Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ed TECH = Ed REFORM: Hyperbole? BS? Prognosticaton Tempered with Wisdom? Other?

Here's a great opinion piece from Forbes - I love the irreverent tone and zest for taking on sacred cows you feel in this one. Still, I've written so many of this sort of article myself that I see it as calculated while still being insightful. Definitely worth a good read, though, especially if you've indulged in this sort of EdTech "Future of Education" sort of "cult speak" yourself....

"4 Fundamental Problems With Everything You Hear About The Future Of Education"

"Education conferences are like church. Therefore, I must be devout. I attend at least one education conference a month. And although I do enjoy these gatherings—and I will continue to speak at, participate in, and live tweet these events—I also need to be honest: sometimes they feel more like religious rituals than opportunities to share ideas and learn new things.

It is not just the education sector. The same is true about conferences in every sector. Modern thought leaders are like secular clergy, convening gatherings and delivering sermons that are really just moral pep-talks dressed up in TED-style vesture. They guide audience participants through a certain set of ritualized thoughts, motions and actions which mostly just reinforce established ways of thinking. The story usually involves a heroic narrative through which a group of underdogs position themselves against the “mainstream”—they call for an exodus from the status quo. There is no communion wafer, but folks clap their hands and nod their heads furiously as speakers say things we’ve all heard hundreds of times before. Hallelujah!

In education, the mantra is tired: Testing is bad. We’re stuck in a factory model of education. We need to focus on critical thinking and problem solving. Schools are late to the game when it comes to embracing technology. More making. More inquiry based learning. More video games.  Etc. Certainly I agree with the message. But I’m beginning to feel like the repetition is self-serving and not leading toward real results.

On the other hand, I’m happy to see that some parts of the liturgy have already been shed. For example, a great deal of the discussion around character skills and badge-based gamification has dissipated. Thank goodness! I was always troubled by words like “Grit.” I was also an outspoken critic of that trend which really just pushed teachers to create hyper commoditized learning experiences—codename: GAMIFICATION. Watch this video to understand the difference between Game-Based Learning and Gamification. Some psalms are inherently problematic.

Recently I’ve noticed a few more fundamental problems with the way experts have been talking and writing about the future of education. So here are four more refrains I think we need to remove from the education conversation.

1) Kids are bored and technology will provide better ways to engage students.  It sounds convincing. But don’t believe it. Engagement is NOT an issue—at least it is not an issue for everyone. I’ve been in and out of a lot of schools in the past few years and there are tons of classrooms in which students are interested, the content is vibrant, and the instruction is dynamic. I’ve seen this in classes that are very traditional. Heck, I’ve even seen enviable student engagement in some classrooms that employ a traditional sage on the stage lecture format. Don’t believe Sir Ken Robinson; all classrooms are not an-aesthetic. The truth is: it all depends on the teacher. Some great teachers use new technologies and some don’t. But at the end of the day it has little to do with tech in itself. It is all about the teachers.
The real problem is that, on average, better teaching seems to be commonplace at schools that serve more affluent communities. Students most likely to suffer through boring teachers tend to be folks with low socio-economic standing. Therefore, we shouldn’t believe anyone who tells us we should embrace technology—even video games—because it will increase student engagement. This point of view imagines that technology can replace bad teachers and implicitly suggests that the poor kids should end up with engaging screen time while the elite retain their already exceptional real-life faculty. It imagines that making good teaching scalable is the same as syndicating a television sitcom.

) More data-based adaptive technologies will lead to child-centered curricula. If only this were true things would be so simple. But it is not. We are not lacking adaptive curricula. There are already so many great teachers that provide differentiated and inquiry based instruction. Great teachers already meet students where their interests lay; they contextualize the material masterfully so that it appeals to each individual in the classroom. Johnny likes soccer, so I use soccer metaphors. Jennifer is a musician, so I teach Beethoven alongside the French Revolution.

I know folks would like to blame poor read-from-the-PowerPoint teaching on the state, arguing that standards make it impossible to practice flexible “child-centered” differentiated pedagogy. But I’ve seen plenty of schools that follow rigid state standards but don’t “teach to the test.” Here too, it often seems to correlate with privilege. Schools that serve more privileged communities seem to support teachers in ways that enable them to be imaginative and thoughtful despite standards-imposed limitations. These schools provide financial resources, professional development, and encourage experimentation. Other schools and districts treat their teachers like fast-food workers, trying to make education teacher-proof. Remember, quality teachers aren’t born that way; they are nurtured into superstars by supportive districts and administrators. If we want more of them, we need to create opportunities for compassionate young idealistic teachers to grow into seasoned masters. We can’t just expect technology to fill in the gaps.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I think adaptive technologies are great. I’ve seen some early prototype adaptive software engines that are going to be game-changers for teachers—enabling us to our jobs with more precision, equity, and efficiency. But none of these technologies are going to solve the socio-economic injustices that lead to inequitable distribution of faculty support. If we believe that precise data tied to adaptive textbooks will fix everything, we will inevitably end up with poor kids staring at screens while rich kids continue to build robots with mentors (dedicated mentors equipped with awe inspiring amounts of detailed learning data).

Of course, if our goal is to continue tracking certain populations into prison cells and fast-food jobs, it is working just fine. Adaptive technologies, without teachers, will allow us to do it cheaper and more efficiently.

3) Video games will finally contextualize academic content. I fear I may have been somewhat responsible for spreading this misconception. I’ve spent the last four years traveling around the world explaining how game-based learning contextualizes learning. I wrote the Mindshift Guide to Digital Games and Learning in which I continually emphasized how games but content in context. But I may have been misunderstood. Please allow me clarify my intention. My audience for that guide mostly consisted of dedicated teachers who needed to be convinced that video games constituted a valid classroom tool. I was trying to explain that video games do what all great teaching materials and activities already do. I wanted to convince teachers that video games were worthy additions to their pedagogical toolbox...."

Read the full article at its source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jordanshapiro/2015/04/30/4-fundamental-problems-with-everything-you-hear-about-the-future-of-education/

No comments:

Post a Comment