27 June 2010

News to You

I'm away at conferences this week. I had one set of meetings Friday through Sunday...and another set which picked up tonight and runs through Wednesday. These are technology meetings and conferences. While I am certainly an advocate for educational technology, I am not rabid about it. I view EdTech as one tool in the instruction toolbelt---not "the" tool. However, I am surrounded by those who do see EdTech as the be all and end all. It's rather disturbing.

Exhibit number one is a (paraphrased) list from a discussion about the "new learning environment." Here are the characteristics people listed:
  • Student centered
  • Connections beyond the classroom
  • Personalized for the kids: includes formative assessment, instruction matched to learning styles and at the level needed for the student
  • 24/7 learning that is not confined to the classroom
  • collaboration between students
  • Partnerships with the community and integration between subject areas
  • Real world experience; authentic learning
  • More creation of learning using the upper level of Bloom's Taxonomy
It was at this point that I started going a little ballistic. These are "new" things for the classroom? New to whom? No one in the room was willing to answer...and I wondered if it was because it was new to them. Ouch.

But the bigger beef I had with the discussion is that every other person in the room believed that these things were only possible with educational technology. I told them I realized it was heresy for me to disagree with a room full of state EdTech leaders, but I really felt it had to be said. (I also told someone their legislative report wasn't "sexy," but that's a different story...) It was also a lonely place for me to be.

Really? No collaborative work ever occurred before the existence of GoogleDocs? No student ever had a real world experience that connected the classroom with the outside world? Until now, there were no teachers who encouraged critical thinking and who differentiated learning?

Did we not send men to the moon with technology less sophisticated then what I have in my cell phone? Did we not eradicate smallpox long before fax machines and the Internet?

Oh, but they said, the technology allows the experiences to be richer---kids can generate and look at more data! Talk to people in other countries! I believe that technology facilitates those experiences, but it is not necessary in order to have them. I was still lonely in the room. Nope, they said, it's impossible. Only with technology can students have meaningful learning experiences.


I have smaller (mini-burger) beefs with the list, too. "Learning styles"? Bunk. Bloom's Taxonomy is not a hierarchy and was not intended as such. Those who believe that "recall" is a lower skill than "analysis" are dangerous. It's not the verb people---it's the task. Bloom does not describe cognitive demand merely by the box you put the verb in.

It should continue to be an interesting few days here. I imagine that it's a bit like being an atheist at the Southern Baptist Convention. Or perhaps I should consider myself to be a wolf in sheep's clothing. Either way, I'm sure that nothing I report here will be news to you...only to those who are too blind from the kool-aid to see need for good classroom instruction (with or without tools).


Jason Buell said...

This might be my new favorite post. It would have been fab if you stopped with tech, but once you went on to Bloom it was a whole new level of wonderful.

PS - I'm trying to feel less awkward about leaving comments like, "I agree with everything you have to say." So hopefully I'll comment more here in the future.

The Science Goddess said...

Hey, I'm all for participation in whatever form it takes.

I go through periods where I leave lots of comments...and some where I would appear absent from the conversation. Just the nature of the online beast.

But without technology, you would never be able to connect with other educators about a topic, right?

AtlTeacher said...

Sounds like you're at ISTE. If you are, how do you feel about the backchannel controversy in which the teachers lambasted the keynote speaker all over Twitter?

The Science Goddess said...

That group of educators was about 20 feet from me, so it was hard not to hear some of their comments along the way. I have to say that it made me uncomfortable. A lot of people sitting with that group were "leaders" like Chris Lehmann. I think all of us have done "bad" powerpoint at some time in our careers. Meanwhile, we are educators, and we should try and support growth instead of ridicule perceived "ignorance."

I didn't pay attention to the keynote---too busy chatting---but I am guessing that the speaker was selected for the important ideas he could share. Seems a shame that for those who attended the speech that they couldn't get past what they saw with their eyes to listen with their ears.

organized chaos said...

I've only been in education 8 years but I've already noticed the ridiculousness of how things continue to be branded as "new" when they are what is happening in classrooms every day. It's this attitude that public schools are inherently bad, so clearly anything that is good must not be happening in them, therefore, we can say that anything good is new.
I read a blog post the other day by a first year TFAer who was raving about someone who will be the "future" of education and will "revolutionize" the teaching experience. I checked out the book he was referring to and, yep, everything I've read in every other book like it.

This is a fabulous post. SO jealous of you all in Denver! Wish I was there!

banders said...

I think we're at the same conference- and I'm glad to read this. It bothers me to hear the tech will save us all, when in my humble opinion, instruction is paramount. Instruction is not necessarily dependent on technology.

Hugh O'Donnell said...

Because of economic constraints, I doubt we will ever see a true 15:1 classroom ratio of students to teachers, so I'll be a happy camper (and board of ed member) if technology can help us deliver education to more kids for less money. (That remains to be seen.)

I'll also love it if technology can multiply a teacher's effectiveness by augmenting instructional individualization.

I recognize the need for teaching methods to be engaging for 21st century students, and technology can help there, but overall, I have to agree that technology will not, and shouldn't be expected to, qualitatively transform teaching and learning.

So I'm definitely a tool belt person.

Over the years, the tools have evolved, but people haven't really changed for millennia. The real transformation will be when there's a true mind-machine interface and we can upload and download knowledge and wisdom. (Is that a scary thought or what!?)

Great post, SG.

The Science Goddess said...

OC---We wish you were here, too. I'm having a fab time with your co-workers.

banders---I hope we get a chance to visit in person!

Hugh---The tech fandom here is on overdrive. It's a wee bit scary. I expect to see people foaming at the mouth over an iPad or wet themselves at the thought of a 4G iPhone at any moment.

Hugh O'Donnell said...

I don't know about the iPad, but I do love my iPhone. :)

The iPhone4 offers video phone calls to other iPhone4 owners, but unless I'm ready for a fashion magazine shoot, I'm not gonna be up for video phoning!

iPhone4 also offers folders for apps, which would be nice, but none of that is gonna get me to go from my 3G to an iPhone4.

Eh, maybe if I lose a little weight and get some botox... ;)

Adrienne said...

Thanks for this . It seems to me this is another case of the "silver bullet" syndrome we are so prone to in education. Rather than doing the hard, thoughtful work required to improve instruction, we rely on this gadget or this program to sweep in and magically fix our mediocre performance.