23 January 2010

And In Other News...

Not only did I have to deal with coming down off of a ScienceOnline 2010 high this week, I also had to kick off the assessment project which is the primary reason for my employment...all while having a rather nasty case of laryngitis. However, I have been looking forward to this week for months and even sounding like a 12-year old boy undergoing puberty was not going to stop me from enjoying the work.

There is an stunning group of educators working on this project. You never know when you put a call out for help who will respond---and even sifting through a pile of applications is no guarantee that you will have the cream of the crop. I am sure that I am not the only one who has been burned in the past by an applicant who looked beautiful on paper and was nothing but heartbreak in the flesh. This time, however, there appears to have been a perfect storm of events and I have roughly a dozen superstars from all walks of education to help guide this process.

Their presence comes at a time when I need them most---not simply for the task at hand, but as I wrestle with various ideas related to educational technology and what happens in a classroom. I had to listen this week to talk about the worthlessness of public schools and teachers from someone who has never worked in one (nor places any value on my lifelong passion for them and experiences within them). Public education is far from perfect, but it is not a useless social experiment either. How and where the most recent advent of educational technology fits remains to be seen. There are plenty of predictions out there---how these tools will transform education in the next 10 years. I don't agree. I have nothing to base that opinion on, other than anecdotal evidence. Over the last 20 years, we've seen computers and internet move into classrooms; but I am unconvinced that instruction has undergone any significant changes as a result of these tools. I think more change has been driven by policy, not tools.

I was thinking this week about the various stakeholders in the educational process and their buy-in for educational technology. It's simpler to think about those associated with higher SES; however, if I'm working a minimum wage job at Wal-Mart, should I care that my child is able to create a Voicethread or collaborate on a wiki when those tools have no impact on my world? Is that what I want schools teaching my child? Does a migrant worker care more about whether or not an interactive white board is in a classroom or whether his child feels safe at school? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I am thinking that it is a mistake to not know what these voices would say. It contributes to the ever increasing divide of haves and have nots.

I know that there is a lot of instructional power in educational technology. I know that the tools are engaging for students and can create opportunities for learning that did not previously exist. I also know that they aren't necessary in order to develop students who think critically and creatively...who can collaborate and organize information...who can read and write. As I move forward with the assessment group that I have, I will be looking for some answers as to how we justify change.

1 comment:

organized chaos said...

Nothing infuriates me more than those conversations about "worthless" public schools... I'm seeing red just reading about it.

In my experience parents from all backgrounds are happy that their children are learning to use and understand technology that will help them be a part of the broader world as they grow older. (That is assuming, of course, the parents are focused on their child's future- parents who keep their child from doing their homework because "he'll just work at walmart like me anyway" as a parent told me when I was student teaching, are not going to care about anything happening in the school. Which of course makes it even more important that we are exposing their children to the the broader world).
Sadly, I think sometimes parents are overly impressed with the technology schools use- they hear all the buzz words and see all the equipment and they forget to ask the important questions about what their child is actually learning.

I think another good question to ask is how do we make the technology we use in school accessible to their parents. I just started a blog with a group of students, but only two of the 8 can access the blog at home, so even though their parents are excited about it, it does not actually do any good as a way for them to interact with their child's school life.