Laptops and Learning
Can laptop computers put the “C” (for constructionism) in Learning?
Published in the October 1998 issue of Curriculum Administrator
© 1998 – Gary S. Stager
“…Only inertia and prejudice, not economics or lack of good educational ideas stand in the way of providing every child in the world with the kinds of experience of which we have tried to give you some glimpses. If every child were to be given access to a computer, computers would be cheap enough for every child to be given access to a computer.” - Seymour Papert and Cynthia Solomon (1971)
In 1989, Methodist Ladies’ College (MLC) in Melbourne, Australia embarked on a still unparalleled learning adventure. Eighteen years after Solomon and Papert’s prediction this school made a commitment to personal computing and constructionism. The unifying principle was that every child in the school (from grades 5-12) would own a personal laptop computer on which they could work at school, at home, and across the curriculum with a belief that their ideas and work were being stored and manipulated on their own personal computer. Ownership of the laptop computer would reinforce ownership of the knowledge constructed with it. The personal computer is a vehicle for building something tangible outside of your head – one of the tenets of constructionism. By 1994, 2,000 MLC teachers and students had a personal laptop computer. This school, like most serious workplaces now has a computer ration of more than one computer per worker (teacher & student). Today, approximately 50,000 Australian school children have their own laptop. More and more American schools are embracing laptops as well.
Personal Computing – Personal Learning
Until recently, the notion of the PC and personal computing has escaped schools. Computer labs, special furniture and computer literacy curricula have been designed to make efficient use of scarce public resources. The potential benefits of using a word processor to write, edit and publish are rarely realized when access to the computer is limited and artificially scheduled. Laptops provide a personal space for creating, exploring, and collecting one’s own ideas, work, and knowledge in a more fluid manner. Pioneering schools like MLC adopted laptops for the following reasons:
The laptop is flexible, portable, personal and powerful
Students and teachers may use the computer whenever and wherever they need to. The laptop is a personal laboratory for intellectual exploration and creative expression. Learning extends beyond the walls and hours of the school.
The laptop helps to professionalize teachers
Teachers equipped with professional tools view themselves more professionally. Computers are much more likely to be integrated into classroom practice when every student has one.
Provocative models of learning will emerge
Teachers need to be reacquainted with the art of learning before they are able to create rich supportive learning environments for their students. The computer allows different ways of thinking, knowing and expressing ones own ideas to emerge. The continuous collection of learning stories serves as a catalyst for rethinking the nature of teaching and learning.
Gets schools out of the computer business
Laptops are a cost-effective alternative to building computer labs, buying special furniture and installing costly wiring. Students keep laptops for an average of three years, a turnover rate rarely achieved by schools. Built-in modems provide students with net access outside of school. The school can focus resources on projection devices, high-quality peripherals and professional development.
Since my work with the world’s first two “laptop schools” in 1990, I’ve helped dozens of similar schools (public and private) around the world make sense of teaching and learning in environments with ubiquitous computing. My own experience and research by others has observed the following outcomes for students and teachers.
- Students take enormous pride in their work.
- Individual and group creativity flourishes.
- Multiple intelligences and ways of knowing are in ample evidence.
- Connections between subject areas become routine.
- Learning is more social.
- Work is more authentic, personal & often transcends the assignment.
- Social interactions tend to me more work-related.
- Students become more naturally collaborative and less competitive.
- Students develop complex cooperative learning strategies.
- Kids gain benefit from learning alongside of teachers.
- Learning does not end when the bell rings or even when the assignment is due.
- The school’s commitment to laptops convinces teachers that computers are not a fad. Every teacher is responsible for use.
- Teachers reacquaint themselves with the joy and challenge of learning something new.
- Teachers experience new ways of thinking, learning and expressing one’s knowledge.
- Teachers become more collaborative with colleagues and students.
- Authentic opportunities to learn with/from students emerge.
- Sense of professionalism and self-esteem are elevated.
- Thoughtful discussions about the nature of learning and the purpose of school become routine and sometimes passionate.
