Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Friday, February 26, 2010

Computers are the panacea, really.

Fifteen years ago I said "Computers are the panacea for education" in response to why I was teaching English in a computer room. I was laughed at, of course. I still believe this and so do others. There is a humorous GE Healthymagination medical commercial with a guy sitting on a table without his pants talking to his doctor. The doctor asks him a question and before he can answer, the camera shifts and we see an amphitheater filled with doctors who take turns standing up and reporting on this pantless guy's medical history. Eventually the questioning doctor turns to his computer and says, "Okay, thanks, guys, I've got it from here." The message is that our medical treatment will be better as we digitize our medical records and money will be saved. The message for education is "don't get caught with your pants down." Computers have changed other areas of our life in every way from music, books, airlines, information, banking, politics, and so much more. The only place that hasn't really embraced technology is education. I still believe it is the panacea to our educational woes. Education still has no clue about the power of technology because we still teach as we were taught and that isn't changing fast enough. And every district has a pilot, but not a technology program or plan that is universal and ubiquitous.

Consider the recent headlines from across America.

1. Oklahoma City instructor uses blogs, e-mails in classroom Technology-Using Teacher of Year.
2. Tech magnet Roosevelt-Perry attracts students, teachers.
3. Technology advances for toddlers at Country School
4. Students learn with new classroom technology Remember the days when students would raise their hand and then write their answers with chalk on the chalkboard? Well, those days are long gone.
5. One-to-one computing programs only as effective as their teachers Experts say 1-to-1 computing research needs to focus more on classroom practices—and less on equipment
6. Classrooms of the future: Laptops bring lessons to life.
7. Student Space opens room for learning: Seaside schools go online to get students and teachers connected 24/7
8. Technology revolutionizing classroom learning
9. Technology enables young students to learn at their own pace.
10. New Cabot School Replacing Textbooks with Digital

As I review these headlines and read the stories, I'm stunned at how similar they are to those we read fifteen years ago. We read about single instructors, heard about classrooms of the future, technology revolutionizing, and were reminded that teachers were still important. Yikes we haven't come very far. In fact because of filters, firewalls, lack of funding, Professional development and no incentive for those teachers who do use technology, we are so far behind every other industry and country. These are the same stories we read fifteen years ago and are still reading in 2010. Something we had then was talk of the paradigm shift. Not so today. And that is the problem. Yeah sure there may be more stories, but it isn't as ubiquitous as it should be. We are still reading about isolated places and instructors and their use of technology. BUT we haven't yet seen that paradigm shift. We still teach as we were taught and still find wonder in teachers who use technology in their classroom. We still see hear about how schools are planning to implement technology in their schools. This should be the norm at this point. We lack true technology leadership and of course all of our misguided energy is used on these blasted tests.

In NYC, we have a new program called ARIS which "provides a single place where educators can find important information to use to accelerate student learning." This shows great promise if it is used. Student data from previous classes and schools becomes available to all teachers and parents immediately. Since we don't have the luxury to conference with our students' former teachers we do have access to a clearinghouse site that contains previous performance and comments from teachers to better inform us about our current student now. Once this program has been through its paces for a year or two, we could have a good model of how technology will be the panacea. Considering how CyberEnglish has collected all the work of each of my scholars over the years, now I'm happy to see a more global tool being developed and used to collect student data. Connecting student work with ARIS would make this tool the panacea.

"Come on Man" it is 2010 and we should be way beyond planning to use technology in our classrooms. Technology should be the foundation as it is in all other parts of our life. Education is concerned with programs like STEM and"Race to the Top" without even considering the prime directive of Scientific Thinking. Instead our very disappointing federal administration is continuing in the folly of educational leadership that preceded this administration that ironically understood the technology to get elected.

We need more than these continued stories about isolated situations and stories and more use of technology in our schools just as other industries have if we hope to fix and improve education in this country. We don't need no more stinkin' tests, we need more technology. Teacher training must be more technology oriented and schools should be more open to employing and encouraging more technology. We do not have a technology frame of mind in schools. Computers are the panacea, really.

Next week I'll speak about Education 1-2-3 that speaks of Workplace 1.0, 2.0, 3.0; education 1.0, 2.0, 3.0. I'll let you digest this over the weekend.

1 comment:

Dawn said...

Those teachers who have embraced the shift, who have recognized the power of computers not only in English classrooms but in all classrooms are still seen as outliers. I do still think that some are seen as dangerous elements within their school. Too many teachers cling to teaching as they were taught. There are a several reasons we've remained in a somewhat stagnant state for far too long. The tech tools are there, but not enough teachers can or are willing to use them. 1) Administration doesn't understand the issue enough to feel obligated to compel staff to move ahead. So those who do are innovators who learn and proceed on their own. They become marginalized in their own schools. 2)FEAR. There is a prodigious fear that if we let students use these tools, we are not going to be able to control them. The irony is that students already use these tools. The other irony is, we should not want to control. That's the old paradigm: teacher centered classroom. There is also too much fear about what students might publish on the Web or access on the Web. This is the other aspect of 21st century teaching that is often not emphasized. We need to teach what it means to be a citizen of the Web. 3)Laws meant to protect impede instead. Politicians know very little about how to teach and yet they come into our kitchen and mess up our recipes all the time. And then they complain that the dinner doesn't taste good.

I'm not sure what the answer is, Ted, but I am glad you continue to write about what we both believe in so passionately.