Thursday, December 31, 2015

Technology Free Schools

I have a boss +Dan Crowley, who sometimes in his more exasperated moments proposes to go totally retro and put a copy machine in every classroom. It'd be the ultimate 1990 school. I thought of him as I read about a tech free school in London which has recently been prominently portrayed in newspapers such as The Guardian. It boasts no screens, no smartphones, no tablets, no computers, nor does it even have TVs. Y'know, one might think that this technology teacher would feel threatened or be aghast at such an idea. I think it's terrific. Why? Here's a school being intentional about what it values. 

What would I say to my children's teachers if they decried screen time and tech use? I will forever and always distinguish between active and passive use. In fact, I feel that having students actively use technology to share ideas, work collaboratively, and publish beyond the classroom is as "organic" as any cardboard or woodworking project that students will do in this tech free school.

I do take issue with the final quote from the article. It states, "Children will encounter tech whatever schools do, particularly as it becomes cheaper and more pervasive. Most children – or adults – can become fluent with tech quite quickly, and schools shouldn’t feel that they have to plug an imagined skills gap that often doesn’t exist.”

In my experience most children and adults aren't all that fluent. Yes, they know how to be passive viewers and can navigate social media. But I find my high schoolers are less adept than my 5th graders were. Because I had my 5th graders for most of the day and tech skills were embedded in many assignments. I have my high schoolers one period a day. They are smart, motivated kids. But to say that they are fluent with tech is just untrue. It doesn't just happen.

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