Tricks or trash?

There’s some interesting thinking about digital learning taking place in the comment section over at Dy/Dan today, sparked by a Jeff Wasserman blog post.  In the comments at Dy/Dan, Jeff wrote:

It’s a mess. That’s why I don’t care anymore. Large schools that generally “do well,” whatever that means, have no incentive to shake things up and try something new.

This part of Jeff’s comment really resonated with me—even though I’m personally left jazzed by the potential of tech tools—-because he’s right.  “Doing well” in today’s schools is actually a whole lot simpler than we make it out to be.  Our kids can be successful by the standardized measures that we use to assess our students without teacher’s ever having to change our instructional practices or uses of technology at all.

And when that is the measure that we’re held accountable by, it’s easy to turn our backs on the incredible amount of time that finding ways to “do new things in new ways” with tech really takes.  What’s the point of teaching kids to create, collaborate and communicate if none of those skills are measured?

I’ve struggled with this for years—tech and techless.  My classroom used to be a place where Socratic seminars were regular features….and the thinking generated in those seminars was remarkable.  My kids wrestled with issues in ways that I’d never seen them wrestle before.  They were motivated and engaged.

But my test scores were always the lowest on the hall.  My assumption that higher order activities would translate into higher scores for my kids on our end of grade exams was faulty.  Instead, the “drill and killers” were producing better “results,” and I was called on the carpet.

How have things changed?

While I still feel passionate about any activity that engages my kids in higher order thinking and I still believe teachers have an obligation to find ways to use digital tools to enhance their instruction, I also find it incredibly tempting to shy away from such activities now.  Drill and kill has crept its way into my “bag of tricks” (trash?).  We practice multiple choice reading questions EVERY SINGLE DAY.

< cringe >

But my scores are up and everyone’s happy.

Scary, huh?