Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Obsolete in Education - part One

Four years ago, predicted some things that were going obsolete. I think she's experiencing some edu-psychosis brought on by wishful thinking. As an intellectual exercise and conceit, I figured I'd give updates and responses.
1. Desks
The 21st century does not fit neatly into rows. Neither should your students. Allow the network-based concepts of flow, collaboration, and dynamism help you rearrange your room for authentic 21st century learning.
Yup, desks in rows are the first thing on the list ... I suppose the "factory model" bugaboo has to surface immediately because the students don't need any structure or organization, and the teacher is going to be differentiating the hell out of that room anyway. Putting the desks on wheels so the "teacher doesn't know where to stand" will certainly do something. I'm not sure that it'll be something good, though.
2. Language Labs
Foreign language acquisition is only a smartphone away. Get rid of those clunky desktops and monitors and do something fun with that room.
That's right. Siri will solve your translation problems for you. There's no need for you to learn a new language, kids, the disembodied voice will do all your thinking and learning for you, do all your math for you, remember all your Biology facts for you, read your Shakespeare to you and perform your science experiments. 
3. Computers
Ok, so this is a trick answer. More precisely this one should read: 'Our concept of what a computer is'. Because computing is going mobile and over the next decade we're going to see the full fury of individualized computing via handhelds come to the fore. Can't wait.
Computers may be morphing into tablets and smartphones but that doesn't mean the desktop is going away any time soon. The screen size and keyboard comfort will insure that. Those people who change their primary device for a smartphone weren't using their computer for anything other than a communication device anyway. Those people who gravitate to a Kindle or tablet weren't reading on the computer anyway. Those people who needed a computer for content creation will still need the size and convenience anyway.
4. Homework
The 21st century is a 24/7 environment. And the next decade is going to see the traditional temporal boundaries between home and school disappear. And despite whatever Secretary Duncan might say, we don't need kids to 'go to school' more; we need them to 'learn' more. And this will be done 24/7 and on the move (see #3).
This is an utter crock. The human mind can't actively learn for extended periods of time. Homework (or something that replaces it) is a necessary intermediate learning situation in the full learning process: Listen and see, learn, practice, reinforce, twist, re-use, re-formulate and then master. Students won't suddenly develop the self-motivation to do this if it wasn't present already.

Secondly, I see pushback from the 24/7 model in many things. The cellphone gave us instant connection at all times and people are starting to realize that isn't the best idea - more often "the battery must have died" is the excuse given to cover up the desire to be left alone. Even my teenagers are starting to get the exasperated look when Mother calls in the middle of class - I know, I've looked at the number before they answer. Anyone who uses email knows how it can overwhelm any attempt to get things done. Having a set time and place for learning allows the students to focus on that learning and allow the brain to make the connections necessary. (Assuming that students will learn chemistry at the skatepark is so laughable that I must have misread the bullet point.) Once outside of that place, the brain can have time to process while the student relaxes, plays sports, or simply does something enjoyable or works a job.

There's a time and place for everything, you know.
5. The Role of Standardized Tests in College Admissions
The AP Exam is on its last legs. The SAT isn't far behind. Over the next ten years, we will see Digital Portfolios replace test scores as the #1 factor in college admissions.

Those last legs are looking pretty strong. The reality is that more and more kids are being exploited as guinea pigs: experimental schools and pedagogy, block vs traditional schedules, open classroom vs walls, disciplinarian vs laissez-faire systems, integrated math vs alg-geom-alg-trig, homeschooling and unschooling. The details are enormously different.

Those tests, as annoying and predictable as they might be, do give the colleges a baseline context for the rest of the application. Digital portfolios are not catching on as the sole record of achievement simply because there isn't much to show that the student actually created all of that work without help.
6. Differentiated Instruction as the Sign of a Distinguished Teacher
The 21st century is customizable. In ten years, the teacher who hasn't yet figured out how to use tech to personalize learning will be the teacher out of a job. Differentiation won't make you 'distinguished'; it'll just be a natural part of your work.
I could have sworn that the title of the piece was "Things that were going obsolete". I'm assuming that she wants all students to be in differentiated learning, whether it's appropriate or not. The group classroom isn't going away. Some kids like to feel that everything is specialized for them and they don't mind instantly moving forward to the next topic, but I'll counter with the idea that immediate advancement to the next topic may be the reason some kids have so much trouble. Waiting for the other kid to get it, or helping a friend get it, is valuable. Listening to other kids ask the same question is also valuable.
7. Fear of Wikipedia
Wikipedia is the greatest democratizing force in the world right now. If you are afraid of letting your students peruse it, it's time you get over yourself.
No, Wikipedia has all of the limitations it always had. Crowd-sourcing is only as good as the loudest voices in that crowd.  I would note that the only truly good articles are those written by experts and, for most people, the expert can be defined as "someone who agrees with me". The 19yo kid who happens to be the uber-administrator for a particular page isn't much better than a GeoCities author was.

Copying random paragraphs from Wikipedia is akin to copying the article from the Brittanica, but requiring less of a lazy effort than in the olden days. Teachers don't object to the truth in Wikipedia, they object to the way their students use it.

1 comment:

  1. I cannot imagine many things more discouraging to a child than to have to be thinking about school 24/7. And I liked school a lot. But give me a break, kids need school to be school and home to be home.