not wrong about it being chalk full of stuff to do. I’m ambivalent about the usefulness of this program. I think I’ll probably get some good things to take away, but I’m not sure if the cost-benefit analysis works out in my favor. (We have “classes” until 5, and then projects and homework to keep us busy until 10 or 11pm. Remember that I only had ONE day of vacation since school ended before I had to come here.)

There was something that disturbed me about the program’s take on technology yesterday. And I now see why people like dy/dan are cautious about the school 2.0 crowd. When introducing technology, two mentor teachers took on the persona of 30 year old fogey veterans, who were “not okay with this passing fad of technology.” And we were supposed to try to convince them to come over to embrace technology.

Us: “Word processers are great! They allow you to spell check things, write faster, and edit and create multiple drafts quickly.”

Them: “Word processers are a crutch. Students don’t know how to spell anymore, and when they revise, they just change a few things instead of truly revising.”

What disturbed me was that everyone seemed to buy into this dichotemy. Instead of taking seriously the pitfalls of technology, the variety of teaching styles, and the fact that many veteran teachers with a lot of experience can teach amazingly without technology (with just a piece of chalk and a blackboard behind them), it was all an us versus them thing. The mentors were caricaturing the veteran teachers, making them look like they were wrong for not embracing technology. [1]

The focus on embracing technology wasn’t seen through the lens of student learning, and that’s the rub.

Give me a 30 year old beloved teacher without a Smartboard who has honed his (or her) craft anyday. I wouldn’t say no. [2] And how many of us have had those kinds of teachers, and loved them, and learned a lot from them?

[1] I finally read Prensky’s “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” in this program, and I was disconcerted. But everyone I talked to seems to buy into it wholesale. I wonder if the teacher mentors do too? Do people actually buy into this? How serious is Prensky? Not that all of it doesn’t sound plausible, but if you’re going to be arguing for a wholesale revolution in how children ought to be taught, I need a hell of a lot more evidence than the evidence provided. To me it sounds like the plausible argument “there’s so much violence in America because there is so much violence in movies.” Plausible, but I’m not buying it without evidence.

[2] Not that I think a teacher — veteran or not — can go through life oblivious about the technological world around them. But certainly we can’t and shouldn’t force anyone to embrace it.

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4 comments

  1. keep the faith. literacy will survive
    these high-tech cultists. i suppose
    the young *always* thing old folks
    have nothing to say to them …
    what’s weird is that these guys
    expect to sell that message to the old folks …

  2. Yeah, I agree. But I might have caricatured them a bit too much in my post. They were working with good faith.

    Their point was definitely “our kids need to learn technology because the global workforce is changing as is the nature of knowledge” — but they way they presented that point was by mocking old time teachers.

    What was so surprising was that I thought we were having a discussion on technology, so I raised my hand and said to the “old” teachers that I agreed with them, and I made my case for why they shouldn’t adopt technology if their students were learning well. And one of the teachers broke character and said “you’re supposed to be on the other side.”

    I admit a bit of a chuckle from that. The kid in the class who says something that doesn’t follow the lesson plan, I guess.

  3. Regarding your reading of Prensky: (1) Yes, people really buy into this. (2) Yes, Prensky is, I’m afraid, entirely serious. And (3) the moment you start looking for objective evidence to back up the claims of the School 2.0 people, you will come upon a gaping emptiness, because the entire School 2.0 movement is based upon anecdotal evidence and personal assumptions based on little to no data whatsoever.

    In fact, what little sociological research HAS been done on digital natives suggest that, while there may be a small (SMALL) subset of the current generation that fits Prensky’s description, it’s nowhere near a majority of that generation. But data doesn’t seem to move a lot of these folks, only the coolness of the technology. It’s wishful thinking at its pernicious worst because it causes educators to make assumptions about things that simply aren’t true, and we end up not teaching kids what they need because we assume they already have it.

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