Public schools continuously change to keep up with progress. Technology has much to offer. But the idea that instruction should be disrupted using technology is putting students and the country at risk. It destroys the public school curriculum that has managed to educate the masses for decades.
Disruption is a troubling word when referring to public schooling.
Gradual change works better with students. Schools should be warm places where students can positively interact with other children and caring adults. Changes implemented gradually are more comfortable for teachers and students.
Technology is a helpful tool, but it won’t provide that sense of stability. It’s a cold machine. School districts push technology over teachers. They don’t stop to think about what it will mean to children and their development.
We don’t know what the future effects of technology will be. How will students learn what they need for college and career when they’ve experienced little but online instruction?
Most people recognize that continuous screen use is problematic. Transforming public schools to where students face even more online time all day makes little sense.
Early childhood teachers express concern that tech is invading preschool education. We know that free play is the heart of learning.
But programs, like Waterford Early Learning, advertise online instruction including assessment for K-2. Their Upstart program advertises, At-home, online kindergarten readiness program that gives 4- and 5-year-old children early reading, math, and science lessons.
Technology is directed towards babies too! What will it mean to a child’s development if they stare at screens instead of picture books?
Defending the Early Years recently introduced a toolkit to help parents of young children navigate the use of technology with children. “Young Children in the Digital Age: A Parent’s Guide,” written by Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Ed.D., describes the kinds of learning experiences that will help them develop to be curious, engaged learners. Here is the link.
One of the first books to push digital disruption was Clayton M. Christensen’s, Michael B. Horn’s, and Curtis W. Johnson’s Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.
They describe a Virtual ChemLab serving 150,000 students across the country. How does this personalize learning? The Virtual ChemLab allows students to try experiments that would be too costly or too dangerous to do at their local high schools. Don’t students need to do some experiments related to chemistry under the watchful and safe direction of a competent chemistry instructor?
How to incorporate digital learning into the classroom is a huge question and one that demands study. Parents need to be included with discussions about technology.
As a teacher in the ’90s, I learned how to use the Internet. The media specialists (librarians) at my school taught us during a professional development class. The instruction showed us how to use technology as a supplement to our lessons. Teachers were still in control.
Today’s disruptive tech agenda teaches teachers to reduce their teaching role in favor of digital learning. Technology rules! Teachers remain on the sidelines.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a tech enthusiast, describes this transforming role of technology. He wants technology to be the “core of learning.”
Bush praises the marketplace. He believes children will learn better working online, studying a prescribed group of skills.
But children learn better with a variety of approaches. Technology leaves out critical social skills, and the existing tech programs don’t have proven track records.
Technology for students homebound or living in rural areas may provide coursework, but even that is not better than a teacher in a classroom.
He also makes a lot of baseless claims that tech will change the world for the better. There is no proof of this. A world with so much technology is frightening to most people. It raises serious questions about how we will relate to each other.
Bush is of course not alone in his unbridled belief in technology. Little is being done to curtail this public school experiment. But transforming public schooling into all-tech without teachers is a dramatic change.
School districts should carefully monitor the use of technology in schools. It’s pushed to replace the curriculum too quickly with the idea that disruption is best. It’s not.
Disruption is not a positive word to use with public schools and students.
Clayton M. Christensen, Michael B. Horn, and Curtis W. Johnson. Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. (New York: McGraw-Hill Companies) p. 105.
Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Ed.D. “Young Children in the Digital Age: A Parent’s Guide.” Defending the Early Years.
Kas Winters says
What you have posted is critical for students. I’ve taught hands-on after-school programs for 12 years and watched it change children in such positive ways. A computer is not capable of doing that.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you for commenting, Kas. Lucky students!
John Mountford says
Everything said by Mr Bush confirms for me why I believe the most important single change that has the potential to transform the development of our species is to ensure that politicians and big business are subjected to the will of the people. Their unfettered influence can pervert that will while claiming to champion it. How ironic were Bush’s pronouncements about ideology. The ideological influence we need most to be wary of right now is that which calls for the unfettered application of technology at an ever quickening pace.
I receive a weekly blog from BOLD (Blog on Learning Development). It seeks to inform readers and researchers of the latest developments in the edtec field. This recent posting about edtec startups got me hot under the collar. It prompted me to comment. Despite the fact that only rarely does anyone else comment on this site, I could not reign in my enthusiasm to introduce what I believed to be a counterbalancing opinion. As ever, I received no response from its author.
The lesson from this experience and from your latest posting, Nancy, is that we have to keep taking the fight forward to establish a more balanced approach to the use of technology in education. The reason I believe this is because once we lose track of the idea that education is a human enterprise, where interpersonal development is one of the most effective means we have of retaining and eventually expanding our humanity, we face a very uncertain future at the hands of an intrinsically impersonal technology.
Nancy Bailey says
The article you cite is troubling. They make such unproven assumptions about so many programs including dyslexia. I put part of your response here, John, because it was so well said. For those of you who are interested, please check out the link. Thank you!
