Friday, October 03, 2008
posted by Q6 at 2:55 PM
Over the summer I spoke at a national teacher conference about the dangers of technology. It was more of a how-to-keep-your-students-safe kind of thing, and it went over pretty well (it was the second time I'd spoken on this topic, and they called after hearing about my first presentation, which was more local). The local folks want me back again this year, but this time they want me to speak about the use of technology in the learning process.

There are two books I read recently that relate to this topic--but not in a good way. In fact, I think I made a big mistake in reading them one right after the other. Add to that this new speaking engagement I'm booked for, and on the inside of my head I'm playing out the end of the world . . . or the beginning of The Matrix.

The first book is The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerline, which is the first look at ten years of statistiocal data about how technology and the Internet are affecting living and learning methods. The bad news, it seems, is that we're reading less, studying less, and retaining less. The Internet (and how we use it) is having a serious effect on how we use our brains, and that's having a severe impact on learning--meaning that our approach to education in the technological age may be too antiquated or out of sync.

The second book is Feed by M. T. Anderson, a fiction novel set in a future where kids have neural implants installed at birth and are on the Internet 24/7. As the characters walk around, they get pop-up ads. If they get hungry, they get food ads from local restaurants. They can look anything up any time they want. These kids educations are enhanced by something called School™, which seems as useless as the word looks.

Like I said, reading both in rapid succession was probably a bad idea, as I'm now scared to death of the future. The whole thing does beg the question, though: How do educators teach effectively in a world where technology is taking over? Is it even possible to keep reading rates up when the soon-to-be-dominant form of communication doesn't require it? Should we be throwing out current skill sets in favor of future ones? Has education, in its current form, become archaic and outdated? And what's to be done to solve that?

If you've got ideas, I'm all ears . . . .


At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Sherman Dorn

First, read this. Then read something by Larry Cuban on teaching and technology. Then read something by Harry Jenkins. Skip the crap the "technological singularity" (these days associated with Ray Kurzweil).

And find some of the more thoughtful criticisms of Bauerlein. I don't think he's right, but you need to read some of the relevant stuff that turns it from a jeremiad to a dialogue.


At 2:55 AM, Anonymous Linda F

Random use of technology to do the things that can be done without it is not effective, however:

Math and science, particularly in the middle schools, absolutely need to be infused with technology, particularly graphing calculators, computers, and data probes. For some interesting looks at what they can do, check out: (click on the information about what the Labquest can do) (watch the video of the new nSpire) (they are doing neat things with tech at every level, including elementary)

BUT, the learning curve for the teacher is HUGE. Schools need to make a commitment to training their teachers, first, to use the equipment, and, second, to infuse its use into the whole science and math curriculum. You can't impose it on an unwilling teacher. You need volunteers, who are will to give up summers and weekends to learn how to take advantage of the technology.

I'm TOTALLY opposed to plunking down the tech in the classroom, then expecting miracles. Give the tech to the teacher who is willing to step up to the plate.


At 11:42 PM, Blogger Mark

I think the emphasis in education might have to be shifted further from facts over to methods:

How can we find the information we want or need?

How can we critically analyse the information we find to determine how accurate or trustworthy it is?

Critical analysis has long been a part of the education programme, but has perhaps never been as important as it is now.


At 1:05 PM, Blogger This Brazen Teacher

Good post. Humanity needs to catch up with our technology (read: Einstein.) Just like money, religion, and politics are not inherently problematic... neither is technology. I've always been of the opinion that the aforementioned can be very instrumental in making very lasting and positive change.

But are humanity must evolve, because we are not mindful of consequences (in the same way a preschooler is not mindful of of what will happen when one crosses the street) then we start to see money, politics, religion AND technology cause big problems.

This seems to be about when people start trumpeting how money corrupts etc. So in summary... we aren't corrupted by technology. We corrupt it. Like the blog.


At 4:39 PM, Blogger loonyhiker

I wonder if we wondered the same kinds of things when the automobile was first invented or the telephone or even when mass production of books came about. Did we worry that our kids would forget to walk? Were we afraid that our kids wouldn't know how to write a letter? Were we afraid the art of storytelling would disappear? We can't let our fears consume us. Where would we be today without the car, telephone, or books?