Thursday, September 20, 2012

Technology Can Encroach on Education: Use Technology Sensibly

I have written a number of posts stating that athletics can be used to improve achievement in academics. I believe that many athletic principles can be viewed as life principles--and coaches, parents and teachers need to point this out to their kids. It's an age old idea--see if you can instruct and motivate kids to perform in school with the same effort and passion that is relatively common in sports. I like to mention that our book, The 10 Commandments of Baseball offers some great principles that can be used in academics and other areas for improving achievement. Unfortunately, we are swimming against a technology steam in many ways.

I find more and more that countless commercial and media messages advocate technology to fix most every problem in our world today (there's an app for that). I am not against technology, I am just against the idea of humans being led by it in their every activity. Our world is beginning to look more and more like the setting for a tragic science fiction story.

If you are breathing and blinking today with real lungs and eyeballs, you know there is a lot of money behind technology. If you are not living in a virtual world using a phone that is smarter than you, texting people the minute you wake, and maintaining constant contact with your peeps even if it's to just say you ate wheat toast and yogurt for breakfast--well you are just not tuned in. If you dare speak against such practices, well, you are just one of those hopeless people who can't deal with life in the real world. Similar messages are being sent to teachers these days with respect to life in the classroom.

If you follow education news, you know many people are constantly advocating new technology to improve academic achievement. There is huge money in education despite what anyone says about budget constraints. Technology pundits advocate that schools buy software to test Johnny to find out if he can read or not-- and then buy more software that can teach him to read. Lately there is also an effort to develop software to determine if Johnny's teacher can teach. You can see where this is headed in part. "Get a test score printout, fire the lowest quartile of teachers."

Teachers unions of course are not buying it, but all I can say is keep your eye on the money. Prepare yourself for studies to show that technology solves one problem after another. At some point, education technology studies may make the drug developers blush in comparison with their brazen claims. Perhaps at some point the tech companies may face the same barrage of personal injury suits faced by the drug companies.
"Your honor, my client was injured by Professor Bucky's Beanstalk Learning Program that failed to improve his understanding of adjectives, which has subsequently cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnings."

I have a friend who is a math tutor and I believe after a session or two with a new student she can tell what the student needs to work on. She does not need an expensive software application that might require that she double her rates and align herself with one of those tutor franchise operations. She does not need a personality analysis or advanced programs on curriculum -- she sits right next to her students and gets to know them well. She knows the curriculum in the district and her students have their own textbooks that she is familiar with. It doesn't get much more personal than that. I make this point not to disparage tutor companies, but to suggest that tutoring does not have to be something only millionaires can afford. If technology makes education advances, but makes those advances unaffordable, it simply should not be used. Do we want an education system that looks like our health care system? Something that looks good in theory, but bankrupts the country.

Reading of course is a big deal in technology products as well as endless amounts of special programs and attention is provided at schools. A few of my own kids have benefited greatly from reading specialists. But when I talked about reading to a friend who has four decades of experience in teaching and administration, she cautions that many teachers today are not being trained properly in how to teach reading. The best reading practices and skills of regular elementary teachers are being lost in some programs as reading is becoming a specialty and one that is danger of being driven with technology and not teachers. The more education students have to spend on learning new technology, the less time they have to learn the most important teaching fundamentals. For every action there is an equal and ....

I hope it all gets sorted out soon. One thing I know is that if we see that teachers coming up in the ranks are the caring decent hard-working people that have traditionally populated the profession, they will find a way to teach our kids if left to their own initiatives. On the other hand, if we put our kids future in the care of corporations who by the very nature of their structure, are focused on increasing revenues and market share, pushing profit margins and beating competition, we are in trouble. Corporations are not going to change their stripes because they are working in education--that's just not how it works. We cannot expect them to be anything except what they are.

Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press