A younger educator—well-known and enthusiastic—wrote a post with some points in it that just really rubbed me the wrong way. This educator was absolutely well-intentioned but there were errors in the definitions and in the representation of educational pedagogies of previous recent decades.
What did I do?
I reacted. I wrote a relatively polite, yet pointed, reply. I corrected the errors in his thinking and gave some references and history. I expressed that I was offended.
He wrote me personally and expressed his sadness at offending me and told me how much he respected my opinions and told me he was very sorry and that he meant no offence.
He took his post down.
It gave me pause to reflect on my behaviour.
I was angry. I was upset. I was annoyed by his incorrect claims regarding all the efforts and passion many of us poured into the education sphere in those previous decades that he was inadvertently criticizing. But, he did it out of a lack of information—it was not ill-intentioned.
He made the post from his reference point. My reference point is different. I am older. I have a different lived experience. He is speaking from his lived experience.
As an educator, I should have handled things differently. As just my old regular self, I reacted and hurt this young, enthusiastic educator. My ego and my ‘self’ got in the way of a more measured and appropriate response.
A good teacher wouldn’t make another learner feel foolish. I did that today.
I was a bad teacher.
And I apologize for that. And, I will learn from that.
I think of my dear, recently departed mentor—Jim Milligan—as I write this.
He would understand me and forgive me my error.
I hope this young educator will as well.
I’m wondering why teachers use technology in the classroom…
Here are some of my reasons for using technology. Get more context by watching the video!
- I love the notion of ‘cognitive residue’.
- As learners, we are in the business of ‘building our own minds’.
- We, as teachers, are in the business of helping kids to ‘build their own minds’.
- Tools do shape behaviour.
- We see that tools allow us to play ‘what if’…because of the affordances of the technology.
- What is the difference between ‘effects with’ and ‘effects of’ computers. Kids may be better writers while using a computer. Are they better writers after ‘having used’ a computer?
- Technologies should provide ‘mental models with which to think’.
- It’s good for teachers to have a plan…but sometimes your plan can limit what you do.
- Both teachers and students need to be passionate about what they are learning.
The video is from the learning exchange—a site of the Student Achievement Division of the Ontario Ministry of Education. It was recorded at The Quest 2016 conference – Deep Learning in a Digital World.
Don’t say, “We are finally paying attention to the pedagogy!”
It is unacceptable.
Pedagogy is why we started so many years ago!
How many times do we hear the following these days?
“It’s not about the technology, it’s about the learning.”
“We have to think about pedagogy instead of focusing on the tools.”
But the most disturbing claim suggests that ONLY NOW are we thinking about pedagogy before technology—that everyone in the 70s, 80s, 90s and early 2000s paid attention only to the hardware, the software and ‘teaching the tools’—devoid of pedagogy.
…ONLY NOW are we thinking about pedagogy before technology
Please don’t say that. It’s absolutely incorrect—and, in fairness, rather hurtful to many who have had dreams of the kinds of things we are hearing more widely today. We have fought, and fought hard, for effective uptake through those decades in the face of those who ignored, and dismissed, us as outliers.
…some veteran, and influential, educators ignored us in the past…
And, it is not only some who are new to education who are guilty of this. We are seeing some veteran, and influential, educators who ignored us in the past, now moving us all forward with discussions of new pedagogies.
How we wished for their voices three decades ago. Imagine where we might be now.
Build Upon the Past
However, now we have a new generation of educators who, in many cases, have embraced the affordances of technologies. We welcome your enthusiasm, your energy and your building of effective classrooms for our learners.
…we must build upon that which has been done in the past
I believe that it is important that we must build upon that which has been done in the past and move forward from there. If we start fresh—as if it is all new—we are not leveraging the successes and failures of previous times. We must learn from our experience.
To do this, one needs to know the history of educational computing.
I will share some of my experiences and observations having started on this journey in 1977.
This will require a series of posts. 🙂
A Series of Posts
I could do this by topic—coding, global projects, inquiry, science and math investigations, leveraging productivity software for inquiry, and so on. Or I could do it chronologically—which is the way I shall choose to approach this very rich history.
