Thursday, July 17, 2008
posted by Q6 at 8:52 PM
I'm reading The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein, and it's scaring me to death. For those who haven't seen this yet: all the technology we've been pouring into classrooms for the last ten years? The studies are starting to come in, and the news ain't good. It seems that while we have a generation of young people who are tech savvy, they're not really doing anything productive with it (in fact, they're reading less and achieving less). High schools and colleges who once decided to "go digital" with laptops for every student are now dumping the technology and scrapping the programs, citing no academic progress. Today's college seniors are testing at the same level as high school seniors of 1955. I'm only halfway through the book, but Bauerlein keeps asking the same question: where are all the academic improvements we were supposed to get with the infusion of technology?

Professionally, I'm worried. We've put all this emphasis on technology, but it apparently isn't getting us anywhere. I like it as a communication tool, but that seems to be all it's good for. Could it be possible that because students are using a totally different skill set to learn, we should be testing on those skills instead of the "antiquated" ones we're teaching now? What if concentration falls to the wayside and multi-tasking becomes the norm? The testing methods will have to change dramatically as well. What happens if, God forbid, reading and writing are no longer measurable skills? What school system could possibly accept that?

Personally, I'm frustrated. I have a sixteen-year-old who fits a lot of this modern technology criteria, and his performance levels are, shall we say, consistent with the research. Lots of "screen time," and even if his critical-thinking skills are stimulated by his X-Box games, the school-related output isn't what it could be--or used to be.

The whole thing is worrisome, and I'm hoping that the outlook isn't as dismal as Bauerlein makes it sound. (Maybe I should finish the book. Maybe there's a happy ending after all.)

There is, however, one really funny aspect to this book.


At 6:25 AM, Anonymous Jude

My initial reaction is that I don't believe that technology is used well in schools. Take geography, one of my favorite topics. At my school, even though I created a website with the best geography sites (e.g. CIA World Factbook, US State Department Background notes, and about 30 other great sites), when students do their cut-and-paste brochure projects, they use Google for information, using Wikipedia for most of their cut-and-pasting. I subscribe to probably 100 daily city photo blogs; I use Google Earth on a regular basis; I know a lot of ways to make geography *more* interesting using technology, but even if I can persuade tech people to install Google Earth, getting most teachers to use it is an uphill battle. And that's just geography. If you can easily correspond with someone who lives in a particular country, or see daily photographs from that country or view live cams, why in the world would you have students look up static information from the frequently less reliable Wikipedia?


At 10:03 AM, Anonymous rho

I am reading the book right now; took it with me to jury duty as we waited to see if we would be called to be on a jury. The title got a conversation going! I am an English teacher and the author's points are in evidence every day in the small rural high school in which I teach. A small POOR rural district; only 9% of the adults have any education past high school. These parents buy the computer games, quads, big-screen tvs, but not books.
Their youngsters enter school so far behind in skills, and they never catch up. My 3 year old grandson speaks with better understanding and a rapidly growing vocabulary that exceeds that of some of the ninth graders I get every year.
I had sophomores this year who were "too tired" to work in class or read their novels,etc. They admitted they stayed up until 2 or 3 in the morning playing computer games or in a chat room. When we asked the parents to restrict this, they couldn't be bothered. They didn't even seem upset when their kids flunked two or three subjects.
The thing that astounds me about the generation in our high schools right now is their arrogance; they don't care if they are not "smart" and act as if the skills they have are the only skills they will ever need. I am glad I retire in a few years, and I don't think I would want to be starting a teaching career today.


At 6:07 AM, Blogger andrea

What?? What's the funny part?

Technology is just another tool. Giving kids ballpoint pens instead of dip-pens and inkwells also speeded up their work ability, but what you are going to communicate with the technology is still the crux of the matter.

You want to see something besides Wikipedia as a reference? Simply eliminate it from the list of acceptable references, just like they used to eliminate hardbound encylopedias.

That said, I'm a rather tech-savvy person, and I love to use it as a means of organising, sharing and discussing information!

PS word verification is "oovayk" -- looks like some kinda Yiddish nouveau?


At 4:53 PM, Blogger OKP

I think the "funny" is that this book is available on the Kindle. Great comments! Submit this post to the carnival!


At 10:09 AM, Blogger Melissa B.

As a HS English teacher, I've been concerned about the techno-revolution for some time. Some kids never pick up a book, unless it's assigned, and then some of them don't read the assigned stuff either! BTW, don't forget that today is the Super Summer Sunday Sweepstakes. Please stop in and leave a caption!


At 3:39 AM, Blogger loonyhiker

Your post just reinforces my idea that schools need to teach students how to use technology wisely. Just like teaching students to drive, we need to show them places to go. They can choose places that don't advance them further in education or we can open doors to another world for them.


At 5:45 PM, Blogger the teacher

The problem with the premise if this book is that simply having access to technology would have an impact in learning. The fact is that technology has no more value than a textbook sitting on the shelf unless it is used properly.

It has been my experience that the VAST majority of teachers are not experienced or trained in the effective use of technology. I am probably more up on the advantages of technology since I spent 8 years in the high tec industry before becoming a teacher so I value what technology can bring to the table.

I teach eighth grade on a K-8 campus and as such our library is worthless for my students. If I did not have a computer lab, I would be totally hampered in what I can teach my students. But the difference is that I not only have my students do different Internet-based assignments, I also teach them how to find information and how to better utilize the medium.

I could only imagine how boring my class would be if I did not have video-streaming, internet research, data analysis of spreadsheets, interactive reviews on the Smart Board, or even streaming different types of music. Technology rocks and the success of my students are the proof.


At 12:01 PM, Blogger Dawn

I haven't read the book yet but I have read a critical review. Not a book I'd read without challenging the suthor's biases and assumptions perhaps?

I think technology has a lot of promise but not as some miracle band aid pasted on current systems of education. In different models though...

We homeschool and use it for everything from online courses to downloading documentries to accessing ancient writing to networking with fellow homeschoolers to...Well, you get the point. As an afterthought stuck on conventional systems I wouldn't hold out much hope for it but as a tool to reshape how we educate our kids and ourselves. That's exciting and that's where the promise lies.


At 7:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

The only thing that is truly puzzling is why anyone would think that electronic gadgets would, by themselves, improve the workings of the mind. If you're trying to train the mind, teach it to think, replacing hard work and discipline with technology seems to be counterproductive. Only after the mind functions properly can gains be realized from technology.

But don't mind me. I'm not encumbered by your training. I'm not a professionally trained teacher.


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