Readers should know that a number of principals have written in defence of Brendan Fin at Tairua School. And good on them.
The article in Stuff on Tairua School was a public release; and my posting in return was a public release.
All of what I commented on was contained in the Tairua public release, but with one big provision, what I read in that public release was what I see virtually, with only minor variation, in hundreds of schools, and so the posting was about my near despair at the shallowness of computer use in so many primary school classrooms.
Some say I was personal, well, it was Brendan’s thinking, and he was sitting there in chirpy fashion, why respond in the abstract?
Computer use in New Zealand schools is not going well; and is going to end very badly – but that is some time in the future.
Tairua is described as a country school trying to do something different, but what I see at Tairua is a country school doing something the same.
What is happening at Tairua and hundreds of schools in New Zealand has a huge weight of bureaucratic and media support, and considerable parental support – there is no need for such schools to feel picked on when one commentator sees things differently. Computer skill is also proving a winning characteristic for gaining principal jobs. Things are going very much the computer way, officially and vocationally.
If only they would go the curriculum way.
One thing I want to say here is not to question the sincerity of Brendan Fin, the Tairua principal, or any other principal, just their judgement.
Just as I haven’t been to Tairua School to see what is ‘really’ happening, many principals won’t have read my writings starting from the mid-90s on the introduction of computers into schools, the profusion of rooms and hubs, and how computer use was taking the heart, vivacity, and substance from so many curriculum areas.
The promise was that computers would be tools, but now rooms are being built for those tools, indeed, whole schools, to devastating effect; computers have become central, and programmes, rooms and schools are being built around them.
Principals are heading overseas to learn more about the use of computers in classrooms; they are not heading off to learn about, say, social studies and science in the classroom – indeed, they are not heading off to such courses in their own countries.
A curriculum has been devised for computers; it is called inquiry learning, in which children study big issues. This is not good curricular learning as I know it, nor good big issues learning.
And this is where I will part company with so many schools and their use of computers; be received with incomprehension. The inquiry learning I see, if it is, say, social studies or science, is terrible social studies and science.
I am not even going to try to explain why here; I have explained for years, and I will be explaining again in my ATTACK! series, indeed, have started to do so.
To say artwork was absent from the computer rooms ‘to prevent students from distraction’ was clearly and an intentional quality of the room, and for me a provocation.
Then the article says that computers had: ‘future proofed the classroom …’ A tool was going to do that?
It is the humanity and development of the values and the skill of people involved in the classroom that will future proof a room to the extent a room can be future proofed. It is the lyricism of the writing, the sincerity of the drama, the observed expression in the art, the independence in the reading, the setting of problems in the maths, the deep feeling for people, and the observed science environment that will future proof classrooms – not computers.
There is much talk of the future in this article, and in all computer articles, technology people it seems see the future as something exclusive to them. This is wrong, human values and the best expressions of human endeavour need protection from the barbarism. Schools should be future proofing our humanity with the values of humanity.
The best way to prepare children for the future is not to immerse children in technology, in technology future-proofed classrooms, but to prepare them with the knowledge, values, and insights needed to face the always inevitable change.
Then the article says that ‘using technology was going to re-imagine education.’ No – people re-imagine education, with technology an aid.
Then come the clichés: the teacher not standing at the front of the class (the implication being that teachers would otherwise stand there and direct a whole lot of information to children); the teacher as the facilitator; and big issue studies.
At least the cliché of knowledge being transitory and skills needing to be emphasised is absent.
But I note the link of computers at school with future vocations.
There is reference in the article to a ‘focus on innovation, creative thinking, and self-directed thinking.’ Many of us know what this means and it doesn’t lead to innovation or creative thinking.
If principals have the courage and humility to engage in genuine curriculum matters, ATTACK! will answer many of the issues raised. I never criticise without having an alternative.
As for Singapore: what is it about the place? What principal hasn’t been there? Oh for a principal that goes to some other place for, say, the art, drama, mathematics – anything that fosters a deep curriculum understanding, and in that occurring, lead to computers being allocated their proper role.
I’m going to leave it there. My voice is very much in the minority, my holistic philosophy is proscribed; in ascendancy is computers as central to education – Brendan is in a very strong position, he’ll be fine. He went public on something dear to him and was provocative (well, at least to me); and I went public on something dear to me and was provocative in return. And my reward has been a lively response. Great stuff!