Teachers in Boston are all aglow over personalized learning—teaching students how to learn on digital devices.
But there’s something strange about learning how to help computers do a teacher’s job—like maybe tomorrow teachers will show up for work and their key will no longer open the classroom door.
Knowing how Gates loves charter schools, technology, and Teach for America types, LearnLaunch’s practice of training teachers about technology, raises the question, are teachers slyly being led to take the road to their own demise?
It’s easy to be snookered. Teachers want to learn how to use technology to assist students. It’s innovative and can supplement what a teacher does.
But the idea of “disruption”—placing students online for all of their learning, and the corporate push to get rid of brick-and-mortar schools, warehousing a student’s personal information, not to mention ending the teaching profession, looms over everyone like toxic fog.
So it’s unsettling to hear teachers praise personalized learning without questioning.
Teachers who buy into tech as helping them take a career step forward need to rethink technology’s appeal.
That shiny tech workshop might look good to Snow White, but she had better do some research before she takes a bite from that apple.
Here are the claims teachers made in Boston, and how they could be selling themselves out.
- Students need digital devices to succeed in college. There’s no proof of this. In fact, there’s concern that students don’t learn deep meaning when they take notes on digital devices. No one knows if digital is all a student requires to do well in college. It seems highly unlikely.
- Digital devices help struggling students learn Common Core. Many parents don’t even like Common Core. It’s still controversial. While some online programming might assist a student with disabilities, students still need real teachers for the support that matters.
- Students “develop an academic identity that extends beyond the classroom walls.” It sounds like they are getting students to learn outside the classroom walls—referring to learning anyplace, anytime, and anywhere on digital devices—without schools and teachers.
- Teachers love data! “For the first time” they say they had detailed data about a student’s comprehension reading skills to share with parents. This claim is hard to believe! Informal Reading Inventories, tests, and checklists have always existed to help determine a student’s reading difficulties. If teachers rely on, and give computers all the credit, why will parents need a teacher’s expertise?
- Students have more choices with computers. One would think being tethered to a machine all day would be restrictive. Learning by technology is only one choice. There are many other choices that don’t rely on computers.
- Computer software does phonics instruction well. Phonics is sounding out letters out loud and on paper. Computers save paper and they replace dittos well. But teachers put phonics together with text and help children read for meaning.
- Students are able to “take ownership of their own learning.” This is another way of saying they can teach themselves with the computer. Students will always need human teachers.
- Students love engaging literacy and language software and feedback and knowing when to exit. Teachers seem to forget the engaging conversations they can have with students together.
- In kindergarten, students learn on the computer in a “non-threatening way.” If any learning in kindergarten is threatening, something is wrong with kindergarten!
- Students like playing on the computer. In literacy-based choice centers, students used to choose blocks, art, or Legos instead of reading. But now they will choose iPads or Chromebooks for learning activities. How much computer reading is the question.
- Students can work to their next level and get a certificate. In real learning situations, students learn from students at different levels, and that can help them skip to a higher level. Also, students would rather hear praise from their teacher than get a paper prize.
- Tech prepares students for PAARC and state testing online. Like Common Core, parents are sick of PAARC and so much state testing. But no teachers are needed with online computer testing either.
In fact, teachers aren’t needed according to any of the claims they made above. They become facilitators required to keep students in line and answer their questions.
But that’s not teaching. So don’t be fooled.