Less do, more think – I think I’ll do both


Today I was reading a blog called Teknophilia. The author had re posted a blog he had read on another blog by Jerri Kruse. The blog is called Teaching as a dynamic activity and the post is Less Do, More Think. Jerri makes some good points but I believe that he has overlooked some pieces of the puzzle. Read on past the break to see what I think about it and then leave a comment. We love them here at IT Babble!

I’ll just start at the top:

In his opening paragraph, Jerri makes this statement.

What I have seen is that more technology leads to no fundamental change in teaching.

The focus of Jerri’s argument is about the education that takes place in the classroom, but I ask you the reader to broaden your scope a little. The educational process are not mere moments that take place only in the classroom with a teacher and a well organized and executed lesson plan.

Let’s start with e-mail. E-mail has dramatically changed the way that teachers, administrators, parents, and students communicate with one another. Now you might be saying to yourself “Yeah, but e-mail doesn’t teach you anything,” and well . . . yeah, you’re right. What e-mail does do is allow quick, effecient communication to all the people involved in the learning process. Struggling students can be identified by a teacher and the process (which probably took weeks) can now be addressed within the same day. Letting parents know was usually a ten minute phone call at the end of the day (if you had time). Now it is an e-mail that the parent can respond to that same day. Parental involvement in a child’s education is paramount and right now an e-mail or text message is probably the best and quickest way to get a hold of a parent. How can this not change the landscape of education? I believe it already has. For some research on the importance of parental involvement click here.

This is just one instance, another could be electronic grade books. Keeping a paper gradebook takes time and when you start to figure in weighting grades, even more is done. Take away this requirement and you have more time to focus on your craft. Simple and with more time to focus on teaching, better units, communication, and collaboration have an opportunity to happen.

This next point I definitely agree with and I think it is an area of true concern:

Our tools reflect our goals. If our goal is to make students into information compilers, than we should continue on our merry way. If our goal is to make our students discerners of information, then we need to re-evaluate our trajectory. Google does not discern, it sorts based on popularity. Prezi doesn’t discern it adds a layer of entertainment. Twitter doesn’t discern, it removes layers of nuance. Blogs don’t discern, they give equal voice to novice and expert.

Well said Jerri. For example, I have seen teachers using Prezi or Animoto and while it looks cool I ask myself why. How does this help or benefit the child’s education? Was the focus of the technology how to use the technology or the content that it has been filled with? Is it used just as something different or something worthwhile? Students should be exposed to such software, but when a teacher uses it as a final grade or product, the educational process has become broken.

When using technology I try to ask myself a few questions?

  1. Does it positively benefit the student’s learning?
  2. Does it have to be technology or is there another way?
    • If there’s another way is the technological approach better?
  3. Does the technology detract from the content being learned?

If I can answer yes to all, then I’m more then willing to take a critical look at the technology. This is why I am such a big proponent for Edmodo. It doesn’t get in the way of the teaching process. It runs in the background and when the student is at home or at a computer. It is not necessary for the day to day instruction at all. It provides a means to post questions, answers, and opinions in a safe and peer rich environment. It is not essential to my classroom, but it does make it better by extending the content, assignments, and communication of the classroom outside the classroom.
I’m a little mixed on his next issue.

I’m not saying get rid of technology – I’m saying teach our students about these issues. Teach them to be critical consumers of technology. Teach them how the technology causes them to lose important aspects of themselves.

Once again, well said. The problem here is that why teach only students? There are many, many teachers (in my school alone) that are not critical consumers of technology. They jump on and off a bandwagon, expect technology to just “work,” and get easily frustrated when it doesn’t. This doesn’t just go for teachers either, it goes for administrators as well. If these people are not critical consumers, then why would teachers think it is important? As far as the last line in this paragraph, I’m not exactly sure what Jerri means here. I am going to guess that he means, the students are using technology as a replacement for aspects in their life, such as meeting face to face, proper research skills, and becoming engaging learners. If that is so, then I kind of agree. Technology is not always the best way. In most cases it isn’t, but if you’re trying to collaborate on a presentation, sharing a document using Zoho or Google Docs can really help the process. Again, it goes back to what Jerri writes a little earlier: Teach them (students) to be critical consumers of technology.

In his last paragraph:

I’m also saying we need to stop for a minute and think about teacher use of technology. Right now, we have a lot of people saying “do”, we need more people saying “think”.

Yes and yes and . . . I think you forgot something. We can’t just think. We need to do more. I suggest we investigate, learn, educate our colleagues, and promote technologies that actually enhance teaching. Thinking is certainly part of that process, but it just isn’t enough.

In closing, I’d like to say that technology isn’t going anywhere. It is only going to become more and more ingrained in our daily lives. Don’t believe me? Look at the world around you. Newspapers and magazine sales are on the decline. Why? The information is online. Bill Gates says that in five years, the Internet will have the best information in the world-not your local higher education location. Look at robotics and how technology is improving it? To think that this giant shift caused by improving technologies is going to pass over education and the learning process is not very realistic. I would rather be out there exploring, experimenting with it as opposed to just thinking and waiting.

