The Best Classroom in the World?

Slate (magazine)
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The writer of a recent Slate article is missing the point. Forgive me, but in a recent discussion about what the best school classrooms in the world look like, the writer leans on an old saw: that technology never fixes the education crisis.
True. Which is why I don’t understand why people writing articles in big publications like Slate keep spinning this wheel as if it’s the real way that people who support ed tech really think. If you read the article you would come away with this bias that technology is not the answer, and that there is a whole tribe of people advocating technology in classrooms, without any desire shared among them to change the system. I think it’s a short-sighted article, for that reason. But the writer does point out something that we have shared with our readers here — the school days have to be longer:

So how to explain that these old-fashioned classrooms tend to crank out kids who possess far more of the math and science skills valued by modern-day employers? For one thing, while the American school day can be as short as six hours, Korean kids attend school about eight or nine hours a day—and then many of them continue studying alone or with tutors until late into the night. Korean parents also put enormous pressure on kids to study. “The American system is a lot easier,” De Jesus says. “When I was in California, I barely ever studied and did pretty well in my classes.”

As we have said before, it’s the system, stupid. It’s not that technology is going to be the answer to what is a very human and creative process. Teaching requires resources, funding, and training. You can’t just throw a teacher into a room and expect the teaching to be great. You can’t just throw a laptop on each kid’s desk and expect her to perform like the best in the world.
I think what the situation needs now more than ever is a real pointed dialogue about what exactly technology enthusiasts and ed reformers with a mind to technology are really advocating for in American’ classrooms. The media seems to miss some of the point in their search for an angle.
The true angle is this:
Technology is meant to help students and teachers, but only if the system the districts use encourages the funding for each student, in something like a backpack. It’s very easy to look at technology and say it’s short-sighted, if you stay on a funding plan that rewards adults for their administrative duties, but keeps kids out of the picture. This model is part of the reason no use of technology has really ever helped boost scores adn achievement. It’s the system that is broke.
Let me say it again: Fix the system.
It’s not going to be teaching as delivered by a vendor. Teachers already know this. That’s why they are skeptical of the vendor approach.
Technology driven education is code for teacher and student-driven learning that uses the best of the web, with the best of methodology, so that each student can learn according to a leveling out of  his or her deficiencies and a boost to what it is they are excellent at doing.
What would you add to this list?

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Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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