Thursday, November 10, 2005

Noticing the sun coming up each morning

I have yet to get to writing more about computers, learning n stuff like that on this little epistle-machine and I have misplaced the prompt that triggered the frustration expressed in this post which I wrote and then cleverly deleted by using a browser that does not seem fully compliant with what Blogger wants. In any event, I will scribble a little about what I recall I was going to scribble about. There is now a huge industry of writing about, puzzling about and in general making noise about using computing and related technologies in the noble pursuit of supporting teaching, and by extension, the thing that goes on in peoples' heads that we call learning. The L word, one of my top ten "catch-all verging on meaningless" terms of all time. What is so interesting is that folk continue to write about this stuff as if it is something new, different, wonderful. News Flash. This has been going on since the late 70's and before then if you want to include some of the pre-microcomputer stuff. And, most importantly, there has been precious new to say about it. Perhaps the most annoying elements in this well intentioned but fundamentally flawed work is the never ending attempts to "integrate" these technologies into school classrooms. That these efforts have never worked in any sustainable way; that they have cost the blood, sweat and tears of so many self-sacrificing teachers; that there is precious little to show for a quarter of a century of effort, are lost on the mindless "researchers"/"policy makers" who keep insisting that it must be possible. I won't bore the tiny audience about why this might be so but there is clearly sufficient empirical data to suggest just how stupid this is. Folks. The sun keeps coming up each morning. Folks. Trying computers in classrooms hit their limit in the 80's all that has changed is the technology. The more powerful technology, aka schooling will keep winning. As an aside, this may the lasting noteworthiness of schools, that as a social institution they are one of very few that have remained largely untouched by the massive deployment of all manner of digital technologies across the planet. The other, more depressing side of this stupidity is that while we focus attention on such mindless goals as integration into classrooms that the world beyond schools has and continues to change profoundly. This has to be the focus of attention, not the stupid assumption that getting kids to learn computer skills in their Geography class will somehow prepare them well for this world. It's fiddling while Rome burns. This is something of a rant but underpins the origins of my interest in doing school differently, taking seriously the very real challenge of how to prepare kids for a world that is so dependent upon things digital. Now is not the time to be certain (or as Tom Peters puts it: "If you're not confused, you're not paying attention."), particularly when it comes to such important questions such as how do we prepare the young of the tribe to deal with the "interesting" mess they will inherit from us?