The Megaphone - The Elephant in the Classroom
Mar 31, 2016 | The Megaphone | by guest columnist Greg Cudmore
At last an intelligent headmaster has exposed the elephant in the room. The Head of Sydney Grammar has challenged the current orthodoxy that information technology should be centre stage in the educational enterprise.
In my 45 years in the business the slavish adoption of computers in schools has been the biggest heist perpetrated in our schools.
The IT industry has convinced school communities that computers are the sine qua non of educating children for the future. Although there is no demonstrable evidence that this is the case, schools have swallowed the hype and invested millions of dollars into what is a never ending black hole. The nature of the technology is that it must be constantly renewed and supported.
Many Heads are now appointed not because of their educational prowess but because they are slick entrepreneurs, employed to sell their schools to prospective parents.
One easy way to dazzle them is to show off the latest IT gadgets.
The fact that for many subjects there is no worthwhile educational software; that an ageing teaching profession is often uncomfortable and cynical about IT in the classroom; that IT is largely unsuitable for developing higher order thinking skills and that for most students the technology is largely associated with games and social media are conveniently overlooked.
So called leading IT schools are in effect inadvertent lackeys of Apple and Microsoft.
Having spent a fortune buying the technology, schools then retrospectively justify the expense by forcing teachers to use IT in their classrooms even when it is superfluous.
Students spend more time decorating and futzing than actually learning anything. Research often equates to googling and cutting and pasting. This is compounded by the current pedagogy that argues it is not important for students to actually know anything as long as they know how to learn.
Obviously students become proficient at using IT which somehow justifies the ubiquity of the technology. Computer literacy has become the catch-cry at the expense of the capacity to read with understanding and write clearly and coherently. Bizarre moves to teach all students programming to prepare them for the future ignore the fact that only very few students will ever be employed as programmers and that a basic knowledge of IT will more than suffice for life the 21st century.
Before dismissing me as a typical baby booming troglodyte, my higher degree was in the use of IT in schools and in my thesis back in the 1990s I warned that there was a danger that schools would blindly embrace computers before there was any evidence that the technology significantly improved learning outcomes. Furthermore the technology should be our servant rather than our master. In the ensuing years nothing has convinced me that my fears were unfounded.
by Greg Cudmore
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