Light Offerings

Are Screens In Schools a $60 Billion Hoax?

Posted by jturner56 on September 16, 2016

Like regular back-to-school routines, the highlighting of how computer screens have failed School emerge. Going all the way back to the mid-90s when Todd Oppenheimer opined The Computer Delusion, recent author Dr Nicholas Kardaras contends that Screens in Schools are a $60 Billion Hoax.

If only it was so simple. Call up one side of an argument and focus on the negative aspects  so that no meaningful way forward have to be put (except maybe by implication “if only we could go back to the good old days”).

This is not to say there aren’t two sides to this. The neo-Liberal aspects of Future sellers, based on promoting technology as savior, also have much to answer for.

A good reference point for this is a recent Larry Cuban (2013) book – Inside the Blackbox of Classroom Practice – which postulates “While many important instructional changes have occurred since the late nineteenth century in elementary and secondary school classrooms, no transformation in classroom authority or how teachers teach on the scale of the above fundamental structural, curricular, and cultural changes have altered classroom instruction.” Driven by what he termed dynamic conservatism. So what should the role of computers in schools be in the face of this?

Some options.

  1. inside-out: leave it to the teachers as optional. From experience this results in embedding Cuban’s contention
  2. outside-in: system solutions imposed without adequate change support mechanisms If schools focus more on using approaches primarily built on past values to control (they might say make) the future, this might continue to be limited. Straw man arguments in such circumstances are all too easy. None more so than it’s Teacher-centric versus Student-centered. Progressive versus Reasonableness.
  3. The potential of computer technologies to amplify positive cognition requires commitment to it’s potential for metacognition (through reflection and feedback), information literacy (through inquiry), digital literacy (through design thinking), engagement (local and global, digital citizenship (through community building), making (through personalised creativity), and empowerment as learners relevant to the world they face.What Papert termed “incubators of knowledge“, which I have seen add value for over three decades.

Papert, like Cuban, was interested in the limitations that teachers work under within School as an institution. The traditional system, for all its advantages, lacks in structural willingness to innovate (although some schools might from time to time seek to break out of the box). Closed knowledge too often overwhelms.

School is a teacher-centered system. What if we are faced with a system where student capacity to add value through technology use outstrips on average teacher capacity to adapt? If the balance between closed standardised systemic education and personal learning is altered through technological developments?

One related area needing more honesty is clarity about the expectations and purposes accorded to this, including the role of the teacher and opportunities that should be provided to all students. Then maybe we will start getting better value for money.





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