Crazy talk on control in schools

So my recent bit about our determination to waste money on Interactive Whiteboards has certainly sparked a bit of conversation and debate about technology in the classroom.

Easily the most instructive comment came from Anonymous, who—among other things—wrote:

This is the most ludicrous article. Schools that have the technology you mentioned aren’t even using it correctly…

The problem with handing devices to students is that the teacher has to manage the use of those devices….

I don’t think teachers want to regulate the use of devices by their students when they can make their lessons interactive using an IWB.

The IWB is the best investment because it impacts every student. Look at the research… IWB’s do increase student achievement. It is an investment, but it is about time we invest in our youth…

Teachers expect their students to learn new things, and yet they aren’t willing to spend the time to learn how to use their IWB?

Get with the 21st century!

Outside of being a bit offended by the suggestion that my thinking about technology spending is “ludicrous” and that I need to “get with the 21st Century,” I learned a few lessons from Anonymous.

Here’s two worth thinking about.

There are still a TON of teachers who are threatened by the idea of turning over control to their students.

Look at his/her word choice, y’all:  “Teachers don’t want to regulate the use of devices by their students.”

That’s the core of this argument, isn’t it?

Once we start putting devices in the hands of students—which is just plain crazy talk to Anonymous—we have a control issue.

“How can you regulate kids,” he/she wonders, “if they’ve all got their own tools to interact with individuals, ideas and information without a teacher being in charge?”

What Anonymous is missing is that kids resent these attempts to regulate their learning.

They know full well that—given the tools and a bit of intellectual freedom—independent exploration is possible.  Worse yet, they see schools as miserable places that limit their study of the topics and ideas that they care the most about.

When we see it as our job to control learning, we’re fighting a losing battle—stuck with an outdated model for education that just doesn’t resonate with anyone anymore.

No wonder kids couldn’t care less about school.

Those teacher-centric control issues are only exacerbated by failed educational policies.

A part of me wants to completely slam Anonymous.  Believing that learning needs to be “regulated” and suggesting that others need to get with “the 21st Century” in the same comment just doesn’t sit well with me.

But you know something:  We just can’t blame Anonymous for this one.

After all, teachers are given MASSIVE curricula to cover and are then held accountable for nothing more than student results on end-of-grade tests.

Given those circumstances, no WONDER regulating learning still feels right to teachers.

If you were faced with heavy-handed evaluation policies that could determine whether or not you kept your job, you’d force learning down student throats, too.

Worse yet, the work of teachers is increasingly governed by a script.

Take my subject, for example.  My district has literally put together a day-by-day plan that lays out lessons for the entire year.

While I’m lucky enough to work in a school with a principal who trusts me to use that district-crafted script as a resource only, I know peers who are expected to implement the script exactly as it is written.

Talk about regulation, right?

Can we really expect teachers whose work is tightly controlled by outsiders to act any differently when working with students?

In the end, Anonymous is a by-product of a slew of piss-poor educational policies.

What’s really worrisome is that he/she is definitely not alone.  In fact, he/she is probably pretty representative of the majority of teachers in today’s schools.

 

Now, I could definitely quibble with Anonymous’s claim that research shows that IWBs increase student achievement—most studies that show links between IWBs and student achievement have been discredited in one way or another.

But my bigger concern is that in a time where learning environments should be flexible and individualized, we’ve created a system where teachers believe that student learning needs to be “regulated.”

#notgood