- Developing thinking and metacognitive skills through programming (coding) with grade ones in 1977, the Logo movement of the 80s, programming in HyperCard and HyperStudio in the 80s and 90s, teaching kids HTML through the 90s
- Connecting kids through global projects in the early 80s with a command line interface on our computers, a Day in the Life project run with the Soviet Union via fax machines, National Geographic Kids’ Network collaborative science investigations in the 80s with teams of students from around the world, Global Schoolnet, FrEdWriter and FrEdMail (free wordpro and email networking for kids in the mid-80s), iEARN (International Education and Resource Network)
- Being mathematicians, scientists, and engineers through building robotics and making in the mid-80s with Lego TC Logo robotics kits
- collaboration – in addition to the collaborative global projects mentioned above, we had the development of CSILE (Computer Supported Intentional Learning Environments) in the mid-eighties; ThinkingLand (late 80s), and Journal Zone (early 2000s). These were environments focused on creating knowledge building communities in our classrooms
- Inquiry-based uses of productivity software (mid-80s onward)—using drawing tools, databases and spreadsheets for mathematics & science inquiry of geometry, speed, acceleration, etc.
- Exploring, tinkering and creating in Virtual Reality (Mandala and CitySpace) in the 90s
- Multimedia creation (HyperCard, HyperStudio, Web Creation, desktop publishing, Laser discs)
- Beginning in 1982, we deliberately focused our formalized professional learning on curricular implementation by including curriculum and/or pedagogy in the workshop titles (Math Investigations using Spreadsheets; Planning Ahead with Outliners; Metacognition and Programming in Logo)
This is just a sampling of topics.
The next post will tell the story of how—and why—we got involved with microcomputers in the late 1970s. It will include a description of the educational context of the 1970s—the student-centred, inquiry-based, open-classroom, student-in-charge environments where we were believers in a Piagetian constructivist approach and had dismissed the Skinnerian behaviourist, operant-conditioning principles of earlier decades.
…and obviously the other stuff too!
Click on this picture to make it larger and more readable!
I continue to hear that we need ‘pedagogy before technology‘ and that it ‘isn’t about the tools, it’s about the learning‘! Well, I am somewhat frustrated by these relatively simplistic statements. But, before you shoot me, understand that a strong emphasis on both pedagogy and learning are foremost in my mind. Also, let me clarify that this is somewhat a new educational battlecry—one that didn’t exist when many of us started with kids and these technologies back in the late 70s. We just took it for granted that we were implementing these tools in deep and significant ways! (After all, you either took a constructionist/constructivist approach or you adopted the beliefs of CAI (Computer Assisted Instruction—aka Institutionalization! LOL)
It is only since decision-making was taken out of the hands of classroom educators that computers (and other technologies) have landed unceremoniously in classrooms, along with expectations that they will be used effectively. This has gained momentum since the onslaught of cheaper tools such as tablets, Chromebooks and BYOD and even more decision-makers and policy-makers have arrived on board (finally)—because they have a ‘device’!
So, trust me. I get why we are hearing this battlecry. People didn’t necessarily come to it themselves and now we have a plethora of devices and not enough forethought and preparation.
Having said that, it is dangerous to claim that it is not about the tools. It is also about the tools. Read on, and click on the links, to find out why I think so.
I have decided to make this graphic representing these ideas that I have written about in the previous posts:
If you would like to see an interactive version, please click on the link below.
But, I dare say, as with other constructs, each of us has different understandings, impressions, implementations, and nuances of just what co-constructing knowledge means. After all, as is said, “The reader writes the story”.
Did you know that Socrates was extremely upset with the invention and adoption of the written word? He made a number of claims (topic for another post!), one of which was that people would read the printed words superficially and would not – could not – come to deep understandings without conversation. He believed that words were not reality – they represented realities – and, for ideas to be deeply understood, there needed to be conversation, debate, disagreement, clarification, elaboration.
So I will suggest that one of the essential requirements for co-construction of knowledge is exactly that – conversation. This typically involves language – spoken or written – easily accomplished technically in this day and age.
So how do you facilitate meaningful constructive conversations in your classrooms? (It’s nice when they erupt naturally and spontaneously, that’s for sure! So examine the characteristics of that at those times. Check out what’s going on!)
If you are interested in ways of supporting online conversations among students read Scaffolding for Deep Understanding or if you question the benefits of groupwork read Why Should Students Collaborate? Read more