- Teachers have ability to collaborate with teachers around the world.
- New scheduling, curriculum and assessment structures emerge.
“I believe that every American child ought to be living in the 21st century… This is why I like laptops – you can take them home. I m not very impressed with computers that schools have chained to desks. I m very impressed when kids have their own computers because they are liberated from a failed bureaucracy …
You can’t do any single thing and solve the problem. You have to change the incentives; you’ve got to restructure the interface between human beings. If you start redesigning a learning system rather than an educational bureaucracy, if you have incentives for kids to learn, and if you have 24-hour-a-day, 7-day a week free standing opportunities for learning, you’re going to make a bigger breakthrough than the current bureaucracy. The current bureaucracy is a dying institution.” – U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich (Wired Magazine, August 1995)
When Seymour Papert and Newt Gingrich are on the same side of an issue, it is hard to imagine an opposing view. The fact that computers are smaller, cheaper and more powerful has had a tremendous impact on society. Soon that impact will be realized by schools. Laptop schools are clearly on the right side of history and will benefit from the experience of being ahead of trend.
Much has been said recently about the virtues of anytime anywhere learning. Laptops certainly can deliver on that promise. Integrated productivity packages may be used to write, manipulate data and publish across the curriculum. However, the power of personal computing as a potential force for learning and as a catalyst for school reform transcends the traditional view of using computers to “do work.” I encourage school leaders considering an investment in laptops to dream big dreams and conceive of ways that universal computing can help realize new opportunities for intellectual development and creative expression.
Larry Ferlazzo invited me to share a vision of computers in education for inclusion in his Classroom Q&A Feature in Education Week. The text of that article is below.
You may also enjoy two articles I published in 2008:
Technology is Not Neutral
Educational computing requires a clear and consistent stance
Gary S. Stager, Ph.D.
There are three competing visions of educational computing. Each bestows agency on an actor in the educational enterprise. We can use classroom computers to benefit the system, the teacher or the student. Data collection, drill-and-practice test-prep, computerized assessment or monitoring Common Core compliance are examples of the computer benefitting the system. “Interactive” white boards, presenting information or managing whole-class simulations are examples of computing for the teacher. In this scenario, the teacher is the actor, the classroom a theatre, the students the audience and the computer is a prop.
The third vision is a progressive one. The personal computer is used to amplify human potential. It is an intellectual laboratory and vehicle for self-expression that allows each child to not only learn what we’ve always taught, perhaps with greater efficacy, efficiency or comprehension. The computer makes it possible for students to learn and do in ways unimaginable just a few years ago. This vision of computing democratizes educational opportunity and supports what Papert and Turkle call epistemological pluralism. The learner is at the center of the educational experience and learns in their own way.
Too many educators make the mistake of assuming a false equivalence between “technology” and its use. Technology is not neutral. It is always designed to influence behavior. Sure, you might point to an anecdote in which a clever teacher figures out a way to use a white board in a learner-centered fashion or a teacher finds the diagnostic data collected by the management system useful. These are the exception to the rule.
While flexible high-quality hardware is critical, educational computing is about software because software determines what you can do and what you do determines what you can learn. In my opinion the lowest ROI comes from granting agency to the system and the most from empowering each learner. You might think of the a continuum that runs from drill/testing at the bottom; through information access, productivity, simulation and modeling; with the computer as a computational material for knowledge construction representing not only the greatest ROI, but the most potential benefit for the learner.
Piaget reminds us ,“To understand is to invent,” while our mutual colleague Seymour Papert said, “If you can use technology to make things, you can make more interesting things and you can learn a lot more by making them.”
Some people view the computer as a way of increasing efficiency. Heck, there are schools with fancy-sounding names popping-up where you put 200 kids in a room with computer terminals and an armed security guard. The computer quizzes kids endlessly on prior knowledge and generates a tsunami of data for the system. This may be cheap and efficient, but it does little to empower the learner or take advantage of the computer’s potential as the protean device for knowledge construction.
