Thursday, March 1, 2012

New Technologies in Education--Some Thoughts

[Before I start commenting on new technologies, I need to say a word about how sorry I am about the three teenagers killed in their high school and for the young girl shot in the stomach in her second grade. [just added: and the girl who died from a beating on a school bus and another child who died from a stabbing in the school]  While there are no reasons for a gun to be brought to a school we teachers need to be ever watchful on our young charges as to their personality needs.  We try and sometimes they get past us and the damage is done.  It is sad. And I'm sad that I have no wisdom to offer in these cases--just tears.]

I have been a devote of technology in the school system since my high school days.  I was the young audio-visual kid that brought the film projector to class, set it up and in most cases ran the projector for the teacher.  I can also remember setting up the first tape to tape voice recorder in a classroom--it was a marvel.

I've never looked back (except for this moment) in the use of technology in the classroom.  It can be a valuable tool if used correctly......if used correctly.  Ah, that is the rub.  

I've watch a elementary teacher show film after film on Friday afternoon because she was tired and the "kids learned from film, didn't they?"  At the college level I had a major argument with a colleague that showed a film of an education professor from a California college lecture for over an hour.  A talking head the whole time.  Worst film I've even seen.  I got my colleague to not use it after that.  How do you evaluate educational films?  It's a moving target.  

And I watched a major Library Science professor, well noted around the country for his analysis of reference books hold up his beloved books to a class of one hundred students of which none, I do mean NONE could see a thing about what he was talking about. He felt, he told me, that by bringing the actual books to class he was doing a better job of teaching.   Reference books have small print.  Sitting at a table with one of those books, you still need to lean forward to read the material.  How this professor thought that students in the front row could see much less then students many, many rows back could see I have no idea.  

I was a graduate student at the time and telling a full professor that he was doing it all wrong was not something one should do.  But I did.  I give him credit.  He looked at me, thought for a moment and then said, "How should I present this material?  How can I make it better?"  I then had him mark everything he wanted to show and then with the help of some of my colleagues we photographed hundreds of examples in those reference books into 35mm slides.  With a light table he and I organized his slides and put them into those familiar Kodak treys.  He was actually giddy with delight and couldn't wait to make his first presentation.  He then wrecked all our work by saying, "Next slide please."   I finally got him to use a hand device on a long cord to actuate the slide projector.  He really got into himself making these presentations on reference materials.  I'm sort of glad that computers and PowerPoint had not yet been invented--he would have been a terror.

Another heartburn activity that I use to endure was sitting in a college classroom and having that professor put down transparency after transparency that had been copied from a book and then made into a transparency.   Perhaps the first row of students could read it but anyone further back was unable to see the material.  But even if all could "see" the material, the large amount of print material overwhelmed you.  Have you ever heard of the "pall" effect?  It comes from the word, "appalled"  when students are actually appalled at how much material there is to learn and just shut down.  They quit.

Another major mistake with the use of overhead projectors and transparencies were the number of professors who might put a "good" designed transparency on the overhead, show it, use it and then leave it on while going on to other material.  When I've asked some of these professors why they left it on, some appeared befuddled, others would tell me it was better for the light bulb.  My response was always, "who are you trying to help?  The Student or the Light Bulb?"  My sarcasm generally went over their head.

I offer these examples of poor use of technology to make a point.  We are now in the age of exploding tecnological use in our world--not just the classroom but in homes, cars, work, recreation--everywheres.  I've already heard of a school that is prohibiting iPads and laptop computers in the classroom.  Oh, and no cell phones.  Apparently the teachers collect the phones.  I hope this is just a holding point until teachers can figure out ways of dealing with this new technology.  And school districts need to start looking at the new learning material and approving the good stuff (Khan Academy?).  How should we use the Smart Board in the classroom?  I hope not like a blackboard.  It will take time for all of this confusion to settle and certain types of teaching behavior using technology correctly will emerge.  I have a lot more thoughts about technology in the classroom but I won't appall you at this time.

And thanks to all those teachers who made an effort to use technology in their classroom in a way that added the student in learning.  Hey, and thanks  to all those other teachers that told the students to use the technology in their presentations in class.  Nice going.

No comments:

Post a Comment