‘Tairua School boasts no set front or back of the classroom, round communal tables, an abundance of plants and computers, and no artwork to prevent students from distraction.’
If that last part hadn’t been there I would have dismissed the article in Stuff that contained this cultural blasphemy as just another shameless promotion of computers in education.
‘We don’t have a teacher standing at the top,’ says the principal Brendan Fin, ‘and all the students looking in one direction.’
What a thumping great cliché to justify a thumping great cliché of a classroom.
A teacher standing at the top of the class (as Brendan Fin puts it) can be inspiring, challenging, and subtle. If I had to nominate a huge lack in classrooms today it is teachers not being there.
I hope the Tairua community is informed about an OECD report, carried on the BBC website, that says ‘investing heavily in school computers and classroom technology does not improve pupils’ performance.’
‘ … education systems which have invested heavily in information and communications technology have seen no noticeable improvement in Pisa test results for reading, mathematics, or science.’
Brendan Fin is reported below as going to a summit (summit? what a puffed up word) in Singapore for inspiration so he might be interested in the following: ‘If you look at the best-performing education systems, such as those in East Asia, they’ve been very cautious about using technology in their classrooms.’
‘Those students who use tablets and computers very often tend to do worse that those who use them moderately.’
Yes – Brendan went to a summit in Singapore to hear Sugata Mitra of ‘hole in the wall fame’ and Tony Wagner who is one of those two a ’penny computer futurists; and that is the trouble – they look to the future and in doing so overlook the needs of children in the present (by the way, Sugata Mitra’s research has been solidly discredited).
No matter how sophisticated the current understanding of computers and school education, no-one can sensibly predict the various directions computer use in education will take. What we should know, and we should hold on to as something real and solid amidst the ephemeral and flux, is that the fundamentals of children’s learning – if purposes are humanistic and democratic – remain substantially the same.
The irony is that in looking to some future which these people claim they can predict, they are returning to the past with digital knobs on.
The children will end up doing a combination of old style projects and data walls.
The children will enjoy them, but then their parents loved the old style projects when they went to school.
Learning needs shape Brendon – see ATTACK 1, and the teacher needs to inspire, beguile and challenge.
What a description Brendan ‘no artwork to prevent students from distraction.’
A key role for teachers today is to know when computers are distraction.
Yes – projects can involve children, but they rarely challenge children until the teacher has taken them well into the topic.
I’ll give you an idea for nothing: children do their best and most imaginative and creative thinking when computers are not around.
And some further ideas for nothing: The close association of computers with a form of inquiry has led to a kind of learning indistinguishable from old style projects. Children patching internet information as answers to a question no matter how sophisticated the question or how big the issue, or how cooperatively undertaken, is still undistinguished teaching and learning. To make computer learning rich and challenging, I urge teachers to consider carefully my plea to teach, actually teach – teach in a certain way, a holistic way.
To be educationally vital, computer use needs to be led by those who first know the curriculum, at the moment it isn’t being. No matter the curriculum area, the activities for teaching need to be organised into an effective learning sequence: an introduction, a gaining of knowledge, a challenging of flexibility of understanding, and a conclusion. It also needs to have a connectedness to children’s other understandings, their context, and key disciplinary ideas.
The crude dismissal of art as a distraction could well be a new low in education directions. Art is a fundamental technology and a fundamental form of human expression. To relegate it is to relegate our humanity.
Sorry – this was written in 30 minutes, on a Friday night and probably shows it.