Sunday, January 31, 2010

Week 4...Rambling along

For this week’s blog, I am going touch on a few topics, and include some interesting links. So bear with, or excuse, my rambling.

First off is revisiting the Kaiser report. The results of this study (and others like it) bring different reactions. Some say since kids use digital technology so much we should not use it in schools; that it can get in the way of learning. Others say we have to use it to stay relevant, that it is what the digital natives’use so just use it. Both arguments have valid points and we need to consider both views and not dismiss them out of hand. When checking various blogs I subscribe to, I came across one by U of Michigan Professor, Yong Zhao (he is the author of a recent ASCD book, Catching up or leading the way). His post can be found here, it is an interesting read. I listened to an interview with him some time back (a podcast on Alan November’s site). One thing he said stood out, something to the effect that if a teacher could be replaced by technology, then he/she should be. Basically he stated that there are things computers can do better than teachers (like provide information, animations, etc) and those who fear that their roles as teachers could be taken over by computers are partly correct. On the other hand, the real role as teachers as model, guide, facilitator, etc cannot be taken over by a computer. I think that a lot of these discussions can be brought back to one idea – balance. We need to have balance in our lives and also in schooling. Not all activities need technology to be effective; in fact in some cases the technology can get in the way. For others, technology can enhance the experience, and the learning. Another interesting blog I came across was entitled “The myth of the digital native”, in it the author writes: her research indicates a very strong correlation between the teacher's use of the technology in lessons, and the kids' use of technology outside of school. It is essential for the teacher to model not only how to use the technology, but how to learn effectively”. I guess I am saying that a teacher should use the technique or strategy that works best for the given purpose, to meet the goal. For example, look how our blogs have allowed so much discussion, sharing and thinking/learning.

If you want more data, try the PEW Research Center - lots of interesting data & commentary. Also of interest in relation to the above is ISTE’s Top 10 Educational Technology Priorities for 2010.

Finally, the big event of last week was the announcement of the iPad by Apple. What do you think? The hype certainly worked up a frenzy of interest. While the device has many shortcomings – no flash support, no camera, no multi-tasking… I think it may still be the start of a new focus in computing devices. Despite these shortcomings, I still want one, although I may wait for the next upgrade. Whether you were impressed or not, this blog, written about the iPad release, is very interesting.


  1. Mike, I'm with you regarding the replacement of teachers by technology. This is not to say that I want to dismiss my job, but I think there is an independent learning threshold students can cross. Once it is crossed, they can manage their own learning by using well designed tutorials and animations. When prepping for my computer science course, I looked at a Visual Basic intro video at It's an animated voice-over (sound like something recent?). I thought it was well done, and it reflects the kind of classroom I am working, though slowly, to create (btw, I'm not using VB - went with another product - video is still good!). Further, the quote you cited says it all in the last sentence, it is essential for the teacher to model not only how to use the technology, but how to learn effectively. How to learn effectively. That is huge and can't really be addressed here. There's reading, math, tech, no tech... so many strategies to consider. It has to be a whatever works approach. If tech works, use it; if it doesn't, then don't.

    The role of teacher as guide and facilitator is where teachers need to go, but at the right time. Despite all the constructivist preaching and other theories about learning, and all the whiz-bang tech available, to some degree at most of not all levels, education is about filling up empty vessels.

    I clicked the open thinking link on this blog of yours. Last Monday, about an hour after the live show, I watched the lecture No Child Left Thinking by Joel Westheimer from U of Ottawa. It was about democracy in education; worth the view. Thanks. It's great that you've posted those links; I should post a few to mine. On-line lectures, demonstrations, animations, books, sites, blogs... these are the ways of education for the independent learner, and forums like the one we have here. Our job is to get the kids we teach to become like us, if possible.

  2. Mike, I remember trying to introduce certain technology shifts to a group of people sometimes back. It had to do with standards. I proposed that this group should allow for the introduction of open standards as opposed to the closed proprietary models they currently use. The pivot of my argument was,"... as a policy maker and a government official, could you at least let your departments decide/make a choice between the standards; open vs. proprietary? Rather than choose for and impose your choice on them?"

    My arguments did not make any headway. Not because it did not make sense (or it was not diplomatically presented) but simply for the reason that such proposal, if accepted, would create change .And the 'old' folks would have to adapt to this change. It was for them a scary thought. "It aint broke, dont fix it." I reckon the same applies to teachers and facilitators. What is not broke within our current mode of learning dont need fixing. Even when the mode has evolved, we may still remain within our narrowly minded visual landscape, feign ignorance and continue in our old ways. Now, how we change that is another story.

  3. I remember seeing Alan November speak here in Winnipeg a few years back and all I took away from the day was what a waste of time! I do agree that teachers need to model the use of technology in their classroom and make important pedagogical decisions as to when and how to use it. I hate looking at teachers growth plans where the goal is “To learn to use a smartboard.” Surely, and hopefully this is an indicator of the much larger goal of improving student success. Maybe with the use of a smartboard, class notes can be captured and put online. Students could then access notes and assignments from home. Not too long ago some common goals amongst teachers were “To learn to use a digital camera!” or “To learn how to burn a CD!” Blah! I just threw up in my mouth! When we make professional judgements about using technology in the classroom we are less concerned about keeping up with the kids, and more concerned about teaching the kids.

  4. Right on, Paul. The Smartboard thing is the latest in a long line of such 'tools', yet they are often 'used' to do the same old with an expensive toy. It is good that teachers want to learn, but focus on the learning not the tech. Your last line is nicely stated.