Comment Hoist: The Naked #EdTech

"I have observed first hand the time-gobbling activities to which Dr. Schmoker refers," says commenter James Willison. In the spirit of celebrating blog comments, and James' observation, I've re-posted it here for your viewing. My response to James appears below his comment.

You may want to read the blog entry that James commented on, "MyNotes: Michael Schmoker's Focus on Time-Gobbling EdTech."

Image Source: The Naked Truth

What Inspired the Time Gobbling Blog Entries

First, for some context, let's re-read the quote that elicited James' comment:
On page 60, Mike Schmoker cites Dylan Williams (2007) research in his book, Focus. "Research demonstrates the folly of our current priorities, such as investing heavily in technology when it has had, so far, such limited impact on student learning." Advocates of 21st Century education are not urging us to rashly reinvent curriculum around technology or group projects. 
They are not proposing that student spend less time learning content and more time making movie previews, video skits, wikis, silent movies or clay animation figures. We need to say 'No, thank you' to such faddish, time-gobbling activities" - Mike Schmoker on Pg 26, Focus
It's amazing, right? While many in the edtech community (er, I'm guilty, too) are trying to figure out if G Suite EDU or Office 365 is the right ecosystem (not to mention the poor souls still trying to empty their wallets paying for iPads in every classroom), children are not learning to read, write, and think at higher levels. What constitutes higher levels? I'm reminded of Patrick Finn's Literacy with an Attitude:
"Powerful literacy involves creativity and reason -- the ability to evaluate, analyze and synthesize what is read...it is also the ability to write one's ideas so that another person can understand them."(Source: Patrick Finn, Literacy with an Attitude)
Ok, enough of me. Here are James' remarks.

James Willison's Comment:

I observed a middle school Language Arts class which lasted 50 minutes from bell-to-bell. The teacher had posted the objective of "Learning to unpack the writing prompt." She had the students get a tablet from a charging cart and then proceed to log into their accounts so they could use a program called "Cornell Notes." Over the next 25 minutes, I watched as students struggled with their logins, tried to remember how to access the Cornell notes app, tried to remember how to use the highlight and underline features on the app, etc. For more than half of the class period, the only interaction between teacher and students and between students was about how to use the technology. Not one word in regard to the posted objective.

The problem isn't always technology, however. I observed the same time-wasting in another middle school Language Arts class with the same posted objective. This time, however, the teacher was having the students create a "foldable" to be placed in their Writer's Notebook. For more than half the period, the students spent their time trying to imitate how the teacher folded, cut, and pasted a piece of paper into the desired product. Students had difficulty using the scissors, cutting in the right place, folding in the right way. It was a complete waste of instructional time and I suspect the students never did make the connection between the foldable and the objective.

Dr. Schmoker isn't saying that technology in the classroom is bad. What he is saying is that instruction that is dependent upon technology, or designed to accommodate technology, can be a disruption, can use up valuable instruction time, and can interfere with the transfer of learning. I would bet that if you asked many of the students in the classrooms I describe above what they were learning, they would answer that they were learning to use a tablet or learning to make a foldable.

My Response:

James, thanks so much for sharing your insights. You know, I recall the first time I encountered this phenomenon when working with adult learners. It was downright annoying. We'd spent time focusing on the workshop content, Curriculum Using Technology (CUT), blending technology into the key ideas of the session. My co-presenter and I imagined that we had blended technology into the core content of the workshop. At day's end, we found something else had happened.

What had happened? Participants had been so enamored of the technology (Powerpoint and how to make simple websites, believe it or not, so that gives you some insight as to when) that we introduced in the sessions, they missed the point of the entire day.

As you say, technology in the classroom is not bad. The way it is often deployed or implemented is. Not because it's bad in itself, but rather, that it distracts from the core content of the lesson.

As fantastic at cut-n-paste activities are, especially in light of makerspaces that blend technology, to engage students, they tap into human beings in a way little else can. Unfortunately, while they are fun to do, they don't get the job done. That's why we must rely on research-based, effective instructional strategies.

Thanks so much for your comment, James!
A Quick Aside 
One of my favorite stories is that Jewish tale of Parable and Truth (shown below). I often thought that core content played the part of Truth, and Technology that of Parable. Unfortunately, when core content wears the clothes of Tech, it is almost overshadowed in a suit of clothes to attractive for any to do naught but pay attention to it.
Here's the actual story of Parable and Truth:
Truth, naked and cold, had been turned away from every door in the village. Her nakedness frightened the people. When Parable found her she was huddled in a corner, shivering and hungry. Taking pity on her, Parable gathered her up and took her home. There, she dressed Truth in story, warmed her and sent her out again. 
Clothed in story, Truth knocked again at the doors and was readily welcomed into the villagers’ houses. They invited her to eat at their tables and warm herself by their fires.    — Jewish Teaching Story


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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