Monday, November 16, 2009

Dangerously Irrelevant Is

Dangerously Irrelevant shows why he's irrelevant.
In many job sectors, employees are expected to keep up with relevant technologies or risk job loss. When do we require that of K-12 and postsecondary educators? At what point do we say to them “No, we’re not training you how to use this. It’s easy enough for you to learn on your own. And if you don’t, we’ll find someone else who can.”
When will we, as educational systems, redefine the job descriptions and expectations of educators to include their regular and effective incorporation of relevant digital technologies?

Like many bloggers and opinionators, DI has it wrong. There are precious few teachers who aren't technologically capable. We all use technology every day. We call on cell phones, use computers, drive cars, download things from the Internet, use graphing calculators, SmartBoards and other technology. The level of use is different, but we're ALL living in this world now.

Who defines your acceptable level? Who decides that it isn't enough? Who has actually made sure that more technology is actually USEFUL in the classroom setting? Will it be Techno-geek boy or an actual teacher in a school like Packemin High School? To accept a definition like this from someone who has such an obvious axe to grind is like calling on the Oil Companies to write an energy bill for Congress. (Oh, wait ...)

A commenter says "The obvious next question is: If we are successful in changing job descriptions to include integrating 21st tools and resources, how do we fairly assess teacher performance?"

to which I respond:

The students need to know what they are doing - that's called knowledge of subject. Those 21st century skills are mostly Glitzenbullshit, a tool that kids can pick up at any time. People like this commenter are changing the subject out of ignorance.

As Peter Berger (Poor Elijah's Almanac) says,
The high-powered Partnership for 21st Century Skills still preaches this same doctrine, euphemistically arguing that we need to "emphasize deep understanding rather than shallow knowledge."

Unfortunately, without deep knowledge, the best you can have is a shallow understanding. Without any knowledge, meaning facts, any understanding you think you have is illusory, baseless, and void.


You can't attain understanding without knowledge, and you can't acquire knowledge without mastering facts. You can't skip the grunt work, even if it's often dull and painstaking. That's true in any discipline. Our children need to realize and accept this. So do the experts who mastermind our schools. So do we all. That's the new angle on teaching and learning that we desperately need. More gimmicks won’t help.

True, grappling with facts and turning them into knowledge can be hard work.

But reckoning with ignorance is even harder.


  1. I'm wondering if DI is thinking of the same teachers I am who are perfectly happy to keep photocopying the same originals (or multiply-copied copies) they've used for 20 years, and who balk at the request to re-type them and make them available to other teachers digitally.

    In addition to only using their word-processing programs for the most basic purposes, these teachers also refuse to learn how to use basic email and student grade software themselves, and either find someone more tech-savvy to give them their own personal tutorial session or insist that the school give them one.

    As the person who gets asked most often to show them how to do something they should have been capable of figuring out for themselves, I can understand DI's frustration.

  2. I disagree...

    So, that "Glitzenbullshit" is what schools in Finland, Singapore, England, Australia, etc. are focusing on. A good education isn't about how much "stuff" you know, but what you can actually "do." Facts can be picked up at any time...being able to use those facts takes "habits of mind" that are not common in our nation's schools. You can't skip the gruntwork, but currently most of that gruntwork is about learning facts without understanding.

    There is a reason why the U.S. scores 35th in the world in math. It is because the rest of the world is embracing inquiry and prioritizing "flexible" thinking...while we are still preparing to compete in the industrial age.

  3. One of the disappointing things I found about some of my daughter's classes in school was that many classes placed emphasis on assignments where students were required to put together presentations.

    My daughter figured out early on that fancy packaging can divert attention from lack of substance. She makes attractive PowerPoint presentations, since she has a command of the technology. I saw her get "A's" on some projects that I would not have awarded a superlative grade. The trap of embracing style over substance is, to me, the biggest danger. A facade only gets you so far!