School concoctions like information literacy, digital citizenship or making PowerPoint presentations represent at best a form of “Computer Appreciation.” The Conservative UK Government just abandoned their national ICT curriculum on the basis of it being “harmful and dull” and is calling for computer science to be taught K-12. I could not agree more.
My work with children, teachers and computers over the past thirty years has been focused on increasing opportunity and replacing “quick and easy” with deep and meaningful experiences. When I began working with schools where every student had a laptop in 1990, project-based learning was supercharged and Dewey’s theories were realized in ways he had only imagined. The computer was a radical instrument for school reform, not a way of enforcing the top-down status quo.
Now, kindergarteners could build, program and choreograph their own robot ballerinas by utilizing mathematical concepts and engineering principles never before accessible to young children. Kids express themselves through filmmaking, animation, music composition and collaborations with peers or experts across the globe. 5th graders write computer programs to represent fractions in a variety of ways while understanding not only fractions, but also a host of other mathematics and computer science concepts used in service of that understanding. An incarcerated 17 year-old dropout saddled with a host of learning disabilities is able to use computer programming and robotics to create “gopher-cam,” an intelligent vehicle for exploring beneath the earth, or launch his own probe into space for aerial reconnaissance. Little boys and girls can now make and program wearable computers with circuitry sewn with conductive thread while 10th grade English students can bring Lady Macbeth to life by composing a symphony. Soon, you be able to email and print a bicycle. Computing as a verb is the game-changer.
Used well, the computer extends the breadth, depth and complexity of potential projects. This in turn affords kids with the opportunity to, in the words of David Perkins, “play the whole game.” Thanks to the computer, children today have the opportunity to be mathematicians, novelists, engineers, composers, geneticists, composers, filmmakers, etc… But, only if our vision of computing is sufficiently imaginative.
1) Kids need real computers capable of programming, video editing, music composition and controlling external peripherals, such as probes or robotics. Since the lifespan of school computers is long, they need to do all of the things adults expect today and support ingenuity for years to come.
2) Look for ways to use computers to provide experiences not addressed by the curriculum. Writing, communicating and looking stuff up are obvious uses that require little instruction and few resources.
3) Every student deserves computer science experiences during their K-12 education. Educators would be wise to consider programming environments designed to support learning and progressive education such as MicroWorlds EX and Scratch.
First, my good friend Chris Lehmann wrote about in “Why I Am Against For Profit Schools,” how the school privatization movement (and I would add the Obama administration) have embraced the rhetoric of personalization and individualization to replace teachers with less expensive drill and practice systems. These integrated “learning” systems reduce education to an endless series of multiple-choice quizzes. (read what I wrote about this idea in 1992, Integrated Learning Systems, The New Slavery) They never have worked and never will.
Since the evidence supporting computerized teaching systems has been weak since WWII, the dystopians and their bankers pushing this idea feel compelled to dress it up in fancy names like “Carpe Diem,” “Flipped Classroom,” “School of One,” “Blast,” “Khan Academy,” etc…. Each of these old wines in new marketing slogans have at their core a desire to reduce the cost of education as low as possible and attempt to do so by replacing qualified educators with 200 terminals, Math Blaster and an armed security guard.
Soon after Chris published his article, our mutual friend Will Richardson wrote “The Thin Value Proposition,” in which he too agrees with Chris and argues that the the value in schooling is the establishment of relationships among teachers and students. I often end my speeches by saying that teachers make memories and when students come back to reminisce, they never speak about the time they raised PISA scores or used all of their spelling words in a sentence, they remember meaningful projects teachers created the context for.
I agree with the arguments made by Chris and Will. They perfectly frame the terms of the conundrum many of us who advocate the use of computers as intellectual laboratories and vehicles for self-expression face when more powerful forces wish to use computers as tools of oppression, cost-cutting or antidotes for progressive education. How is it possible to love computers in education and hate the popular implementations of computers in education?
It is questions like this that led me to create The Daily Papert two years ago.
Papert articulated Will’s argument twenty-two years ago.
