Hi gang! Just read this very nice blog from Shaun Johnson. I’ll wait while you read it!


Got it? Good.

He’s wrong.

Let’s start with this quote:

“It seems that certain proponents of #edtech are pushing technology in order to completely “teacher-proof” the classroom. That is, altogether remove teacher judgment and autonomy from the equation. Let us not pretend that this is something new; we’ve seen this before with “programmed instruction.” Sure, the technologies are more sophisticated, but the intentions are similar.”

Totally wrong. The intention I am seeing is that the #edtech people are trying to incorporate the technology to reach a wider number of students through their own teaching styles. This is a pushback from “teaching to the middle”, and an obvious (and better way, I think) to reach a greater number of students to teach them..while the teachers do with less time, resources, and sadly, sometimes support from parents..and yet trying to keep the students educated and the test scores high..or else THEY get the blame..even though all parties failed the student, not just the teacher.

Next swing at bat:

“Take “flipping” the classroom, for example. There is no substantial body of evidence indicating that this concept is remotely effective. Yet, the priests of #edtech see this as the perfect solution: eliminate the need for educators to possess sophisticated content knowledge and disallow them any control over how it is presented. Deliver content through a virtual warehouse of videos, easily produced, and cheaply disseminated. The professional educator then assumes the role of “facilitator.” Take content or curriculum developer and pedagogue out of their skillset.”

Okay, I agree. There is no quantifiable or longitudinal study to prove a flipped classroom works. All the reports are case-based. Now here’s where I disagree: Using technology doesn’t eliminate the need for the teacher to have high content knowledge. IT ENHANCES IT AND MAKES IT CRITICAL! NOW we have the student taking more data in per class session and (I hope) that they will ask more questions and seek more information. Who better to guide them? The teacher. A teacher can only be a “facilitator” when the students are working together in a group.

Now I will say that a teacher who uses videos or tech in lieu of teaching isn’t a teacher; they are a projectionist at the theater. To me, the question isn’t whether they use the technology..it’s whether they use it appropriately. A steady diet of anything will make you sick. The wisdom of knowing when to assign a Khan Academy video or to use the websites that come with the textbooks today is a valuable skill. Curriculum Design is a scaffold (oh boy, here he goes)…or more like Lego blocks. You need THE RIGHT ones to build the cool stuff. Taking that out of the teacher’s hands is drastically unwise. Just like students have a learning style but have to stay within some guidelines, the teacher’s curriculum does too.

Now, having said that:

“The #edtech component makes this all cheap and efficient: everyone takes the assessments on a computer and the precious is collected, evaluated, and analyzed from a distance. Take assessment expertise and evaluation out of the teacher skillset.”

Okay, he’s right on this one. When we take assessment out of the teachers hands and lock it down to bits and bytes, it makes it less human. And we ARE teaching people here, regardless of their age. We do need the data, true. And we need the teacher’s assessment too. When the data and the teacher’s opinion clash, then we know we have an issue to address. Teaching is a very “human” skill. Leaving total evaluation to a machine and a scorecard shows we miss something (CAT tests in the ’70’s ring a bell, kiddies?)

Here is where else he’s right:

“What’s left? Not a whole lot. If we continue eliminating the carefully crafted skills that make education and teaching complicated professions, putting certain skills into the electronic hands of computers and software, then all classroom teachers simply become interchangeable parts in the educational process. The training and expertise required of educators becomes less sophisticated, cheaper, and faster. The benefits of a well-trained and adequately compensated workforce withers away in favor of underpaid, but ultimately cheaper, placeholders whose youthful energies can be exploited for a year or two before a fresh crop arrives on scene. Rinse and repeat.”

And THIS has been happening before we got computers! We all know of the teacher who busts their ass for two years, getting high praise from students and parents. The same person who “volunteers” for after school club stuff for the kids, dance chaperones, directs the plays, etc. ad nauseam. And for their efforts….End of year 3, bye bye.

Why? Because if we give you the job, you’ll cost us too much. So they take the teacher and move them along to the detriment of the students and school, and “rinse and repeat”.

Disgusting and pathetic. Just as bad to leave a lazy or poor teacher in their seat because “they have been here for ten years”. Sorry. You bring your A game every day, every class, every year. Teachers are like a lot of other professions where they can’t “pay their dues”. Every year, it starts over with a new crop of kidlets.

It is sad to see an economic driver that hurts people. So what’s the response? More videos, more ANYTHING to push the “test scores” up to show that this teacher is valuable. So instead of teaching kids, you are trying to beat the teacher next to you. That’s sad, and kind of stupid.

Tools and toys and techniques are supposed to enhance the learning process and teaching process, not replace it. Anyone who thinks tech can replace teaching by driving up scores hasn’t seen a kid rip apart an XBOX because it got the red ring of death. If the tech don’t work (or the teacher doesn’t understand it, the kids will ignore you. Completely.

Miyamoto Mushashi was the greatest swordsman in all of Japan. I say “look him up” if you aren’t familiar. He had a nice quote and wrote a killer book on strategy and tactics called The Book of Five Rings.  There is much talk about Japanese brush art in the book. They talk about the “pen and sword in accord.

“The Japanese Shodo (brush art) exemplifies the Japanese concept of “Bun Bu Ichi” or the Pen and Sword in Accord,  which means that one must balance both physical training with scholarly pursuits to be well refined.”

With due respect Shaun, I’d like to offer a “tech school Ichi” or “tech and teacher in accord”. Like anything else great, it is the balance of the Educator and the iPad that will make our kids smarter. Total teaching without tech is as damaging as too much tech.

The whole, hire, work and let them go approach needs to go out the door as well. We cannot cultivate a great crop of educators by putting them on a revolving door. #edtech should be a tool to help the teacher, not replace their judgement.

I hope Shaun agrees.

(BTW, Shaun can be followed at www.twitter.com/thechalkface)