A reader who signs as “New York State Teacher” wonders why classrooms should be compelled to use more technology than they need. Why the push to put every student on a tablet and to buy online curriculum and online tests? Is there a comparison, the teacher wonders, between authentic education and “slow foods,” “organic foods,” “artisanal foods,” and the effort to maintain a classroom where teachers make decisions? Why are corporations pushing mass-produced lessons into public schools, but not into the elite schools attended by the children of the 1%? I recall a prediction by Forbes’ technology editor in the 1980s (sourced in my book “Reign of Error”) that in the future, the children of the poor will get computers and the children of the rich will get teachers.
Part of the problem with this manufactured necessity of technology in school is that we, as teachers, often buy into some of the fundamental lies. In our district, teachers clamor for a smartboard, etc., etc., etc., etc., under the pretense that it somehow DEEPENS the learning experience for students….a highly questionable notion when subjected to even modest amounts of rigorous thought. Nonetheless, being an earnest, eager, and enthusiastic lot for the most part, teachers, long accustomed to grabbing for any tool or aid, have also lunged for technology….without the requisite thinking. I would argue that a very firm “NO” from teachers on technology would have quite an impact. NO, I don’t want X, Y, or Z. No I will not teach via algorithm. NO, NO, NO. But, too often technology and its myths have become a norm because they were accepted nicely.
Perhaps what is needed is a counter-narrative coming from teachers that is a “return-to-authentic-roots” kind of thing. A return to the idea that with a teacher, some students, and a book, ignorance can be defeated and exposure to the enlightenment possible. A sort of artisanal classroom kind of thing, to appeal to all the Subaru driving parents who long for “authentic” food, clothes, homes, and experience everywhere else in their lives. Why is a Monsanto tomato bad and a Monsanto classroom for little Dylan good? “Technology in the classroom” is marketing-speak for a corporatized classroom, and we need to be the ones aggressively saying that. The problem is that we have to realize it first. We need to begin to understand that we need to create compelling counter-narratives. Certainly there is nobody else doing it for us! This is easy meat though for counter-narratives! Corporate food=bad. Corporate classroom where kids grow=good?? Come on. Too easy.
The entire thing of “technology in the classroom” is an invented need for an invented problem. The most astounding piece of evidence to this is the fact that, somehow, devoid of any technology save for pen, paper, book, art supplies, instruments, lab material, a library, etc., all of us born before 1990 had no technology to speak of and we (well a lot of us, myself probably excluded) actually LEARNED. Shocking. We are evidence that technology in the classroom is a sham. However, that sham is only called out and destroyed if we attack its first principles and ideas.
I am not taking a Luddite position here, or a nostalgic one….but simply saying that learning is probably one of those landscapes of the human condition that does not require so much technological aid to participate in.