Are YOU an “Ever Optimistic Techno-Cheerleader?” [SLIDE]

One of the things that I believe in as a learner is that in order to be well-rounded, you HAVE to expose yourself to ideas that run contrary to your own.

That’s why I picked up Mark Bauerlein’s The Dumbest Generation — a book that completely skewers both today’s teachers AND students — a few years back.  I figured I had to know what critics think before I can legitimately decide whether or not the positions I believe in are well polished and responsible.

(download slide and view original image credit on Flickr)

The quote from Bauerlein’s book that stays with me even today is this one:

“Ever optimistic, techno-cheerleaders view the digital learning experience
through their own motivated eyes, and they picture something that doesn’t yet
exist: classrooms illuminating the wide, wide world, teachers becoming
twenty-first-century techno-facilitators, and students at screens inspired to
ponder, imagine, reflect, analyze, memorize, recite and create.”

(Bauerlein, 2008, Kindle location 1900-1906)

That’s a pretty scathing accusation, isn’t it?  To suggest that teachers are literally blinded to the pathetic learning results produced by digital kids in today’s learning spaces would rile up like 90 percent of the teachers swimming in my Twitterstream.

But is there a measure of truth in Bauerlein’s observations? Is “ever-optimistic techno-cheerleading” more common than we’re willing to admit? 

Can you HONESTLY say that digital tools have made significant and meaningful changes to the kinds of learning experiences that happen in the majority of classrooms in your school — or are teachers using digital tools to do little more than put a little lipstick on their instructional pig?

Those are questions worth wrestling with even if the answers ARE uncomfortable.


Related Radical Reads:

Doubting Bauerlein’s Dumbest Generation

Making Good Technology Choices

What DO We Want Students to Know and Be Able to Do



9 thoughts on “Are YOU an “Ever Optimistic Techno-Cheerleader?” [SLIDE]

  1. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Matt,
    First, heres to hoping that your New Years Eve was filled with family fun! Mine was spent downtown with my daughter and wife watching fireworks, so it was nothing short of precious. Three is a beautiful age!
    Second, your technical knowledge versus pedagogical knowledge distinction in this comment is fantastic. I think it is one of the best descriptions of the balance that teachers and schools need to find when trying to change learning spaces with digital tools.
    Can I repost it as a guest blog entry on the Radical? And if so, do you want to polish it at all before I do?
    Its really well done and should be shared as widely as possible!
    Great work.
    Lemme know what you think,

  2. Matt Townsley

    Hey Bill,
    I find myself cheerleading more than I’d like to admit. One of the double edged swords I see is the way in which technology tools enter the classroom. I see two common threads that involve the teacher’s technological knowledge (TK) and pedagogical knowledge (PK).
    1) Teacher knows the tool well and has a specific plan for its use. More often than not, the specific use replaces a previous not-so-shiny tool. Or as, you described it adding a little “little lipstick on their [my] instructional pig.” (strong TK, weak PK)
    2) Teacher does not know the tool well, but read or learned about it, so decides to let the students show each other how to use it. Students do their best to show each other, but more often than not end up using it the way they’re used to it, for information and entertainment consumption. Heck, I’d even throw out the idea that we, as adults, often default to using a tool for our own personal information and consumption. I wish I could keep track of the tools I use personally that I’ve never taken the time to weave into my role as a former teacher and now central office guy (weak TK?, weak PK).
    From my experience and observation, it takes a person with some strong technological knowledge (“Okay, I know what this tool’s strengths and limitations are…”) as well as pedagogical knowledge (“Students will be better engaged and learn [insert content] at a higher level through [insert instructional strategies]) in order to work the magic the tools are capable of doing with today’s students. Sustaining this type of lesson planning on a daily or even weekly basis? You tell me if it’s realistic!
    I think this is what Dylan Wiliam ( – slide 25) calls “deliberate practice.” It doesn’t come easy!

  3. Bill Ferriter

    Learningsliving wrote:
    Is it a problem if I dont see they picture something that doesn’t yet
    exist as an accusation, but as the truth? Yes ever optimistic techno
    cheerleaders are picturing something that is forming, and they are
    forming it.
    – – – – – – – – –
    You win the Internet, Learnings Living!
    This is a brilliant comment that I think frames the conversation perfectly.

  4. Bill Ferriter

    Definitely weird, George — and definitely true in my experience.
    Do you think that teachers are dreamers more than doers? Are we convinced that we are going to change the world AS LONG AS someone gives us technology — and then do we drop the ball when we actually GET the technology?
    If so, that would be yet another indictment about the work we are doing to help teachers understand the actual shifts that have to happen in order to REALLY get the kinds of classrooms that we are all dreaming about.
    Thanks for stopping by….Hope the holidays were great.
    Rock on,

  5. Krissy Venosdale (@ktvee)

    I want my students to have THE BEST. I want their learning experience to the MOST AMAZING it can possibly be. I’m always wanting more digital tools, but not because I have some wide-eyed view that my kids cannot learn without them, but because I know, in the deepest parts of my heart and mind, that the more tools available in my classroom, the more chances I have to reach them all. Their growth is my goal. I’m ever-optimistic for sure. But, I believe in the best for my kids and will accept nothing less.

  6. Gcouros

    Do you know what I find that is ironic in all of my travels? That the educators that REALLY want this technology in this classroom, have so many amazing ideas of what they could do that would be transformative, and the teachers that have the technology feel like they were not prepared to teach with it. This is not a 100% rule, but it is definitely two things that I hear A LOT in my travels.
    Kind of weird hey?

  7. LearningsLiving

    Is it a problem if I don’t see “they picture something that doesn’t yet exist” as an accusation, but as the truth? Yes ever optimistic techno cheerleaders are picturing something that is forming, and they are forming it. They are lesson-by-curated-lesson willing this world into being.
    but as Mark Bauerlein will tell you there is good money to be made prolonging the problem.

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