Monday, September 22, 2008

Time Out for Ed-Tech Advocates

This post by Bill Ferriter is a good example of why most of the people involved with ed-tech in this country just need to go sit in a quiet corner for a few years. Not as a punishment of course -- just to clear their heads.

As an English teacher, it would be nice if, when I gave them a writing assignment, every student had equal and ample access to the tool our society uses for writing, both at home and in my classroom. When I want them to edit their work, I'd like them to have equal access to contemporary editing tools, to be able to share their work and their classmate's work without having to make five paper copies of each student's work before each class. And it would be nice to give them equal access to modern publishing methods, since they are uniquely cheap and accessible. And I'd like to be able to assign them any short story or novel written before 1923 and have all my students download the text at no cost onto a device designed with reading longer texts in mind.

It is really not that complicated. It doesn't need to be complicated, and when ed-tech advocates getting flustered over presidential candidates mentioning PowerPoint and that perhaps spending money on technology would be a good idea, it just seems like we're never going to be able simply explain and demand that we need inexpensive, robust computers that work, and then we can get down to serious innovation.

Note: As a (former) English teacher I also acknowledge some rather tortured syntax in the above rant, even by my standards. You get what you pay for.

2 comments:

Bam Bam Bigelow said...

Tom wrote:
It doesn't need to be complicated, and when ed-tech advocates getting flustered over presidential candidates mentioning PowerPoint and that perhaps spending money on technology would be a good idea, it just seems like we're never going to be able simply explain and demand that we need inexpensive, robust computers that work, and then we can get down to serious innovation.


I think this is where you and I disagree, Tom, because in all honesty, I don't need any extra computers in my room to do the things that you describe as desirable practices in your classroom (which are spot-on, by the way).

My students already do the majority of those kinds of things together from home---working on robust machines and clunkers from the early 90s.

Classtime, then, is freed up for face-to-face reflections on activities with one another. It's a nice blend of digital collaboration and human interaction.

I've seen dozens of new computers bought for schools in the past 16 years and they have made no change on instruction at all.

Heck, I know teachers and students in 1:1 programs who do none of the things that you describe in your post. Their machines become individual typewriters and occasional sources for online research.

That's the challenge that we need to address first!

Does this make sense?

Bill

Tom Hoffman said...

Hi Bill,

Well, the problem is that there is still a digital divide (tired as that term may be), and ultimately, we can't learn how to innovate with technology if we don't put technology in people's hands.