“Is there no one out there prepared to give a thought as to whether we know enough yet about prolonged early exposure to computers and screens, especially for children under five? Any impartial observer would heed the note of caution and at least call for a slow-down. Presently we have no idea how routine early exposure might impact on the development of the young brain.”
Ruth Hasseler says
Twelve years or so ago, when taking a doctoral level course in literacy and technology, I questioned whether or not the neural patterns set by a child’s earliest interaction with print literacy would be changed when screen time was substituted for the printed page. I was assured that it would not. I chuckle when I see the latest research that shows that my professor’s answer was apparently wrong.. Pretty heavy duty stuff…
Jo Lieb says
Disruption in fields that serve human growth and development is very risky and dangerous. Having worked in business for two decades, I know what disruption in. It is the demolition of existing paradigms so that new systems can be introduced for more profit.
Look at this definition I found online – “In business, a disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market-leading firms, products, and alliances.”
That is what has been and is being done to education. First they disrupted our curriculum. Then disrupted our evaluations. Then they disrupted our assessments. Now they’re disruption the very existence of a human in the classroom.
All for what? New markets! New values! New alliances.
All at the risk of destroying young minds and bodies and displacing veteran teachers.
Awful world we live in.
Nancy Bailey says
Disruption is a popular term applied to business and I appreciate your mentioning that, Jo. Like so many business terms applied to schools, it really makes no sense. I’m not even sure how well it works for business! Most business approaches to schools don’t work because we are dealing with children!
Rick Bobrick says
Peer into almost any classroom and you will see children playing with the modern day Trojan Horse.
Shiny and sleek, these gifts from Google are the cornerstones for ed-tech reform.
Hidden inside are the nameless and faceless code writers ready, willing, and able to render real teachers obsolete.
An disruption? Or a disservice?
Nancy Bailey says
Yes! And all that data mining involving the students….
Roy Turrentine says
Realizing that this is a bit off topic, I would just settle for fewer times a day when the intercom interrupts a sentence. Just today, I was making a point about European imperialism. It required a few sentences ending in a conclusion. Just before the conclusion someone broke into my sentence. The series of thoughts, already lost on some, was now lost completely.
Our experience with intercoms, now two or three generations old, should lead us to eye other technology warily. When has a Principal been reasonable and observant of the teacher as a vital organizer of the classroom? Why should we expect the administration of complex technologies to be more successful than the implementation of simple ones?
Nancy Bailey says
You’re kidding! This still happens? Roy, you remind me of a school I worked at years ago where we were interrupted nonstop! Teachers had to ban together and complain. There is no excuse for interrupting a class unless it is an emergency.
S and P 500 says
I’m not sure what the author means by “stability.” As budget cuts continue to threaten school districts, disruption due to lack of supplies and crumbling facilities is a given. LAUSD is reportedly just three years from running out of money. The frozen classroom incident in Baltimore this year is about as disruptive to the kids as you can get. There will be tremendous pressure to replace human teachers with interactive websites or khan academy type tutorials, as much as possible. Educational software costs money but it doesn’t leave school districts with billions of dollars of unfunded pension liabilities.
Nancy Bailey says
You miss the meaning of what today’s disruption is–replacing teachers and schools with technology.
The reason there are budget cuts is because politicians don’t make schools a priority. There’s plenty of money for what they want.
Check out how much money cities will spend to bring Amazon to town….
A commenter on Diane Ravitch’s blog put it very succinctly (I may paraphrase a bit): “The reason we have poverty is not that we don’t have enough to feed and clothe and educate the poor, it’s that we don’t have enough to satisfy the rich.”
All of the negative effects of disruption are intentional; features, not bugs. Disruption pervades every aspect of our lives, not just education. In addition to the direct profit motive, the destabilizing effects are helpful to keep everyone off guard and unbalanced and unable to fight back effectively. That’s why even little things have to change all the time. Just the other day my corporate health provider (Advocate) breathlessly announced how wonderful it is that they’ve merged with some other corporate health provider, so now there will be a completely revamped “Patient Portal” which will supposedly be a Brave New World of experience in healthcare and will give me so much “control”. I never wanted a damn “Patient Portal” to begin with. For years, if I had a medical question or concern, I called or emailed my doctor. Now I can’t do those things, but damn if that “Patient Portal” doesn’t give me more “control”! Ha!
The point of imposing this on the littlest kids is to instill expectations practically from birth that this is the way life is. There Is No Alternative. Resistance is Futile. If you really want to scare yourself sometime, read Wrench in the Gears’ blog and see how this constant surveillance/data mining/control is pervading every aspect of our lives for the profit of our corporate overlords.
I completely agree with you about disruption and technology, and I appreciate your continuing to speak out.
Jeb Bush co-chaired Learner at the Center of a Networked World for the Aspen Institute. I am pretty sure he is one of the rich guys who thinks his elite family should be ruling the rest of us by having control over our and our children’s data. They really need to be stopped in this endeavor. Project Unicorn’s Erin Mote is or was connected with the Aspen Institute, and Project Unicorn is, among other things, working to make kids’ data easier to use and monetize.
I’m afraid the push behind the use of so much technology in schools has a lot more to do with making money and control than it does with improving kids’ lives. So sad.