Friday, April 29, 2016

Do we expect more from technology and less from each other?

Sherry Turkle gave an interesting TED talk in 2012 about the rise of technology and the fall of human connectedness. It is worth 19 minutes of your time.

In the talk, Ms. Turkle states that technology provides "the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship."

Friendship is messy. It requires time. There is a give and take. Through friendship we will experience deep grief and profound joy. But these emotions demand an investment of ourselves in the lives of our friends.

Sometimes it is just easier to text our friend. That way we give the illusion that we want to share in their grief or joy without actually having to get messy and caught up in this complicated thing called life. Instead of investing we "dabble" in the conversation.

As I listened to this TED talk I thought about how some people tend to place their trust in technology to solve the problems of education. Give every kid a laptop. Let them learn at their own pace.

To me this provides the illusion of learning without the demands of thinking.

Learning is messy. Learning requires time. Learning requires the guidance of a great teacher who can moderate the give and take that is required to learn. 

Learning is more than knowing facts and figures. Learning is figuring out how to think, how to reason, how to understand how things fit together. That requires that we develop the capacity to reflect and understand another perspective and see how that there is more than one way to solve a problem.

Technology is a great tool. Technology provides access to information. Technology provides access to networks of people that previously had been unavailable. Technology creates wonderful opportunities for learning.

But technology does not guarantee that you will learn. Students need teachers to help moderate and navigate the complexities inherent in learning.

At times technology appears to be a better answer to learning that our standard and common classrooms. That happens when teachers do not take the time to create engaging, meaningful, and powerful classrooms environments that call for the best from students. At times teachers and students tacitly agree that they will not push each other. Teachers and students agree that they will coast.

But just because that happens does not mean that is the way it is supposed to be or the way that it should be. Great teachers create classrooms that push students to learn, engage them in meaningful and purposeful reflection, and demand thinking.

Great teachers care for their students in ways that technology cannot. Technology can be a tool. But technology can never replace the wonderfully engaging classrooms that passionate teachers create.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Distracting ourselves to death

A random tweet on a random Tuesday makes me think that we pay too much attention to "what" we are teaching and not enough attention to "why" we are teaching.

While content is clearly important, perhaps more important is why we want students to learn the content in the first place. Whether it is the Common Core, the Michigan Grade Level Content Standards, or the High School Content Standards, I would hope that we would agree that content for content's sake is relatively unimportant.

Google has content. People have context, nuance, understanding.

Google has content. People make sense.

What is clearly more important that making sure our students "know" the content is ensuring that our students have the ability to think, to listen, to reason, to communicate, to create.

Instead of arguing about "just" the content, I want us to make sure students know why they are learning.