Sunday, July 26, 2009

A worry about technology...

We live in a technological world. In education the technology started right after World War II with the introduction of overhead projectors, 16 mm movie projectors, opaque projectors and the most common one of all the 35 mm slide projector from the push/pull edition to the famously satisfying Kodak [ring] slide projector. It was a start.... competing with the ubiquitous blackboard. In the fifties and sixties, I think we can say that not much was made of this emerging technology.....the reason being that in teacher education at the college level, lectures and trips to local schools were the predominate means of instruction. There is an old saying, "we teach as we were taught." And so, talking and books were the most effective means for teaching. "Listen to a lecture, read a chapter in the textbook and take a test to confirm you knew the material. So it is not surprising that teaching in the K-12 classes changed very slowly.

Indeed, it is still changing slowly. I spent a half a day with a lovely woman who will begin student teaching this fall (2009) in a kindergarten in a good school district.... She told me she has always wanted to teach young children and she is very excited about the coming experience. I asked her about her courses and she said that she had wonderful professors and wonderful experiences in the schools and she felt confident that she would do well. I suspect she will

But a disappointment arose when she said that the worst two courses for her were in Instructional Technology. She didn't like either one of them. She also didn't see why she had to take them.....she wasn't going to use any technology in her kindergarten. Oh my. I wanted to say much to her but we didn't really have the opportunity. And changing value systems in a person takes time. I am unhappy with my university and the college of education. They have taught this pre-teacher cognition about technology, did an excellent job of teaching her psycho-motor skills but they missed entirely on the affective domain. [see a previous blog about the three types of objective in learning and teaching]. This about to be teacher could not understand how an overhead might be used in a kindergarten to elicit discussion about letters and words and colors and time and all sorts of things that young children would be interested in.

And she mentioned that she really didn't feel that young children should be exposed to computers. I think I did very well not coming unglued....I surprised myself. I am sorry to say that my young kindergarten teacher to be knew nothing about "Arthur's Kindergarten" or "Curious George learns Phonics." In the business of teaching young children you want to cover all bets and that means a variety of ways to get a child to understand.

We have another phrase in education that I think is appropriate--"Time on Task." The more time you spend on a subject, objective, a method, or a learning the more a child will learn. It works with adults as well. The U.S. Army knows that to teach a young soldier how to defuse a bomb will take time. Time on task at hand. You can't hurry it.

However, if you teach something the same way over and over it becomes boring. So a variety of ways becomes the optimum way to teach including time on task. If I were a young parent with a young child I would have Curious George on a computer for my youngster at home. I would watch Curious George on my PBS channel with my child and make the comparison between the computer program and the TV program. And I would buy the books about Curious George.

The use of three different media (television, computer program and books) is an example of redundancy of the message. The child will get the message in a variety of ways which reinforces what they are learning. There is good (read positive) research of children as young as three years old who have their own computers and what they learn from using the device.

There is also a spectacular video with parents who are both editors and work at home. Their young child still in diapers has her own computer on a coffee table and knows how to delete pages and to seek different programs that she like to do. It is a powerful message.

But, colleagues, we blew it with this young teacher to be. Perhaps she will be in a kindergarten that has computers already set up for the class. Perhaps she will be with a Supervising Teachers that has a positive outlook on the use of technology in the classroom. Perhaps......
I hope so.

My worry is that like this young teacher to be, there are others who are not gaining an understanding of how to use technology in the classroom. Pity.

If your teacher used a number of ways of explaining things to you I hope you will thank that teacher in multiple ways as well. That person deserves your thanks.

1 comment:

  1. Les, I agree with you. Children need multiple ways to learn and grow, with technology being an important option, even for young children. While they don't need lives that are dominated by technology, they should be introduced to it in pleasant and meaningful ways, like the Curious George example you presented. Well said!