“It is this freedom of the teacher to decide and, indeed, the freedom of the children to decide, that is most horrifying to the bureaucrats who stand at the head of current education systems. They are worried about how to verify that the teachers are really doing their job properly, how to enforce accountability and maintain quality control. They prefer the kind of curriculum that will lay down, from day to day, from hour to hour, what the teacher should be doing, so that they can keep tabs on it. Of course, every teacher knows this is an illusion. It’s not an effective method of insuring quality. It is only a way to cover ass. Everybody can say, “I did my bit, I did my lesson plan today, I wrote it down in the book.” Nobody can be accused of not doing the job. But this really doesn’t work. What the bureaucrat can verify and measure for quality has nothing to do with getting educational results–those teachers who do good work, who get good results, do it by exercising judgment and doing things in a personal way, often undercover, sometimes even without acknowledging to themselves that they are violating the rules of the system. Of course one must grant that some people employed as teachers do not do a good job. But forcing everyone to teach by the rules does not improve the “bad teachers”– it only hobbles the good ones.”
Papert. S. (1990, July). Perestroika and Epistemological Politics. Speech presented at the World Conference on Computers in Education. Sydney, Australia.
Seymour Papert began giving voice to Chris Lehmann’s concerns as far back as 1968!
“The phrase, “technology and education” usually means inventing new gadgets to teach the same old stuff in a thinly disguised version of the same old way. Moreover, if the gadgets are computers, the same old teaching becomes incredibly more expensive and biased towards its dumbest parts, namely the kind of rote learning in which measurable results can be obtained by treating the children like pigeons in a skinner box.”
Papert S. (1980). Teaching Children Thinking in Taylor, R., Ed., The Computer in School: Tutor, Tool, Tutee. New York: Teachers College Press. pp. 161 -176.
Note: This paper was originally presented in 1970 at the IFIP World Conference on Computers in Education in Amsterdam. The paper was published as an MIT Logo Memo No. 2. Nicholas Negroponte reports that Papert first presented this work in 1968.
In 1990, I had the great opportunity to lead professional development at the world’s first “laptop” schools. Australia’s Methodist Ladies’ College and Coombabah State Primary School were the first schools anywhere to embrace 1:1 computing. MLC is a large independent school that committed to 1:1 computing in 1989. Coombabah is a public school and often overlooked for its place in edtech history. The efforts of the teachers at both schools changed the world and I am enormously proud to have played a major role in that effort.
In the early 1990s, I spent months working at MLC, and then numerous other schools eager to embrace 1:1 and the constructionist principles demonstrated by this pioneering school. In 1993, the MLC faculty and principal wrote a book to share their expertise, philosophy and wisdom with educators in other schools. I hope you find the nearly twenty year-old learning stories, recommendations and tips useful to you. I especially call your attention to the audacity of embracing 1:1 computing more than 20 years ago and the fact that laptops were a way of bringing Papertian constructionism to life.
The book, Reflections of a Learning Community: Views on the Introduction of Laptops at Mlc by Methodist Ladies’ College is long out-of-print and sadly removed from the Web where it resided for several years. As a public service to researchers, educators and historians (and with the help of the Wayback Machine) I am able to share the complete book here. Check out how hip the title of this book is for 1993, since “learning community” has just became all the rage twenty years later!
With any luck (and lots of effort) I will soon be able to publish the first doctoral dissertation evaluating the efficacy of 1:1 computing, originally published in 1992!
You should also read Bob Johnstone’s history of educational computing up to and including the early days of innovation at MLC, Never Mind the Laptops: Kids, Computers, and the Transformation of Learning!
The chapters marked by an * indicate that the text describes some of my specific work at MLC.
Reflections of a Learning Community:
Views on the Introduction of Laptops at MLC
Section one: Computing at MLC
- Reconstructing an Australian School by David Loader, Principal at MLC
- The Promises of Educational Technology by Margaret Fallshaw, Computing Consultant, MLC
- The Audacity of Sunrise by David Loader, Principal at MLC
- A Laptop Revolution An interview with Pam Dettman, Head of Junior School
- Educational Computing: Resourcing the Future by by David Loader, Principal, MLC & Liddy Nevile, Senior Lecturer RMIT.
