digitizing the status quo
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8/4/2019 Digitizing the Status Quo
Digitizing the Status QuoMark Gura
Walking the very extensive vendor floor at this past Junes NECC (National
Educational Computing Conference) I was struck by the undeniableconfirmation of a disturbing trend that has been asserting itself for some
time. Instructional Technology has been hacked! Like the very technology it
relies on, my field has been infected by the viruses, Trojan horses, and
pernicious worms of institutionalized mediocrity.
One wouldnt draw this conclusion from the workshops, panels, papers, or
poster sessions presented at NECC. There, inspired educators still represent
an intoxicating antidote to the stultifying way that the business of traditional
education is done in our schools. Many of these sessions offered glimpses
into an alternate reality in which teaching and learning are fueled withexcitement, wonder, and magic. It was heartening to see that the movement
to harness the awesome power of technology to ignite young imaginations
and offer a brand of education in sync with the digital generation is
flourishing, at least in the fertile minds of some educators.
On the sales floor though, something else is afoot. Those short answer
quizzes that we educators have long since ceased to value? There back! But
now they run on PDAs and have a data engine to help teacher figure quickly
how her class faired. No need to rely on traditional chalkboards to supportteacher-centered lecture-style lessons, now, we have virtual white boards to
establish a superficial 21st
Century corollary for pre-twentieth century
It isnt simply this simple minding me too, weve got a digital version for
every hackneyed outmoded public school ritual, that sets my teeth on edge.
Rather, its a sense of loss. That we had something so special within our
grasp and now it has been co-opted by the forces that fight for the status quo.
We hardly got a running start on digitally re-defining the spirit and
methodology of education for the new millennium through the infusion of
technology, and powerful forces have commandeered our movement,
cheapeining it and robbing it of its core mission.
Eclipsing technology that is put at the service of those elusive magical ah
ha teachable moments of pure inspiration, one sees purveyed instead
8/4/2019 Digitizing the Status Quo
Student Information Systems, sophisticated software to handle all your vital
records: attendance, test data, programs, etc. Great! But the Harry Potter
generation craves the wizardry of instructional content delivered by Java,
Flash, and Virtual Reality.
In conversation after conversation, sales reps enthusiastically demonstrate
how technology supports educators in making data driven decisions,
issuing youngsters bar coded ID cards, automating calls home to parents to
inform them of their offsprings tardiness. They show endless varieties of
software to help with that onerous NCLB compliance bugaboo. Meanwhile,
our youngsters are smuggling game boys, video enabled cell phones, pocket
GPS units and DVD players into class in their backpacks.
Technology to support the administrative functions running schools is
winning an increasing amount of attention and available dollars.Unfortantely though, in addition to the intended advantages that these
resources offer educators, they just may be compromising the greater of
putting technology at the service of education. We are just now at the point
where a good many of our decision makers are beginning to notice
technology for education in ernest. What a pity it would be if the majority
conclusion was that once you have your SIS in place, have moved to online
purchasing, and have provided district personnel with email and information
through a district website, that youve done technology! Nothing could be
further from the truth. The administrative aspects of technology for school
administration represent just a tiny fraction of technologys potential topositively transform education. Its scary to think that the powerful
uninitiated will settle for an easy to swallow appetizer without checking out
the menu of main courses and deserts.
Upstairs in the meeting rooms, my colleagues were sharing the remarkable
work they had done using technology to:
And to be fair about it, back down on the sales floor there were companies
Paradigms do not die hard.