Saturday, March 21, 2015

Making school worse, faster

This post appeared in a series titled: The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs that answered the question: What are the biggest mistakes teachers make when integrating technology into the classroom.

“Before the computer could change school, school changed the computer.”

-Seymour Papert

I love technology, and I use it every single day. I teach with it, and I learn with it. Without technology, my teaching and learning would suffer.

However, too much of what is being sold as “Education Technology” merely shoehorns technology in a way that supplements traditional, less-than-optimal teaching and learning practices which ultimately leads the classroom to revert to the way it was before.

Here are three mistakes schools and teachers make when integrating technology:
1. Technology is used to prove, instead of improve: Test and punish accountability regimes have convinced (and often mandated) that technology be used to mine students for spreadsheet friendly data. For too long, teachers have been lured by the efficiency of multiple-choice tests, and with the use of technology, it is easier than ever to reduce learning to tests and grades.
Psychologist Carol Dweck reminds us to ask, “Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better?” Proving and improving are not the same thing and if we aren’t careful, technology can be used in wonderful ways to prove the quality of our schools and teachers without improving learning.
2. Technology is used by the teacher, not the students: Interactive White Boards (Smartboards) are the definitive example of how schools can spend a lot of time, effort and money on technology that is almost exclusively used by the teacher while students sit passively, waiting to be filled with knowledge.
In his book The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire called this the banking concept of education where, “Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor”. Too much of our school’s technology demands that students simply sit and do nothing.
3. Poor Pedagogy + Technology = Accelerated Malpractice: Classroom management and tracking programs like ClassDojo are used to elicit compliant behaviour and are sold as a daring departure from the status quo when really they are a tactic taken from the same behaviourist strategies that have been strangling the life out of classrooms for decades.
Schools and teachers who ignore technology risk becoming irrelevant to their students, and this is unacceptable. However, it is equally wrong to use technology as a 21st century veneer on the “sit-and-get, spew-and-forget” model of learning that has dominated our schools for too long.

Teachers and schools must be mindful of their pedagogical practices, because if they are not, technology will only make things worse, faster.

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