- A Practitioner’s Viewpoint by Maggie James, JSS (junior secondary school, grades 7-8) History Co-ordinator
- Computers for Kids ..Not Schools by Gary S. Stager *
- Initial Research Report by Helen McDonald
- A Technology School for the Future: A Proposal by Ruth Baker, Jeff Burn and Di Fleming
- Design and Technology: The Next Challenge by Ruth Baker, Head of Junior Secondary School, 20.9.1992
- Using Laptops in Schools: The Administrative Implications by Margaret Fallshaw, Computing Consultant, MLC
- Learning with Laptops: Who Pays? by Roger Dedman, Director of Finance, MLC
- Junior School Computing Curriculum by Steve Costa, Deputy Head, MLC Junior School (K-6)
- Computing and the New Teacher by Alison Brown, Teacher, MLC Junior School
- Holiday Program by Alison Brown, Teacher, MLC Junior School *
- Professional Development at MLC:Requirements for Teachers by David Loader, Principal, MLC
- Computer Pathways: A Model for Change by Di Fleming, Head of Middle School
- MLC Community Education and Technological Developments by Joan Taylor, Head of Community Education MLC
- An Elaborate Pyjama Party by Alison Brown, Teacher, MLC Junior School *
- Teacher Change: Philosophy & Technology by Helen McDonald, secondary English teacher & PhD. student from Monash University *
- Staff Development by Pam Dettman, Head of Junior School, MLC
Section 3 : Appendix
- MLC College Computing Policy
- A Constructionist Environment by Jeff Burn, Di Fleming & Margaret Fallshaw
The work of Joey, one of my at-risk students, will be featured again this weekend on public radio’s This American Life!
Last October (2010), I wrote a blog post called, Try Not to Cry, in which I tell the story of Joey, an incarcerated teenager in the alternative learning environment I created with Seymour Papert. For three years, I helped lead The Constructionist Learning Laboratory, inside Maine’s troubled prison for teens, The Maine Youth Center (now Long Creek Youth Development Center). This work is chronicled in my doctoral dissertation, An Investigation of Constructionism in the Maine Youth Center.
In Try Not to Cry I discuss how some students in the Constructionist Learning Laboratory engaged in radio production, including Joey who won a national radio-production award and created deeply poignant, sad and at times hilarious radio programs. You can (and IMHO should) listen to three of Joey’s radio programs and learn more about our learning environment here.
From Try Not to Cry…
After my work in Maine ended, my partner came running into the house screaming that one of my “prison kids” was just on This American Life. I refused to believe it! Surely, there was no way that something from “The LEGO Lab” (as the kids called our classroom) could have made it to the best storytelling program on radio. I checked the web site and sure enough, Joey’s piece of Mike Wallace-style investigative journalism, “Who Peed in the Pudding?” was played on Ira Glass’ show from coast-to-coast. You MUST listen to this short piece to be reminded of what kids, all kids, are capable of and to hear Joey remain calm during a stressful situation when all of the adults around him behave badly. Hilarity ensues!
I met Ira Glass, host of This American Life, a few years ago and he told me that Joey’s piece was one of his all-time favorites. This American Life seems to repeat it at least once a year. (including this weekend)
This weekend’s episode of This American Life reruns one of their most popular shows, “20 Acts in 60 Minutes,” Joey’s contribution may be heard at the 13 minute and 33 second mark. I hope his work will inspire you and your students.
Here are some web-based papers and articles you might read if you are interested in learning more about Dr. Seymour Papert’s theory of constructionism.
- Constructionism vs. Instructionism by Seymour Papert
- Constructivism(s): Shared roots, crossed paths, multiple legacies – a brilliant overview of constructivism and constructionism by Edith Ackermann.
