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Tuesday
Feb032015

Adapting to technologic climate change

A number of tech leaders in MN wrote reactions to a damning op-ed piece that originally appeared in the NY Times - "Can Students Have Too Much Tech?" by Susan Pinker. In it, Pinker works to make the case that technology in the classroom is detrimental to student learning. (I do wonder about the real motivation of any op-ed writer who begins any piece by bashing Obama.) Anyway, she writes:

... mounting evidence shows that showering students, especially those from struggling families, with networked devices will not shrink the class divide in education. If anything, it will widen it.

And then cites studies from 2000 and 2006 to back up her claim, studies which one tech director here describes as a "stretch" to having relevance to classroom use of technology today. My friend Jane caught the same line that caught my eye:

To the extent that such a teacher can benefit from classroom technology, he or she should get it. But only when such teachers are effectively trained to apply a specific application to teaching a particular topic to a particular set of students — only then does classroom technology really work.

In other words, effective technology requires effective teachers.

And another thoughtful tech leader in the state cited three studies from his district that "refute" the old studies Pinker cites:

Apathy Project Skills: Collaboration, creation, survey, data analysis, advocacy

 Government Service Learning Project Skills: Collaboration, service, creation, Websites, reflection

 10th Grade Passion Project Skills: Collaboration (globally), service, creation, Websites, authentic learning

As I read through these comments this morning, I though a little about a public radio story I heard driving to work. A climatologist from the University of Minnesota claims humans in our region have not only gone through several climate changes, but have adapted to them. The crops we grow, the houses we build, and even the flood abatement practices we use have all changed as Minnesota's climate has changed.

Is Minnesota's (and the world's) technology climate changing as well? Are our children living in an environment that, for good or ill, is saturated with technology whether we like it or not? If so, might adaptation be the best reason we give our students technology - to help them learn to change and deal with the new distractions, possibilities, hazards, and requirements of using technology well?

If at the end of the last ice age, the natives of Minnesota had refused to let their children practice agriculture because it might weaken their hunting skills (although the animals were moving north and it was easier staying feed growing corn) would they have been doing them a service? As a information becomes ubiquitous, learning becomes self-motivated, and post-literacy becomes the norm, are we doing our students a service by keeping them from using the tools of the technologic climate change that is on us now?

Pinker, in trying to discredit Obama, you are doing our children a disservice...

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (2)

I have never heard a math teacher say "I'm uncomfortable using the new textbook as I haven't had enough training", but I hear the "not enough training" nearly every time the topic of technology comes up.

Of course teachers will not be comfortable with technology - I believe we are most comfortable with those topics that we have had training, review, and practice. I have no fear of water since I have had excellent coaches, multiple discussions on new techniques and changes, and years of practice.

February 4, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

Hi Kenn,

Your comment makes me wonder if teachers just aren't comfortable with being uncomfortable? Aren't discomfort, uncertainty, and confusion ​and integral part of learning? Have we forgotten this as educators?

Doug​

February 5, 2015 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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