Here is a pic from Goodlad’s “A Place Called School”. We must stop pulling educators in opposite directions. We cannot expect movement with equal, but opposite forces being applied.
Last night I tried a new approach with one of my college classes. The course is about science education. We read an article that summarizes a high school science activity that addresses climate, heat capacity, investigation design, & the nature of science.
I first had students read the article to identify how the authors addressed the nature of science as well as missed opportunities. Then, they went back through the article to note places when the activity fit with learning theory. In a third reading, I asked the preservice teachers to identify teacher actions/behaviors that seemed important for the activity to work. Fourth, I had students investigate ways in which the authors addressed safety issues. In a final reading, we investigated how the article sought to teach the science content. That is, how the authors organize & scaffold content learning for students.
In between each reading, we discussed ideas & pros/cons of the activity in relation to the lens through which we had just viewed the article. I imagine most people would consider reading the same article 5 times would be redundant. I found the students’ ideas to grow in sophistication as we progressed & the different lenses provided new perspectives.
Each time we read the article, we embarked on a new inquiry into the nature of teaching. This kind of close reading is not often achieved & asking students to view the same reading through different lenses provided scaffolding for them to dig deeper into the piece. Imagine if we encouraged younger students to read so closely instead of quizzing them on mundane details*.
*when I wrote the phrase “mundane details” I immediately thought of Office Space. ;-)
The picture above is from Stuart Selber’s book, “Multiliteracies for a Digital Age”. I highly recommend it – particularly for language arts teachers.
Regarding the underlined portion: I think we’ve thought long & hard about infrastructural needs. Now it is time we start asking about how technology privileges some things (people, skills, tasks, thought, etc) over others. I particularly think we need to continue to question the pedagogical assumptions of the software (or any resource, tech or not). If we really questioned the pedagogical assumptions of proposals, then khan academy, TFA, standardized tests, etc would not be around. Unfortunately, in education we let politicians & other non-educators shoot first & ask questions later.
In “Silent Spring”, Rachel Carson calls for natural solutions to pest problems (weeds & insects). I wonder what the parallel might be for education? What are the “pests” we are trying to eradicate? Student apathy, low accountability, & lack of utility are three that come to mind. What the. Would be the “natural” solution. More standardized testing, overly scripted curricula, & forced use of technology seem unnatural. I suspect, if we think hard enough, there is a way to control the “pests” of education without such invasive means.
I’m reading Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”. Nothing here is new (it’s an old book & I’m a chemist) so it resonates. However, I am making a connection. Rachel was concerned about what our blind application of technology (pesticides, fertilizer, etc) does to the Earth. I wonder if her arguments might be well applied to education. In what way is our blind application of technology (from computers to standardized tests) ruining the fertile ground of our students’ minds? What long range effects might we be creating in hopes of short term gain?
Below is the back cover of Kevin Kelly’s book, “What Technology Wants”. I have not read the book but have two thoughts based on just the back cover: 1) To think evolution has an inevitable nature is a gross misunderstanding of evolution. Given the flaw in what seems to be the basis of his argument, 2) he is going to have a hard time supporting even a neo-determinism. Given the large scale dismissal of simple determinism, he already has an uphill battle without faulty premises.
Has anyone read this? I’d love to be compelled to read this book with a comment.
Many educators dismiss notions of technological determinism in favor of a “what matters is how we use technology” instrumentalism. While how we use technology matters, this view misses the subtle cues & biases inherent in technologies. That is, there are some ways in which technologies use us. Even if this notion is dismissed, I don’t think we can dismiss (at least not logically) technological momentum. Once a technology is in place, the specifications, limitations, & structure of that technology influences our work. For example, once a bell schedule is in place (or a grading system) momentum starts to build around the technologies that becomes ever more difficult to overcome. Therefore, we ought to be more careful about what technologies we allow to develop momentum. Imagine how much easier real education reform might be if the factory model were not allowed to develop such momentum. Perhaps, technological momentum is why we should be more wary of those who want to implement now & refine later.
Here is a screen shot from David Nye’s book, “technology matters”, from where I stole the phrase “technological momentum”.
One argument against technological determinism is to point out how one technology has been used to support two seemingly opposed ideologies. This, at face value, is a reasonable argument. However, the leap in logic that not favoring a particular ideology equates to favoring zero ideologies is unsubstantiated.