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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Study Says Tools Don’t Raise Scores
This report from the Washingtonpost.com

Educational software, a $2 billion-a-year industry that has become the darling of school systems across the country, has no significant impact on student performance, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Education.

The long-awaited report amounts to a rebuke of educational technology, a business whose growth has been spurred by schools desperate for ways to meet the testing mandates of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind law.

Oh my, another chink in the armor of NCLB. I am not surprised. Technology is worthy of many things–a teacher it is not! Without technology this blog would not be possible, critical exploration of deep space, research into drug development, and so much more would simply not be possible. But, sitting a child in front of a computer to do drill and kill is no different than handing the same child a worksheet. It numbs the brain. It kills curiosity.

Not too very long ago my then 6 year old grandson was visiting me from his home in Phoenix. Because he was missing a couple of days of school, his 1st grade teacher supplied him with multiple worksheet assignments. He balked at doing this homework. When I asked him why he said, “Poppa, it is really stupid work. I know how to do it all so it is just a waste of my time–time I could be spending with you and grandma.” Aside from the fact that he will grow up to be a diplomat, his analysis was right on. In fact, it was a waste of his time. If a 6-year-old child knows this and can articulate his knowing this well something tells me the DOE did not have to pay for an expensive study.

We have known for some time that drill and skill worksheets don’t work at any age for any topic. What does work is to engage children as curious, inquiring learners. It is a grand Deweyan myth but he could have said this, “If you want kids to learn about volume and container size, send them out to the sandbox with different size buckets and have them play in the sand. Then come back to the classroom and discuss what they did in the sandbox.” Learning through experience works. It engages kids in ways that involve their natural curiosity so that what is learned is retained. Beating them over the head with drivel simply gets lost as the children get lost in the process.

But NCLB pushes notions of basic skills for reading and math. Curiously, nothing is ever said about what one does with the skills acquired. What are the real world applications of having a set of skills that one has not been able to internalize because they hold no interest.

If technology is to be effective as a classroom tool then it must be seen as interactive, messy, and authentic. Not some pre-programmed worksheet model that crushes children in the process.

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The link leads you to a post by Treavor on his blog that is absolutely worth the look. The video clip from YouTube poses some interesting and disturbing questions that need to be addressed in the United States but, because of the hegemonic views of the current administration, the diffidence paid to global capitalism, and the blind faith in positivism and the implications attached thereto it seems that we are not even beginning to think about the issues raised.

Are Schools Preparing Children for the Future?

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I have never considered myself to be a Luddite. I purchased my first personal computer over 30 years ago, an Apple IIe to be sure, and have been using technology ever since. But times have changed. My campus is being invaded by LiveText, a corporate attempt to respond to the current trend to objectify educational outcomes through technocratic, bureaucratic requirements of alignment to standards, accountability to standards, and assessment documentation. The idea behind all this is that unless one has objective, observable proof that external standards are being met, one cannot be sure that there is any learning taking place.

Max Weber (2002) argued that bureaucratic institutions, as impersonal entities, are without meaningful foundational support. Bureaucratic institutions ebb and flow by adhering to what is perceived to work, whether or not the perception is matched by the reality. Bureaucracies are heartless, without soul, inhuman places where decisions are made by objectifying the outcome desired and creating regulations to achieve the desired outcome. In education, bureaucratic thinking has gotten us into the event horizon of a black hole from which knowledge can no longer escape as the outcome of free inquiry.

LiveText, in the most arrogant manner, bills itself as the Single Source of Truth. The company states:

LiveText provides the most complete learning, assessment, and accreditation management solution™ available for all institutional stakeholders–from students to administrators–to meet and surpass these challenges and ultimately foster a learning environment centered upon evidence-based decisions and continuous improvement.

The claim of evidence-based decisions and complete learning, assessment, and accreditation management leading to truth
is absurd on its face. First, the claim endorses the epistemological claim that there is an objective, observable truth that can be discovered and analyzed if only we have the proper tools for that examination. The analytical, positivist posture is, however, not the only way of understanding the nature of truth. From Husserl (2006), to Heidegger (1962) to Derrida (2002) objectification of the external as a way of knowing is denied; one, rather, must reflectively examine the intentional experience of the Lifeworld, the world of phenomena and things, through an encounter with the interiority of the self in order to come to know anything. The assumption made by LiveText denies the latter in favor of the former position. By privileging the former LiveText attempts to compartmentalize knowledge without examination or reflection. Everything fits into the LiveText matrix thereby reducing knowing to a form.

Additionally, the claim of truth emanating from a single source oversteps the bounds of rationality placing LiveText in the metaphysical realm residing somewhere amongst the gods. Aside from finding this claim offensive, it is a claim that best resides in a seminary where theology is the topic on everyone’s mind. Claims of absolute truth are frightening and, perhaps, obscene as well. There is no room here for inquiry, creativity, or conversation–in spite of the claims of LiveText representatives that one can create tools that fit the needs of each user. If that were the case there would be no underlying code written to restrict the user to using the LiveText interface. With no underlying code, fully protected as intellectual property to be sure, LiveText would have nothing to sell and Capitalism would necessarily fail, leaving professors out there to fend for themselves.

It is not technology that alienates, rather it is the hubris of Capitalism and the lifelessness of the bureaucracy that alienates. I am alienated.

References

Derrida, J. (2002). Faith and knowledge: The two sources of “religion” and the limits of reason alone (S. Weber, Trans.). In G. Anidjar (Ed.), Acts of religion (pp. 42-101). New York: Routledge.

Heidegger, M. (1962). Being and time. New York: Harper Publishers.

Husserl, E. (2006). The Idea of Phenomenology. New York: Springer.

Weber, M. (2002). Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers, Ltd.

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