- Computer as Material: Messing About With Time by George Franz and Seymour Papert
- A Critique of Technocentrism in Thinking About the School of the Future by Seymour Papert
- Epistemological Pluralism and the Revaluation of the Concrete – an incredibly powerful paper by Sherry Turkle and Seymour Papert
- Computer as Mudpie by Seymour Papert
- What’s the Big Idea? Toward a pedagogy of idea power by Seymour Papert (PDF version) from the IBM Systems Journal.
- Situating Constructionism – The first chapter in Constructionism, edited by Idit Harel and Seymour Papert (Ablex Publishing Corporation)
- Constructionism in Practice: Designing, Thinking, and Learning in A Digital World by Yasmin B. Kafai and Mitchel Resnick
- Seymour Papert on Jean Piaget (1999) Seymour Papert remembers Jean Piaget for Time Magazine’s 100 Greatest Thinkers of the 20th Century issue, March 1999.
- Climbing to Understanding: Lessons from an Experimental Learning Environment for Adjudicated Youth by Seymour Papert, Gary Stager and David Cavallo
- Seymour Papert’s seminal books
- The DailyPapert web site
- Planet Papert - home of additional Papert articles, videos and resources
I’m taking a class of Pepperdine University doctoral students to Costa Rica for my Global Perspectives on Learning Technologies course. While there, we’ll be going on a school visit and have meetings at the Omar Dengo Foundation, the NGO responsible for supporting Costa Rica’s 25-year leadership in constructionism and computing.
I’ll also be giving in a lecture at the University of Costa Rica (the ad is gorgeous, but they gave me my mustache back). I’m not sure what I will talk about, because it’s in Spanish
I haven’t been in Costa Rica since 1991. It’s always nice to be in a country where they understand and respect Seymour Papert’s work. I am really looking forward to it!
Here are a few resources related to Costa Rica’s Computers in Education Program:
- The Computer in Costa Rica (articles by Seymour Papert and Clotilde Fonseca)
- A terrific (low video quality) short video about the educational transformation in Costa Rica (from early 1990s)
- A National Transformation (from 1993)
- A short 2002 video about the Omar Dengo Foundation
- 1:1 Computing in a Costa Rican School
There’s chatter from time-to-time within the edtech community about the lack of women in prominent roles. Yet, some of the most important pioneers in the field are ignored, overlooked or marginalized by the very same educators seeking representation and role models.
If Seymour Papert is the “father of educational computing,” then Dr. Cynthia Solomon is its mother. Cynthia was one of the three primary inventors of the Logo programming language for children and she introduced many of the metaphors used to teach programming to children. She is the author of one of the field’s seminal books, Computer Environments for Children: A Reflection on Theories of Learning and Education. How many of you have read this book first published in 1986?
Nearly 50 years ago, armed with a history degree from Harvard, Cynthia took a job as Dr. Marvin Minsky’s secretary because she wanted to learn how to program computers at a time when that wasn’t an option for young women. A few years later, she, Wally Feurzig & Seymour Papert created Logo and started the educational computing revolution. Watch the recent interview in which Cynthia & Wally recount the birth of Logo.
Cynthia Solomon is also the co-author of Designing Multimedia Environments for Children (with Allison Druin) and Logoworks: Challenging Programs in Logo by Cynthia Solomon, Margaret Minsky and Brian Harvey. She most recently put the full text of Computer Environments for Children: A Reflection on Theories of Learning and Education and Logoworks… on the Web for free.
We go way back
In 1985, I traveled to MIT for the first time to attend the Logo ’85 international conference. I was 22 years old and had no academic credentials. Memory suggests that the instant I stepped out of my cab, Cynthia Solomon and a handful of other great scholars and educators said, “Hey kid, come to dinner with us.” I’ve been lucky enough to have Cynthia Solomon as a friend, colleague and mentor ever since.
There is still room for additional registrants at this year’s Constructing Modern Knowledge institute! Register today!
Uber-edublogger Will Richardson recently published a blog post entitled, Valuing Change. In the article, he reiterated the frequent lament that teachers don’t “consider” or “value” change especially when the Web allows students to “connect outside of the classroom.” The who, what or why of connecting isn’t discussed.
