“There Will Always be an Overhead.”

Marcy Hannula — a fantastic teacher and friend who has challenged my practice for the better part of a decade — was cleaning out her professional library the other day when she stumbled across a chapter in a book on computers in the classroom.

The graphic below caught her eye because she knew it would rile me up.  See if you can figure out why it drives me completely crazy:

(click to enlarge)

Overhead Projector

Have you figured out what it is inside the text that rubs me the wrong way?

It’s not the suggestion that overhead projectors would be around for “many generations to come” or that overheads have always been “a much loved tool” of teachers.  It’s not even the suggestion that overheads “have undergone a metamorphosis” as teachers use tools like PowerPoint to “make their transparencies more effective.”

It’s the tacit suggestion that the primary job of classroom teachers is to communicate information to the kids in their classrooms.

What frightens me the most is that while we may have pushed our overhead projectors aside, we are STILL hell-bent on finding new digital tools that can make it easier to deliver information to the kids in our classrooms.  Teaching — which ISN’T synonymous with learning — still stands at the forefront of the work that we do in our schools each day.  We still control what our students study.  We still control the questions that are asked and the ideas that are shared in our classrooms.  And we still control the steps that students take and the pace that those steps are taken through our “courses of study.”

Isn’t it time that we retire “content delivery” as an instructional priority?

In an era where instant access to ideas and opportunities is nothing more than an internet connection away, shouldn’t we be working to create learning spaces that encourage students to discover essential truths — about themselves and about the world around them?  And if discovery really is more important than delivery, shouldn’t we be investing in technologies that allow teachers and students to challenge the existing structures of schools instead of using our purchases to reinforce the status quo?

Worth thinking about, right?

__________________

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  • MarciaPowell

    Yes! That’s it exactly.

    Yes, this is absolutely on point, Bill.  It’s like that free clip art that always shows kids in rows, with their hands raised, while a teacher is in front calling on them, one-by-one.  It’s not student-centered, it’s teacher-delivered. 

    Kids learn, question, dream, but it’s not because of us.  It’ because of their response to an enivronment that gives them the opportunity to grow and change in some way.    Which reminds me about what we can control:  

    1.  The classroom arrangement that shows opportunity for collaboration.

    2.  The expectations for students to be successful. (And if we are not working to couch it in those terms, what are we doing as teachers)

    3.  The resolution of relationships, creation of community, and opportunity to respect one another through success and failure.

    4.  The essential question that you pick is big enough to cover your content needs and relevant enough to inspire your students.

    Your classroom, your choices.  It’s a big deal.