Crazy Talk on Control in Schools

So my recent bit about our determination to waste money on Interactive Whiteboards has certainly sparked a bit of conversation and debate about technology in the classroom. 

Easily the most instructive comment came from Anonymous, who—among other things—wrote:

This is the most ludicrous article. Schools that have the technology you mentioned aren’t even using it correctly…

The problem with handing devices to students is that the teacher has to manage the use of those devices….

I don’t think teachers want to regulate the use of devices by their students when they can make their lessons interactive using an IWB.

The IWB is the best investment because it impacts every student. Look at the research… IWB’s do increase student achievement. It is an investment, but it is about time we invest in our youth…

Teachers expect their students to learn new things, and yet they aren’t willing to spend the time to learn how to use their IWB?

Get with the 21st century!

Outside of being a bit offended by the suggestion that my thinking about technology spending is “ludicrous” and that I need to “get with the 21st Century,” I learned a few lessons from Anonymous.

Here’s two worth thinking about. 

There are still a TON of teachers who are threatened by the idea of turning over control to their students. 

Look at his/her word choice, y’all:  “Teachers don’t want to regulate the use of devices by their students.” 

That’s the core of this argument, isn’t it? 

Once we start putting devices in the hands of students—which is just plain crazy talk to Anonymous—we have a control issue. 

“How can you regulate kids,” he/she wonders, “if they’ve all got their own tools to interact with individuals, ideas and information without a teacher being in charge?”

What Anonymous is missing is that kids resent these attempts to regulate their learning. 

They know full well that—given the tools and a bit of intellectual freedom—independent exploration is possible.  Worse yet, they see schools as miserable places that limit their study of the topics and ideas that they care the most about.

When we see it as our job to control learning, we’re fighting a losing battle—stuck with an outdated model for education that just doesn’t resonate with anyone anymore. 

No wonder kids couldn’t care less about school. 

 

Those teacher-centric control issues are only exacerbated by failed educational policies.

A part of me wants to completely slam Anonymous.  Believing that learning needs to be “regulated” and suggesting that others need to get with “the 21st Century” in the same comment just doesn’t sit well with me.

But you know something:  We just can’t blame Anonymous for this one.

After all, teachers are given MASSIVE curricula to cover and are then held accountable for nothing more than student results on end-of-grade tests. 

Given those circumstances, no WONDER regulating learning still feels right to teachers. 

If you were faced with heavy-handed evaluation policies that could determine whether or not you kept your job, you’d force learning down student throats, too. 

Worse yet, the work of teachers is increasingly governed by a script. 

Take my subject, for example.  My district has literally put together a day-by-day plan that lays out lessons for the entire year.

While I’m lucky enough to work in a school with a principal who trusts me to use that district-crafted script as a resource only, I know peers who are expected to implement the script exactly as it is written.

Talk about regulation, right? 

Can we really expect teachers whose work is tightly controlled by outsiders to act any differently when working with students? 

In the end, Anonymous is a by-product of a slew of piss-poor educational policies.

What’s really worrisome is that he/she is definitely not alone.  In fact, he/she is probably pretty representative of the majority of teachers in today’s schools. 

 

Now, I could definitely quibble with Anonymous’s claim that research shows that IWBs increase student achievement—most studies that show links between IWBs and student achievement have been discredited in one way or another.

But my bigger concern is that in a time where learning environments should be flexible and individualized, we’ve created a system where teachers believe that student learning needs to be “regulated.” 

#notgood

11 thoughts on “Crazy Talk on Control in Schools

  1. Cheap Jerseys

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  2. Laura Ringer

    It is a shame to see teachers forced to be just a deliverer of information. In my opinion, teaching is about creativity, experience and growth. What is the point of becoming a teacher if you are just a puppet of the administration? Teachers should have the opportunity to test out technology and find ways to integrate it into their lessons accordingly.

  3. Laura Ringer

    It is a shame to see teachers forced to be just a deliverer of information. In my opinion, teaching is about creativity, experience and growth. What is the point of becoming a teacher if you are just a puppet of the administration? Teachers should have the opportunity to test out technology and find ways to integrate it into their lessons accordingly.

  4. John Gilboe

    Bill,
    JKL Education Research is a new market research firm devoted to ensuring that teachers’ ideas and perceptions are captured and represented in the national conversation about education. Parents, administrators, and legislators often reach conclusions about how best to address thorny issues in education without considering the views of those most in the know — teachers.
    To more thoroughly capture this viewpoint, we have created the survey, found at this link: https://www.research.net/s/KPXQ8MF. We would really appreciate it if you and your readers would take a few minutes and provide your perspective by responding to this survey.
    Thank you for considering.

  5. Andrewbwatt.wordpress.com

    I think it’s more than likely that Anonymous is a “sock puppet” for someone in the IWB sector of the economy.
    The bigger issue is, how many teachers are being regulated and controlled to the degree that they feel they must control and regulate their students? A former principal of my acquaintance used to tell me that another mutual friend drove him crazy because he did great stuff for the school and for the kids but he *could not control his classes*.

  6. David Truss

    Great look at the real issue at hand. I wrote this in a post not too long ago:
    “Interactive White Boards (IWB) are another example of a tool that is often abused rather than used. I was able to get my staff, 16 teachers, netbooks and 9 LCD projectors (to compliment the ones we already had), and get my entire school set up on wireless for the price of about 2 and a half IWB’s. But the cost is not the only reason I am not a fan of them. I’ve seen teachers show me what the IWB can do, but few show me what students can do on them. When students actually get to do things on them there is still only one kid in the ‘front’ of the room, just like one kid at the blackboard…”
    (From: http://pairadimes.davidtruss.com/transformative-or-just-flashy-educational-tools/ )
    Management is an absurd reason to keep technology/resources/information/tools out of the hands of students. It’s just ‘Crazy Talk’! 🙂
    http://www.toondoo.com/cartoon/880754

  7. JohnPhillip

    Bill – Please clarify this for me. This part:
    “How can you regulate kids,” he/she wonders, “if they’ve all got their own tools to interact with individuals, ideas and information without a teacher being in charge?”
    This is your interpretation of what Anonymous was saying, correct? If so I have to say that I don’t see that in Anon’s post. I took it as meaning “manage,” as I said above.
    However, individual tech tools ARE harder to control, to keep kids on task, and not texting their buddies or checking lyrics. They can be off task with pencil or tablet, but our paper doesn’t connect to the Internet yet.
    Just refreshing those Pro and Con columns.

  8. Shannon Smith

    Hey Bill,
    Great rebuttal. I agree with you on the IWB and the “regulated” issue. Interesting choice of words indeed. I also question any comment that comes from “anonymous”. Get with the 21st century indeed.
    Shannon

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