Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Enthusiasts vs. Skeptics: A Chapter 3 Reflection

After reading chapter 2 in Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology, I had a lot of doubts regarding how effective various technologies could be used within the classroom setting. Some of it sounds ideal and useful, while others sound a bit more Pollyanna and unfeasible, particularly those that weigh heavily on school budgets. Having read chapter 3, "The Technology Skeptic's Argument," I definitely feel that I'm more on the side of the Skeptics', but not to the point of being considered a Luddite.

We live in an age of pre-planned obsolescence. Every piece of technology inevitably reaches a point of expiration, as companies prepare to create the new "latest and greatest" while already in the process of releasing their latest products. By no means am I against this; rather, it is more a point on how glacial some (read: most/all) school systems react toward any potential changes or movements. Lee Shulman mentions the "pedagogical content knowledge" that is fiercely protected and cherished by veteran teachers (35), which may be a combination of teachers either being unable or unwilling to learn every new technology that is introduced within the school. The reality is that most teachers are set in their ways, for better or worse. Some teachers do not need technology and can still be great teachers, and some teachers can be great with technology and terrible teachers.

Another huge obstacle to overcome is standardized testing. As written in chapter 3, "the contemporary demand for standardized curriculum and assessment in K-12 education makes adoption of new instructional directions based on information technologies even more unlikely" (37). I'm sure most of us (and most teachers) would be ecstatic if MCAS and other standardized testing were eliminated, but that is not happening anytime soon, especially when it can be used as a means of victory by politicians (http://news.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view/20220918deval_hails_mcas_results/).  Furthermore, the reliance on technology for written assignments has been proven to be a significant issue; "Michael Russell and Walter Haney have shown that writing on computers actually leads to decreasing scores on pencil-and-paper writing tests, even when student writing improves as tested on computers" (37). Until standardized testing either goes away or is changed so that students can type, this is a serious issue that needs to be properly addressed. And as an aspiring English teacher, there are many benefits to pen-and-paper writing (drafting, outlining, pre-writing) that are usually ignored by those who begin with the computer.

However, the most convincing argument posited by the Skeptics regards classroom management. "When students are working on computers, particularly when they are working in groups, there tends to be a lot of interaction and noise with students sharing ideas and helping one another" (39-40). Teachers need to be respected, and they need to have the complete attention of not just one student, but every student for proper learning. The Internet makes that nigh impossible; I am writing this blog post with multiple other tabs up, whether it's rewatching "Open Gangnam Style" or preparing for Week 3 of fantasy football. If the technology were in place where schools could disable the Internet while students work, I may be convinced. However, most schools are running an outdated version of Windows, and tech-savvy students know how to work around whatever restrictions the school has in place.

This may sound like I am completely against the idea of technology in schools. This could not be further from the truth. At one point in chapter 3, it is written that "these incompatibilities make it very unlikely that technology will have a large impact on schools in the foreseeable future" (43), which is just plain wrong. It's a matter of the technology (and the accompanying educational movements) being properly refined and changed so that it is easy to learn for students and teachers, and available to as many school districts as possible. I am definitely open to changing my mind on the issue at hand. Two people who are way, way, way smarter than I, Cathleen Norris and Elliot Soloway, advocate the benefits of mobile technology in the video below. A few years prior, they were skeptics, cited for arguing that "for technology to make real inroads in instruction, the student to computer ratio in schools has to be 1:1" (37). The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) model they encourage is promising; hopefully the price on tablets continues to drop.

1 comment:

  1. "the contemporary demand for standardized curriculum and assessment in K-12 education makes adoption of new instructional directions based on information technologies even more unlikely"

    how sad, but true.

    you have reflected well on the book and with your own knowledge.

    Do you think schools are too focused on the tools and gadgets, as opposed to the necessary pedagogy?

    Will simply giving kids Ipads change learning?

    What role does corporate America play in pushing technology?

    things to consider....