What technology can do is give teachers closer, more human and more rewarding interactions with their students.
So Jefferson was the Antichrist, democracy is fascism, black is white, night is day and computers facilitate “closer, more human” interactions? Education reform isn’t Fox News, Rupert. You can’t just make stuff up and assume people will believe you. Or maybe the problem here is that he can because nobody cares about the human toll created by the technological determinists’ misguided reform efforts.
A few weeks ago, one of my graduate students told me there’s such a thing as online Kindergarten. Upon hearing this I tweeted:
Just heard there's such a thing as online Kindergarten. That's not education, it's child neglect.—
Jonathan Rees (@jhrees) September 28, 2011
I actually used the word “neglect” very deliberately there. It’s not abuse to stick headphones on kids and ignore them for a little while. [That's why we got the minivan with the DVD player installed into the headrest of the front seat.] However, the more time kids spend listening and watching, the less time they get to interact with their peers and their teachers. Neglecting them a little is OK. Building a whole elementary school based on keeping them occupied this way is not. Even if there are no physical bruises, an entirely online education at such a young age will leave them socially stunted in the long run.*
So when Rupert Murdoch tells me that sitting in front of a computer will produce more meaningful interactions between teachers and their students, I’m left scratching my head. I thought a human relationship required two human beings to be part of it, not two humans and a computer. How exactly does slapping earphones onto a child make it possible for he or she to get to know their teacher better?
All that aside, I still think there are ways that technology can improve education; just not through the self-contained computer programs that Rupert wants to sell everyone. Among her many causes, UD has a category entitled “powerpoint pissoff,” which categorizes the many abuses of that particular technology. Many of those posts are stories of professors who fill their slides with text, read that text verbatim and use it to separate themselves from their inevitably bored students.
On the other hand, as I’ve written before, PowerPoint can also be a remarkably useful tool for bringing pictures into the classroom that would not be easy to bring in otherwise. Pictures, like video, when used right should be a way to bring students into historical analysis, not a way to shut them out. It’s through the ensuing discussions that students can really get to know their teachers and teachers can really get to know their students.
Too bad that’s not going to happen when all the kids in the world are strapped into headphones all day and every college student in America (who isn’t in the Ivy League) is watching videotaped lectures in their pajamas.
* Don’t get me started on home schooling. Just don’t.