A bias of concern

I observed a video of students in a science classroom that was 1:1 with digital devices.  The class reminded me of my own classroom in some ways.  However, I had some concerns.

If I had brought students to a library without digital tools, and asked them to complete the same task, what would have been different other than the tools?

My view is that nothing would be different.  And my concern then is where is the investigation of the natural world?  Where is the role of observation and investigation?  Where is the *process* of science?

What I observed is students learning about the products of science & this is part of scientific literacy, but perhaps an understanding of the process is equally important, if not more so.

My concern is that when this kind of technology pervades all classrooms students will be surfing the web to learn about the process instead of actually *doing* the process.

That is the bias of technology that concerns me most – that information will replace experience.

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3 Responses to A bias of concern

  1. Karim says:

    What technology were you talking about, specifically? Something like ExploreLearning, whose gizmos might allow students to explore something that they wouldn’t have access to otherewise, or something that actually did straight-up replace an experience? I really liked your earlier perspective that the role of technology is to help us do something better, and wonder how this post fits into that.

    Either way, this is similar to the debate about video games, and whether they supplement reality, or replace it. In terms of education, I agree with you that technology can in fact erode the authenticity of the experience. At the same time, to the extent that education is meant to help us better understand the world and navigate our place in it, and to the extent that the world is increasingly characterized by technology & virtual environments, are technology-less experiences truly authentic anymore? I don’t know (but–and perhaps I’m showing my cards as a 30-something curmudgeon–shudder at the thought). Of course, there is the undeniably upside that technology offers: access to more stuff, in a shorter amount of time. Maybe you can gather ten pieces of information instead of one. Individually, each may represent some deterioration of the experience, but taken as a whole?

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    • jerridkruse says:

      Your raise some important points. The tech I observed was ipads and computers used to access information on the internet – much like students used to “access” information in a text book. Nothing was really different. Since talking with the teacher though, they made clear they DO still have student investigating nature, not just through the web. I think this fits with the “do something better” notion in that the technology allows us to find more information and “facts” more quickly – but we must ask ourselves if finding facts is our goal. Leading me to a part of your comment that concerns me.

      I do not agree with your point about the “undeniable upside” that more info faster is better. More information leads to increased cognitive load which likely leads to decreased understanding. More information leads to increased focus on trivia and less focus on fundamental concepts. Faster information means less time to process. Consider how powerpoint has led to increased information density in higher education – this is not a good thing as the classes have become about who can memorize the most rather than developing a thinking, rational person. Access to information is a good thing, but my concern is that access quickly leads to forced consumption.

      I do not think any amount of googling on the subject of fossils can give kids the same experiences as holding a real fossil or even working to unearth one. The googling can supplement, but my concern is that too many people are arguing for replacement.

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  2. Karim says:

    I think we’re talking about different things. I also think that your “Less Do, More Think” post is one of the best rebuttals to the Silicon Valley-ization of education.

    What I meant by the “undeniable upside” is that technologies such as the internet can allow us to gather information which we can then use for some deeper purpose. For instance, there’s a lesson on Mathalicious that explores whether video game consoles have followed Moore’s Law. As part of this, students have to research the NES, Sega Genesis, XBOX, etc. specs on Wikipedia. Without this resource, the lesson would be impossible…or certainly a lot less maddening than trying to find the PS3 processor MHz by phone.

    Again, though, I suspect we’re talking about two different things. To your larger point, I agree entirely. And as a content writer, I often find myself reminding people that devices like the iPad are only as good as what’s on them…just as lessons are only as good as who teaches them.

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