Will’s article illustrates a teacher’s unwillingness to embrace change by showing how a topic like gerrymandering could be made more engaging through the use of information technologies. Will recognizes the challenges facing teachers and offers an olive branch by suggesting that we can “do both” – teach what will likely be on the test and do so more meaningly.
It should come as no surprise that I disagree, especially given the example used.
As I write this, there are two dozen comments in addition to the few I contributed. Either blog commenters don’t consider the ideas of other commenters or my argument was not clear enough.
Perhaps, as much as you would like it to be otherwise, the incrementalism of “doing both” is really the problem.
Why would you Skype someone involved “in the process?” What process? Who? State legislators? What are they likely to tell a student that can’t be found out in a book or article?
The connections you speak of, now matter how much you yearn for them may be as inauthentic as the task itself. Perhaps they just make a task nobody cares about even more arduous. The “you can use Google ____ or Skype with someone” suggestions have become as automatic and meaningless as when a politician says, “We need to pay teachers more, but hold them accountable.”
One of the lessons I learned from Seymour Papert (http://dailypapert.com) was that you cannot transform school just by changing teaching practices or even the technology used. You must rethink, challenge or reinforce the content of the curriculum. The “what” has a great deal of impact on the how and the why of learning something.
Papert once asked me, “What are you thinking about doing with the students next?” When I replied, “We were thinking of doing some geography…,” he shot back with, “And what can they DO with that?”
“Whatever you ‘teach’ kids should have a high liklihood of leading to the construction of a bigger question or a larger theory (NOW – not later), otherwise, why bother?”
Like so much of schooling, the topic of gerrymandering is really just a vocabulary exercise. Memorize the definition and move on. I’m not sure you can put lipstick on that pig.
I do not believe that it is possible to make schools more productive contexts for learning (the how we teach) without calling the curriculum into question (the what we teach).
When Will requested “The Stager Plan,” I replied…
If I wasn’t clear enough above, a substantial aspect of “The Stager Plan” includes expending some serious effort at every school to determine what is worth being taught.
Pedagogical strategies should reflect the content and the learning styles of students.
The ideas proposed for making gerrymandering more engaging only add false complexity to what is a vocabulary term, likely taught in isolation as the curriculum whizzes by.
My other concern is how we tend to reduce education to information access (or trading information) and how the emphasis on using computers as information appliances reinforces the status quo while depriving learners of authentic experiences.
In addition to commenters reminding us of the wonders of Web 2.0 technology, the author repeates the familiar cliché, “We need to use technology to get kids engaged in the curriculum, not just in the technology.”
Why is this so? Should teachers be so compliant and teach anything they’re told to, regardless of context or value?
Also, why is engaging with the “technology” so quickly dismissed as being inferior to the curriculum?
Here’s a thought experiment…
What if we DID do everything in our power to engage kids in the technology? (I don’t think you can engage someone else, but I’ll leave that aside)
This might be the first real engagement kids experience.
Learning computer programming might actually lead to different thinking, different thinking about thinking, student agency and provide a window for teachers into the intellectual capabilities of kids.
I wish there was a way for me to run a hands-on workshop for every teacher in the world during which they could experience the intellectual rigor and creative joy experienced while computing. Not only is this workshop necessary for teachers who don’t use “technology” in the ways Will’s post urges, but educators excited by Web 2.0 would do well to expand their computing fluency as well.
Educators interested in spending four days on creative computing projects with a world-class faculty and amazing guest speakers this summer should check out Constructing Modern Knowledge. Act quickly, this very special event may sell-out!
I am honored to be invited to speak Saturday as part of TEDxNYED and thrilled to be on the same program with one my heroes, Dennis Littky.
I’m terrified by the format and the fact that it requires a completely new talk that I will never present again, but I’ll give it my best. I think my message is important and hope it will be well-received.
I am not sure if TEDxNYED will be simulcast on the Web, but am confident that all of the videos will eventually make it online. Perhaps mine will go viral, like a kitty putting on a hat.