I love teaching. I love teaching even more when I am learning while teaching. Today, my students helped me make an insight regarding technology and the implicit messages technologies contain. We were discussing/tweeting about the biases and hidden messages of a typical textbook when one group of students tweeted that “teachers have the big books with all the answers in them”. From this tweet, I thought about how students enter my class with a view of teaching & learning in which the teacher is the knower of all information. They believe the teacher’s job is to tell students the right answers so they can memorize, regurgitate, and repeat. After about 6 weeks students realize that I am there to help them make connections and think through problems rather than to simply tell them answers. After today, I realize that textbook companies implicitly condone the “teacher as answer provider” message in how they create teacher materials.
Our technologies clearly shape our views of teaching and learning. Some other problematic “hidden messages” of textbooks include:
- Finding answers is more important than reflecting on learning (consider the “end of section” questions).
- Vocabulary is more important than understanding large “bridging” concepts (new vocab is in bold).
- Learning happens in a linear, organized way (no longer are texts written as reference, they are meant to guide learning).
- Learning happens in X amount of time (many text activities provide time/pacing guidelines).
- The previous two bullets together lead to the problematic stance that student grasp of ideas is not important, but “covering material” is.
- To teach subject Y well, I have to cover everything in the book (give me a break).
I think criticizing the textbook technology is fairly easy as many of us have abandoned textbooks, use them only as resources, or are unhappy with the control textbooks have on education. However, we must ask ourselves about the “hidden messages” in ALL of our technologies. Once we have identified hidden messages and bias, we can work to reduce them. But to simply think our new technologies don’t have the bias or negative hidden messages is just naive.