Sunday, August 20, 2006

Technology In Education

People call me a Luddite, but I'm not.

I'm all about the internet and the use of computers. Considering that this post is my 1285th post on this blog, I don't think I can wear the title Luddite very well. A more accurate description for me, at least when it comes to education, is "purist".

Trigonometry doesn't need graphing calculators in order to be taught well. In fact, I assert that requiring students to do the grunt work themselves provides a deeper, "richer" understanding that makes "higher-order thinking" possible. It may even make "lifelong learners"!

OK, enough buzzwords. Put simply, I view technology in the classroom (or anywhere else, for that matter) as a tool, nothing more. It is not an end unto itself, and whenever I see a "technology" strand in some teaching standard (thank God we don't have it in the California math standards) I know that some political button is being pushed somewhere.

All this comes to mind when I read RightWingProf's (see blogroll at left) post about putting multimedia presentations online for college students. It's a very informative read. In it he makes two points that need repeating:

And let's not forget this: If there's no credit attached, students will not do it.


Technology is not pedagogy. Technology is not a substitute for teaching. Technology is merely a tool. Nothing more.

Good thoughts to remember.


Lillian said...

You are so right, Darren!

Technology is just a tool. Unfortunately, many young people working at McDonalds, would be in big crap if the computers were to ever shut down. They wouldn't be able to make change from a $20 bill, after being given an order for two fries and a Big Mac.

That's scary...but it proves your point.

Even in the area of language arts, we are seeing more and more students who cannot write legibly in either cursive OR manuscript - due to the emphasis on word processing.

Getting back to basics won't hurt the emphasis on computers, etc.,, so why don't we just get back to basics, hope the kids master them, and then bump them up to the next level which includes the bells and whistles of the technology age.

At least they'll still be able to communicate with parchment and quill, whenever the power goes out.

allen said...

The topic of computers in education illustrates the divide between the private sector and, representative of socialism, the public education system.

In the private sector there isn't much discussion beyond "will it add to the bottom line". If "yes" then it's a matter of working out the most advantageous implementation. If "no" then "why are we wasting our time talking about it?"

If the answer was "yes" and you don't implement then a competitor will notice the omission and bury you. So there's a powerful impetus to use profit-enhancing technologies: survival.

In the public education system the discussion that's central is "can we get it funded?" since there isn't any need to worry about the competition. That relegates concerns about educational utility to second string. That's where the stories about the brand-new, destined for the classroom computers that ended up gathering dust in some school district wharehouse, came from. It's the bringing in of grant money that's the goal so not much thought is given to the use of the technology beyond that point. Given those considerations, is it any wonder that the use of computers in education has been such a major disappointment?

With that in mind though, it may be possible to predict where the use of computers in education will become effective.

I'm thinking two major areas: private education, AKA University of Phoenix, Kumon, like that, or the less developed countries, India, China, possibly somewhere in Africa.

The first category does have a bottom line driving them. If Kumon can cut the number of employees and other costs while convincingly delivering a superior education then they sure as heck will. If Kumon doesn't avail themselves of the cost-cutting, efficacy-improving technolgy then Sylvan Learning will and in a few years Kumon will be a division of Sylvan Learning.

The second category has as a motivation climbing out of whatever past century their society is mired in. Not as immediate and measureable as an increase in profits but pretty compelling. As an example of the sort free-wheeling experimentation having nothing to lose can encourage:

Darren said...

Allen, very well thought out. I've long advocated for "distance learning" because there are plenty of people for whom the traditional school model either doesn't work or isn't appropriate. It would be a fantastic and appropriate use of technology.

Your contrasting schools with industry is dead on.

Lillian said...

Again, Darren...I agree with you!

I took 11 units through online courses with University of Phoenix, and I absolutely loved it.

I'm sure there are middle and high schools who would benefit from the technology, in this regard.

I also support charter schools such as OPTIONS FOR YOUTH, which have a twice a week meet with your teacher format, for independent study.

But the main point is that there should be MORE choices for students for whom the traditional sit-in-classes-six-hours-a-day does not work.

But of course, the unions don't get a cut from these choices, which is why they oppose them.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Technology is just a tool. Some folks use it for everything and they have lost their ability to think and problem solve. I do not think it exhibits higher order thinking.

I like distant Learning in moderation. I have had several classes, but personally I require face-to-face instructions. In addition, I like to hear what the other students are saying. I find I personally learn more in a classroom environment.

I have friends and peers that teach distance learning and virtual classes on the Internet. The distant classes meet at least once a week face-to-face and the Virtual classes are spread out a little more.

Some students can handle classroom instructions on line and they are able to keep up, whereas, other students are always putting off the face-to-face meetings, because they have fallen short.

On the other hand I know a young lady who would not go to school and was always skipping school and she was failing. The school contacted her mom and they met with the two of them and the young lady was given the option o finishing school though their distant learning program. She was successful. She graduated on time with her original class.

Also, she went to college graduated with great grades, acquired some wonderful job and she is a mentor to her neighbors' kids and her own kids. So some distant learning programs do have many success stories.

Therefore, I agree that society should offer more choices for student(s) that do not wish to sit in school all day, because I have proof that it does work for some of the students some of the time.

Comments posted by: Bette, December 11, 2006