The Real Shift is Not Technology
From the “I Know I Keep Saying This But I Just Can’t Stop Dept.” comes yet another example of how out of whack our language is when talking about what student learning should be. In this long, celebratory piece from the Las Vegas Sun today we learn that students at a Nevada charter school have had their learning “transformed” at the Explore Knowledge Academy, the state’s first iSchool. And the path to transformation? The iPad, of course.
“The world has changed; the expectations in the workforce have changed,” said Abbe Mattson, EKA’s executive director. “You can’t even work at a McDonald’s without using a touch screen. … If we don’t change how we teach, it’s a disservice to our kids.”
In the six months since its technology infusion, EKA has become a model of what the classrooms of the 21st century might look like in Clark County. Although some students found learning to use the new technology challenging, most took to digital learning immediately, Mattson said. “It’s like second nature for the students,” she said. “They’re open to trying this and they’re used to this multimedia access.”
Students use the iPads to access educational websites and applications as well as electronic textbooks. They use the iPad to take notes and the tablet’s camera to photograph whiteboards filled with teacher’s lessons and chemistry formulas. Some even record lectures using the iPad’s digital voice recorder or video camera, referring to them when they review for tests.
“I love them,” eighth-grader Alexa Freeman, 13, said of the iPads. “They’re super fast and easy to use.”
And, finally…wait for it…
Educators say the potential payoff of this digital education is enormous, even though it’s still unproven if this nascent technology will increase student achievement. Educational games and visual applications attempt to make learning fun and keep students’ attention, which should translate to better test scores, teachers say. “If you can get kids engaged, they’ll learn,” Mattson said. “These iPads will help get kids engaged.”
Learning = better test scores. And so it goes…
Look, I know that this here blog has not been all happy, happy lately. I know my cynicism is seeping through more that even I would like. I know I need to get focused on the good, seriously transformative things that some “bold” schools are doing, and I will, I promise. Really.
But I also know that if we keep allowing stories like these to set the bar for change, we’re shortchanging our kids. It’s yet another example of conflating teaching and learning, of not fully understanding the shift to self-directed, personal learning that technology and the Web support. Transformation in this sense means shifting the balance of power to the learner. And I know that starts way before we put a piece of technology in a kid’s hands. But with that power, the technology becomes a much richer, more valuable tool for learning.
I just feel like we have to keep calling this what it is: old wine in new bottles.