The Skeptic Responds

Again, I can’t really express my gratitude for the quality and quantity of comments on “Seven Questions.” Thank you.View this Post

Here’s a few points that jumped out at me.

So…Um…What Was That Content Standard I’m Supposed To Be Teaching Again?

Responding on her fine group blog and at a sister post, Alice Mercer worries that teachers don’t know that tech can actually fit beautifully into their content standards— and you’re absolutely right on that, Alice. Your example of the Listening and Speaking standards grabbed me because I taught ESL for eight years prior to going mainsteam, and ESL folk often joked about Listening and Speaking being “mythical”– that is, completely overlooked. I don’t think there is a state Speaking assessment anywhere in the US outside of ESL, come to think of it. (Anyone? I’d love to know.)

Without a doubt, the massive potential of Web 2.0 in the classroom is precisely this– the marriage of voice and authentic audience. However I have to say that if you’re working with teachers who don’t even know what their content standards are, my impression is that the central pedagogical problem to be solved has nothing to do with tech.

Anything that Fred Astaire Did…

Arthus and others think that an absence of tech in a school is suffocating. Similarly, Bill Ferriter, who is graciously assisting me while I develop my classroom’s first blog, feels that much of tech’s promise is in its inherent motivational factor for kids. While I have witnessed this and agree, I also think that it’s a red herring. A sparkling, glitzy herring in high heels dancing backwards, but a herring all the same. If I scan a page of a vocabulary workbook into the computer, convert it to PDF, and add digital fill in the blanks, my kids may be “motivated” to work on it– but it’s still the same workbook that has no basis in effective teaching practice, flexible problem solving, or language acquisition research.

And let’s not forget the infinitesmal puddle in which this motivational herring is swimming: novelty. Kids tell me they love using tech in school in large part because, admittedly and sadly, its effective integration is still so limited. But trust me– this won’t last for long. What do we have when we all get our 1:1 laptops in the end (as we will), and this novelty wears off (as it will)? Without decent tech that passes the Seven Questions, we have eight-track cassettes. Cue Barry Manilow.

Cortez and the Lost City of Student Investment

This what was bugging me, I finally figured out, about the logic of the several who pointed out the need to have kids invested in their own learning (ostensibly via tech). I mean, heck, yes– this is the El Dorado, kids invested in their own learning. I can’t agree enough. And surely tech provides an avenue to the Golden City. But folks– and I can’t emphasize this enough– I will not buy my kids’ investment with podcasts and then pretend that I’ve helped them care about poetry. That’s cheating.

In otherwords, enthusiasm for the former (tech) may be a powerful vehicle for the latter (understanding the transformative power of good reading and writing), but it sure ain’t always the same thing. If I can’t create a path to investment via the only path there is– a meaningful, personal connection between content, community, and self— then I’m not doing my job.

Could Someone Please Consider the Spotted Owls?

I did notice an absence of comments on the observation that tech has profound effects on the environment and our interconnectedness within it. This is not going away, guys

And You’re Just Plain Wrong About This Next One, Dina.

And finally, I got some seriously thought-provoking comments on what a “digital kid” actually looks like (thanks Jeff, Jeffreygene, and Tom.) They prompted me to do a little digging, and a little asking, and a lot of rethinking. So next up: What the Heck Is a Digital Native, Anyway?

9 thoughts on “The Skeptic Responds

  1. Oh please don’t use the term “digital native”. Whatever you have to say will be clouded by arguments over whether that played out cliche still holds value. Stay away from that or your argument will get lost there…

    I would much rather hear you ask the question “What does a 21st century learner look like” because the blogworld seems to have equated this century with technology and such.

    My opinion, anyway.


  2. @Chris: You’ve inadvertently asked me to give up a term I’ve deliberately used (as coined by Prensky) so that I can muck it up in my own little intellectual Tap-Out. You’re right to be skeptical of it. I love skepticism. Stay tuned. 🙂

  3. OHOHOHOHOHOHOH, I will respond to you shortly with my state’s language arts standards for all students that have to do with “listening and speaking”. Thanks for the plug. I toil on in my endeavor to reintroduce teachers with the “standards”.

  4. @Alice: keep on keeping on, sister. Glad to have met you in the edublogosphere. Do you happen to know if there’s a Speaking *assessment* anywhere? I mean, god forbid us having to deal with another arbitrary standardized exam, but I can’t help but think that something that measures our physical capacity for *speaking* serves a more useful purpose than the five-paragraph essay, frankly.

    @Ben: You will be assimilated.

  5. Dina, post coming up in a few days, ELLs are tested because the CELDT test (which they have to “pass” to be redesignated, and have to take every year to get their EPALL) has a section on listening (where they listen and answer questions, and speaking (where they answer questions and talk). THEY are tested. Thanks mucho for the link love.

  6. Hey Dina,

    You win! You’re my favorite tech skeptic on the planet….Your thoughts always leave me thinking, and that’s the beauty (albeit I use that term in the strictly digital sense!) of blogs.

    Now check this out:

    My students are commenting around a collection of political cartoons related to the genocide in Darfur.

    This isn’t an “assignment” at all. Everything you see is completely voluntary and done after school hours or during silent reading and writing time.

    Where does this sit in the scale of red-herring-with-high-heels-ness?

    I see a group of kids learning to wrestle with ideas together. They’re polishing and refining their thinking about a critical issue that is connected to our social studies and language arts standards.

    These comments are nuggets of pre-writing, aren’t they? They could easily become the beginnings of a longer essay…and they’re held up for others to challenge, which makes the thinking “sturdier” before an entire piece is tackled.

    I also see an opportunity to steal online minutes from my kids. These kids are already online a thousand hours a day. At least I know that they’re spending some of that time thinking about content, right?

    They’re drawn to the web. Now, if only I can give them destinations that are meaningful.

    Whaddya’ think?


    (PS…LOVING the conversation!)

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