Much of what she talks about is the result of a conference she returned from in Austin a couple weeks ago. A conference that I, along with a few thousand other technology teachers, was also at. I even got talked into presenting a couple of sessions. One on Python and one on Alice.
Her point, and one I definitely agree with, is that as teachers we don’t embrace technology when it can be used to enhance the education of our students. I teach computer science so we’re on the computers most every day. But there are subjects that are not forced to use technology, and many times they don’t. And that’s unfortunate. Students are online pretty much 24/7. Even when they’re sitting in class and supposed to be paying attention to us they have their cell phones in their pockets receiving text message from friends.
And what do schools do? We punish students for having cell phones. Most schools I know of take up cell phones, and many charge a fee to get them back. Yes, I agree that students shouldn’t be sending text messages to friends during a class. That’s the 21st century equivalent of passing notes. If a student gets caught passing notes in my class it usually is a “put it away” moment unless it’s a continual issue. If they keep passing notes then it goes upstream in the discipline path to the administration. But even then; what the administrators do is based on the act of passing notes, not on the fact that they had paper. To me, when a cell phone is confiscated it’s like taking up the note. Except it’s a $200 piece of paper.
Instead there are schools starting to let their students use their cell phones in class. They can text in answers to quizzes. We actually have students writing iPhone and Android applications in class. Our district code of conduct was rewritten with an exception to allow cell phone use if it’s tied in to the lesson. Haven’t seen that exception used, but it’s nice to know we can. That’s a move in the right direction.
On a different, but related topic, I came across an article a couple weeks ago about how students don’t learn facts anymore. I’d argue that with the always on, 24/7 connection that everybody has now there’s really not as much of a need to memorize facts as there used to be. Sure, there’s a base set of knowledge that we should all know. But isn’t it more important to be able to solve problems as they come up?
Think about your co-workers. Or if you’re a boss, think about your employees. Is it more important that they know how to find the cube root of a number or that they can find out how to find the cube root when the need arises? If you’re an accountant and do the same math equation every day you’ll memorize it because it’s important to you. I have no need for that equation to be part of my memorized knowledge. But I type for loops in Java pretty much every day so I have that little bit memorized. An accountant wouldn’t have the need for a loop in their head.