6 thoughts on “Less do, more think – I think I’ll do both”

  1. Omar,

    The statement you made below is so very very important:

    “We need to help kids get comfortable with technology in various forms and mediums so that when they are faced with technology down the road, they can adapt. However, we needn’t forget to challenge their minds and get our students to think deeply and creatively and not be so reliant on technology that they flounder. Paradoxically, that will make them more adaptive creatures which will in turn help them adapt to new paradigm shifts or shifts in technology.”

  2. Thanks for the comments Jerrid and Teknophilia. I’m, Omar, the other half of ITBabble and am a tech teacher as well. And sometimes, I too feel the need to step away from the computer lab and get my students to try and actually think! Patrick and I had a podcast (something we are trying to do more of) wherein we talked about the problems of using technology just to say we used technology. I think we definitely cant escape technology but sometimes we need to put less emphasis on it and more on thinking.

    My issue is that in ed tech we get caught up in the latest and greatest in technology and gadgets and we find ways to use them in the classroom or in school.

    Case in point. Brainstorming. I know kids have a heck of time doing this and its a very important skill that I try to develop away from the distraction of the computer.

    I could use mind-mapping software but again, that can hamper the process. I would introduce it only once I feel the students can go nuts on paper brainstorming – then I would train them on some mind-mapping tool and help them transition.

    In short, we cannot escape technology as it becomes more and more a part of our daily lives. We need to help kids get comfortable with technology in various forms and mediums so that when they are faced with technology down the road, they can adapt. However, we needn’t forget to challenge their minds and get our students to think deeply and creatively and not be so reliant on technology that they flounder. Paradoxically, that will make them more adaptive creatures which will in turn help them adapt to new paradigm shifts or shifts in technology.

    PS – I have been staring at a monitor for the past three hours so I should have paid heed to my own advice and stepped away to ruminate on this topic…but I wanted instant gratification 🙂

  3. Hi guys. First, thanks for taking the time to read my blog, share what is on there, and even more importantly: to critically consider and reply to the points. Let me provide some additional insight/food for thought/conversation.

    1) The point above about both doing and thinking is valid. However, my post was a reaction to seeing and hearing about technology use that had clearly not had any thought behind it. (Obviously I didn’t link to these instances because I’m not in the business of making people feel bad). So, yes teachers ought to be both thinking and doing technology. However, if more people were thinking at high levels, we might actually see less doing. This leads me to my next point.

    2) Your point about broadening our view of technology is also important, but I would go much farther than you did. The chalkboard has probably been the most influential technology to enter education and it still does many things better than either a whiteboard or a smartboard. For example, drawings that include shading (i’m a science teacher) are nearly impossible with a white board, and while a smart board can display high quality images, the students don’t get to see the teacher create the drawings. When we see someone create we get insight into their thinking and their process. If an image just “appears” on the screen, the thinking required to create the image is opaque.

    3) So, lets think about the technologies you did mention. I agree with your points, but I also know that every technology has a trade-off. So let’s consider those. Email does allow for more efficient communication, but it also creates an impersonal environment. Furthermore because you lose the ability to show emotion, emails are easily misinterpreted and immediate reactions of the parents cannot be gauged and then appropriately reacted to. Yes, calling home takes time, but the benefits are well worth the extra time. I remember calling home once to express concern about a students falling effort and grade. The parent nearly immediately informed me of a very personal issue the student was dealing with. From then our conversation became more about helping the student through the situation and less about the grades. Had I emailed, the dialogue would not have been as productive because it would not have been as immediate. I can’t show the same kind of caring in an email that I can on the phone. Even better is to meet with students face to face. This is why parent teacher conferences are so important and should be held more than once a year!

    Electronic grade books are great and I used one when I had to, but when I have a choice, I do not. We already have a huge problem in education with students and parents being overly concerned with grades instead of learning. What we do by having online/electronic grade books is encourage helicopter parenting. Also, we remove all context from the grading system – parents and students become concerned with points when they should be concerned with learning. Also, I encourage students to keep track of their own grades and how to calculate them. This teaches them responsibility, math skills, and self-assessment. If I just show them a number calculated by a computer, they miss out on the benefits I just mentioned.

    So yes, email and electronic grade books make things EASIER, but that does not make them BETTER. Whenever we use a technology we give something up, the decision we have to make is if the advantages outweigh the things we lose.

  4. The electronic gradebook is definitely a great tool; much easier to use than paper. And I have seen many professors use personal sites/blogs/forums to make both their lives, and that of students, easier and more productive. I thought that this was a good article because of the counterpoint it provided. I really do think that technology has greatly improved the quality of education, but that it can (and has) also introduced problems: distractions, technical errors, lack of understanding or relevancy… It’s up to students and educators to make the best of use of technology while minimizing its “side-effects”.

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