But they still don’t get it

This interesting article in the Globe and Mail wonders why we are still teaching in schools.

But the researcher quoted, Mohamed Ally, director of the Centre for Computing and Information Systems at Athabasca University, is mainly enamored with technology. He is still caught in a paradigm of delivering knowledge/education in the same ways, just using newer technologies than blackboards and textbooks. He is still in thrall to tests. He still thinks schools perform important "social interaction" functions.

Here are two statements that jumped out at me.

Students continue to work together for much-needed social interaction,
but advance according to outcome-based models rather than the age-based
cohorts of Grades 1, 2, 3, etc.

In the classroom, their desks are arranged in clusters to foster
peer-to-peer and group problem-solving through a variety of tools like
Smart Boards and LCD screens.

Neither of these requires the fancy technology. The latter is common practice in British school rooms and works really well with paper based instructional materials. In fact, one of the things Mat was amazed by (having been educated his whole life in Britain) was that kids were in rows in school here.

And we could organize schools so that students did advance on outcome based models, even differentially by subject and still work in groups (age based, or in multi-age groups). That is an organizational issue, NOT a technology issue.

Ally does have one thing right, though.

The biggest wall we have to knock down is the attitude of the teachers and some of the faculty

Not to mention administrators and publishing companies and a whole lot of other folks that have a stake in the system as it is. (I think maybe he needs a few sociologists on his team.)

Edited to add (because I only read this after I’d posted: RedNeck Mother has a summary of a talk Gatto gave at a conference in Texas yesterday that hits some of the key reasons why technology is not the answer.


4 thoughts on “But they still don’t get it

  1. This talk of technology scares me. It is NOT the answer. It’s just fancy commerically driven stuff that requires swarths of tech support and upgrading which will ultimately detract from public school education in the long run who don’t have enough resources as it is. But it is sexy and people believe the tranformative messages even though my understanding is that the bulk of education research doesn’t show benefits over non-technologically enhanced curriculums.

    I have no issue with the other parts–changing how students are assessed and promoted working in groups etc. but I don’t think fancy tablet computers with wireless access are needed to do this.

    The other issue is that all of this change to make schools better for kids takes will and resources. I think most parents are too focused on measurable outcomes (like grades) and their associated status to embrace and financially support a system that is promotes less “certainty” about what children are learning.

    At this moment as I struggle with inept software for my work I would really welcome paper and pencil and some social interaction.


  2. While I embrace technology in our home learning environment, I do question its purposefulness in traditional settings. One on one, a child can use technology for self-directed learning. In a classroom, not so much. Why then do we need so many teachers and specialists? It seems that a failing system just keeps grasping at any new and different idea to fix the terminally flawed system.


  3. It seems to me the point of using technology in schools should be to learn about using those technologies, to prepare for those used so widely in the rest of the world. I can’t see how they help much – I’ve never heard anyone wax lyrical about the amazing tape recorder, VCR or telly they had in school, but I have heard them doing so over particular teachers who inspired them.

    Really – primary school kids in rows???? Wow! Must tell my bro, he’ll be shocked!


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