Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Post-ISTE Ramblings

I've got a few things, post-ISTE, I feel a need to respond to. None of these have to do with the conference, they are all in response to others' responses to the conference. Sheesh, that's a bit absurd when I type it.

ISTE always brings out strong feelings from people about technology and its use in the classroom. I get that. Most of the time I enjoy all the debate and discussions about tools vs. pedagogy and how to marry the two successfully. Most of the time I enjoy the thoughts about the value of teaching without technology as well.

However, lately I find myself getting irritated by what feels like superiority and smugness when people write about the negative side of technology and the sheer beauty of life without it. These are people I respect and people who use technology well. It seems like a need to prove something or show they are better than those singing the praises of technology. I don't think technology is a panacea. I don't think it should dominate our lives. I think a healthy balance is important. I don't think life without technology is superior to life with it.

During ISTE I was lucky enough to spend some time chatting with Gary Stager. He's an educator who pushes my thinking. I don't always agree with him, but I think he prefers it that way. He wrote about his frustration with cliches, especially ones about how much teachers can learn from their students.
The motivation behind uttering such banalities is likely positive. It acknowledges that children are competent and encourages adults to learn with them.
However, these clich├ęs suggest a power relationship in which all adults (particularly teachers) are resigned to the role of bumbling TV dad while the kids rule the roost. In education, this often serves as a justification for why teachers irrationally fear computers and modernity or appear to have stopped learning.
Here I agree with Gary about 95%. The only place I feel a need to nitpick is that I think children often have a wisdom born from their youth and inexperience from which we adults can learn. They are not yet jaded and cynical in the same ways as adults and, as a result, see things we don't. When I think of all I have to learn from my first graders, I am thinking of seeing the world from their perspective and learning from that.

Gary also shares a short video clip of Branford Marsalis. I have several of his CDs in my classroom in frequent rotation throughout the day. He is a phenomenal musician. In the clip (worth watching just as Gary's post is worth reading) Marsalis talks about his students wanting to be told how fabulous they are without putting in the necessary effort.

How do we get kids to put in the effort if they don't feel some success with it? They need encouragement but they also need to be held to high standards.

Of course, isn't that true for all of us?

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