Wednesday, May 3, 2017

iPhone Baskets and Back to Paper?

Edward Albee, “I write to find out what I'm thinking.” 

This is one of those posts that finds me troubled and I can't quite articulate why. Maybe by writing this, I'll figure it out.

The goal of technology in school should never be to go paperless. It is not the point.

Many teachers at my school are now adopting the process of having a phone basket at the door that students put their phones into at the start of class. Folks at my school have also decided to change our current practice of encouraging students to annotate pdfs on iPads with Notability to insisting students buy pre-made photocopied packets of reading. My meeting with department colleagues today was all about why paper is better. Heck, I agree with more than half of their arguments (students get distracted by their phones and screens, paper is easier to mark up, it is easier for the teacher to see that everyone is on the same page)  Regarding pdf vs. paper, I myself often prefer reading paper than a screen-especially books vs ebooks. I expect most adults do.

Ed-tech is falling down in many schools.  Across the county and around the world, schools have implemented 1to1 programs. Many of these programs fail altogether or at best fail to change anything. One would think that putting a device that has access to almost all of the world's knowledge would change things. It hasn't.

Teaching and learning developed methods through the previous century around the existing technology. Much of how we think school should work is shaped by this older technology. I had a conversation with a colleague last week who explained the reasons why he doesn't like Google Classroom- his concern was that students could see feedback immediately. To me, it is a feature and not a bug. But my friend is shaped (as am I) by practices and assumptions that are built around older tools.

If the underlying premise of what good teaching and learning are remain unchanged, we will never maximize ed- tech. The mind-shift has to begin before the tech-shift. Once that shift is finally made, it is my hope that the tech shift and mind shift should continually and mutually reinforce the other. My boss and colleague +Dan Crowley and I have tweeted back and forth about this Alice Keeler tweet.
The tweet is anecdotal. Yet I suspect what this student's teacher does is common. What we task students to do in school is essentially unchanged from what I was asked to do 30 years ago. Are we surprised that teachers in most places just let devices "sit there" or worse, insist that students "sit there" and listen? Again, students have devices that can access all of the world's information and instead of leveraging that amazing tool we tell them to put it away and listen to us!

Regarding my other situation, I  understand that using Notability as an annotation tool is largely substitution according to the SAMR model- unless the pdf is searchable- which our text is not. I've experienced my own frustration with distracted kids on the iPad. Heck, I've been there more often than I'd like to admit. It won't fundamentally change what we are doing if we go back to paper. After typing that last sentence,  I can name my disappointment. It is that after 3 years of iPads- we won't really notice when they are gone.

Thanks, Mr. Albee.

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