ready, and paying attention…

John pointed me to a posting at think:lab and asked what I thought. Here’s what I told him, lightly edited:

There’s no question technology can assist educational purposes. Technology has been used that way since the first person used a stick to draw on a wall to explain something. The difference today is technologies are more elaborate and sophisticated. The questions to ask are,

  • is it appropriate? what makes it appropriate?
  • what are the costs & benefits?
  • what are the other choices?

More pointedly: what do we gain, what are we willing to lose, what are we trying to achieve?
Some quotes from the video and some responses:

Today’s children and teens spend 2.75 hours a week using home computers.

‘Children and teens’ covers a vast and varied demographic range. One number covering that range is pretty meaningless. Also, what are they doing for that 2.75 hours? Listening to music, playing games, talking to friends, writing stories, drawing pictures, reading widely, …?

70% of our nations’ 4-6 year-olds have used a computer.

I’m surprised the number is so low. Computers are in most electronic toys, remote controls, microwave ovens, phones…
4-6 is pretty narrow slice, I think we’re missing some significant context.

In any given day, 68% of children under two will use a screen media, for an average of just over two hours (2:05).

The term ‘screen media’ conflates TV, computer, gameboy, game console and probably others. But what is the significance of this? Their parents are using the TV as a babysitter? This seems to have more relevance to the breakdown of the family unit.

How much richness does your curriculum provide?

How much is appropriate? Is the TV rich? is Shakespeare rich? what is “richness”?

Do your students… Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, and Create?

More importantly, do they care? Does what they are being asked to do matter to them? If they care, if what they are doing is important to them, the list of actions will fall out as a natural consequence.

These teens were born into a digital world where they expect to be able to create consume, remix, and share material with each other.

‘These teens’? which teens? The “world” is as analogue as it ever was. Teens are still learning about what’s possible and acceptable by finding the limits and sharing what they learn with each other. What is new is the ability to obtain and share the means, methods and results with greater ease and speed than ever before. What’s new is the old rules governing scarcity don’t fit very well in a realm of zero, or near zero cost. The financial and resource limitations that historically have limited what can be done have been removed. What’s different is the adults used to know what was possible and acceptable, now we’re having to figure it out at the same time as the teens. Trouble is, we have the weight of full-time jobs and families to support. They have fewer constraints on what they can do.

We have learned to play school. We study the right facts the night before the test so we achieve a passing grade and thus become a successful student.

This is nothing new, students have been doing this as long as there have been exams. But it points to a fundamental flaw in the system. School is modeled on the industrial production line system. Raw materials go in, are processed, and finished goods come out the other end. We do tests along the way for quality assurance purposes. If all you care about are the results of the tests and not the person writing the tests you’re going to see this.

It’s not attention deficit–I’m just not listening!

Do they have a reason, that matters to them, to care?

One researcher claims that, on average, students in class only get to ask a question once… every 10 hours.

Supplying students with some kind of technology will address that how? The problem is the mass production industrial model. Teachers are charged with covering a certain amount of curriculum in a certain amount of time. As my grade 10 physics teacher told the class, he was going to cover the material by the end of the term, whether we did or not. If questions inhibit the teacher’s progress they will be ignored. They have a job to do after all. Ah, what is their job again?

Did you know that there are over 2.7 billion searches performed on Google each month?

2.7 billion divided by how many million internet users? Not all of whom are students. How many? no one knows.
This is a big number, but a meaningless statistic.

To whom were these questions addressed before Google?

Ask Jeeves, Excite, Altavista, Yahoo, Northern Light, domain specific search….
Before them: a dictionary, encyclopedia, the library, call person or company and ask, buy a map, …
I also suspect that the vast majority of the questions simply never came up.

Why not use the technology that our students love to create/reach/engage/teach more effectively?

That might work if they’re creating something they care about. Not everything can, or should be created in the digital realm. What is the context/subject matter?

I could go on deconstructing this piece, I’ll just note that there seems to be a great deal of emphasis on quantity over quality.

Historically, computers were used to process, manipulate and analyze data. While that is still an important use, computers have also been widely adopted as communication enablers. We are very early into a cultural transition as a result. There is much we don’t know and are only going to learn by making mistakes. Many of these mistakes will be caused by focussing on the ‘frothy’ changes that occur and disappear rapidly. Long term change is driven by a change of values. What do we want to hold on to, what are we willing to let go to obtain something else?

Computers, like any other tool, are shaped by and in turn shape the culture that uses them. The significant thing is that they do not decide how they are used. The people of the culture do that. People design and build tools to solve problems and create new possibilities. What is the education problem we want computers to solve, what new possibilities do we want to create? What are we willing to give up to obtain these?

This entry was posted on Saturday, June 2nd, 2007 at 8:34 am and is filed under Uncategorized . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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