Ok, I’ll bite.

Screen plays/scripts always provide context at the beginning of the document, a way for the reader to mentally adjust to the environment of the piece of writing as well as the purpose. Well, here’s some context:

Ms. Stephens, who writes Musings from the Academy, asked why I hadn’t posted for a while. In response, I felt forced with my last writing (a review of the ASCD conference) and have been busy with class work, work and work. So, the writing bug just hasn’t hit me. THEN, she sends me this article by Lowell W. Monke from ‘Educational Leadership’ (a publication from the very ASCD organization itself) - ‘I think you should read the attached article and write about it on your blog.’

Ok, I’ll bite.

I’ve gotta tell ya’ - I am plain tired of the ‘techno-ego-centric, ‘they don’t know anything but’, ‘teenage biobots with super human text-message capable thumbs’ line. In fact, any time an educator refers to ‘them’, ‘they’ or ‘those kids’ - I shudder.

Now, normally, I would respond to this kind of article by laying out the good points and contrasting those with the bad points - but I’ve done too much of that for courses this semester and do not care to add to my list of pointless dead-end ‘publications’. This article, printed in a well respected publication, is harmful to education, primarily to those that look for pandering to one-sided perspectives in the development of national requirements, and even more importantly, budgets.

Nearly everything children do today involves technologies that distance them from direct contact with the living world.

Hmmm. ‘They’ are in trouble. ‘Those kids’ need to stop watching junk and learn. I just don’t understand ‘them’ - how can they isolate ‘them’selves like that? Oh….don’t even get me started - as if the adult political world is THAT much more connected to the ‘living world’?!?!

I heard a line recently that described how adults view text messaging compared to kids. Adults view it as very impersonal, even lacking ‘direct contact with the living world’. Interestingly enough, kids view text messaging as hyper-personal. They feel more in touch and more able to develop relationships. It seems that this may simply be an inability to see things from another Point of View (POV). I’ll come back to that.

With that in mind, lets move on to the real meat - the needed message. It is time that we stop looking at technology solely as an independent variable. Let me say that again.

IT IS TIME THAT WE STOP LOOKING AT TECHNOLOGY SOLELY AS AN INDEPENDENT VARIABLE.

Being the ‘Tech Monkey’ that I am (that is how we sometimes feel in Instructional Technology), this is a familiar concept to me. Study after study indicates the effect that computer integration has on test scores, on student thinking and every other possible dependent variable out there. It is as if one were to simply add the presence of computers (suspended from the ceiling, even!) to a classroom, that something will change. Test scores will get better or worse. Students will become more or less engaged. ‘Those’ kids will pay more attention or be more distracted. Don’t get me wrong - I am a firm believer in research, but where does research meet culture? When do we understand that these are real kids? When do we realize that it isn’t the technology that impacts the classroom, but THE TEACHING? When do we accept the fact that technology is merely an accelerant? Let’s run with that.

I read the book ‘Good to Great’ a while back and one of the last chapters struck me heavily. So much so, in fact, that I wrote the following (and previously unpublished) thoughts in March of 2003. Technology is merely an accelerant. It acts as a catalyst and makes things happen faster. However, not only does it make your communication quicker and your location of information speedier, it makes a good teacher better - faster. An effective teacher who uses current strategies to engage her students simply has more resources at her fingertips to utilize when designing/implementing a lesson. On the flip, and scarier side, technology also makes a poor teacher worse - faster. Have you heard stories about the management issues? Students being off task and not engaged? Do you really think that it is the technology that is the problem? This should be a HUGE red flag to the education world: If this is the case (technology as an accelerant), where, then, should our concern lie? NOT with the type of equipment; NOT with how well a teacher knows basic technology skills; NOT even with how technology is integrated into the curriculum. It is IMPERATIVE that our concern lie with, and HEAVILY with, the effectiveness of a teacher according to today’s definition of an effective teacher. If we do not place this concern as a priority, we are CREATING less effective teachers in our schools - FASTER. Don’t you see - it isn’t technology that is the problem, it is how we develop and embrace effective teaching.

What should we be doing? Teaching our kids through the use of POV. Getting our kids involved in the local, national and international community through the power of technology. Developing school systems that support and develop effective teachers. It is true, technology is their life - so let’s embrace that fact and find ways to help OUR kids think more effectively within that environment.

Technology is NOT the problem. Lousy policies, a national administration with a lack of vision and a lack of a balanced POV, AND a lack of vision within the educational environment - these are the problems.

If nothing else, Monke’s article is merely munitions to cut a budget that has already been proposed for elimination. After all, it seems that the policy makers and the budget creators seem to only look for bits-and-pieces that support their own POV. Please, don’t give them the quick quotes that they are looking for.

3 Responses to “Ok, I’ll bite.”

  1. astephens Says:

    Jerram,

    I am glad I could help “inspire” you to write again. :) I wholeheartedly agree with your following statement, “It is time we stop looking at technology soley as an independent variable.” You are right. We can introduce technology into the classroom, but without effective teaching, the technology will not help raise test scores, motivate students, provide relevance, etc.

    I agree that we must focus our attention on developing effective instruction and dynamic teachers who utilize technology as appropriate. However, a conflict seems to arise when our professional development focuses on specific technology skills instead of instructional strategies which also happen to include technology. Any thoughts?

  2. Vicki Davis Says:

    I see these tools as new, incredible, inexpensive ways to engage students in conversation. I am excited about the accessibility of PDA’s, iPods, cell phones, and laptops.

    What bothers me is this “generation gap” thing that you have alluded to. The “older folks” criticizing the “younger folks” because somehow they don’t measure up to the childhood that the “older folks” had.

    We must begin to understand that these channels are just that, channels of communication. As a new line of communication opens up, we must use it to communicate with, engage, and discuss educational topics with students. Instead we filter, avoid, antagonize, and attack what is not understood.

    Myspace is a perfect example. IT is a great monitoring tool for parents, instead, they remain detached from their children as other adults victimize them. Shame on adults who are unwilling to change!

    We have great opportunities to reach children! Here is the great thing — use a cool tool to communicate with kids and suddenly — your topic becomes cool — whether is is MacBeth or computer science.

    If we have them ask each other review questions, why not use Meebo to IM one another and save a transcript to print and turn in for a grade as well as use to study. Take the transcripts and post them on a wiki. Blog about topics that require more discussion.

    How about this — schools could use airset to have all of the cell phones of parents and text message them when there is a problem, a game delay, or a change of schedule!

    What we have is opportunity. What most people see is only threats! I agree with you when you say that:

    It is true, technology is their life - so let’s embrace that fact and find ways to help OUR kids think more effectively within that environment.

    We need more people not jumping on a bandwagon but understanding the truth of the classroom.

  3. jfroese Says:

    Thanks for the comments Vicki - and for the kick in the pants, Angela! We have to keep thinking of the positive ways to use what we have to move forward instead of getting stuck in the problems and the past!

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