Friday, December 7, 2007

Beat Them, Join Them..Which is it?

Pete Reilly posted today about something that several of my colleagues have reacted to while watching "Did You Know." He asks why we are accepting these numbers as they are:

“Today’s 21 year olds have watched 20,000 hours of TV.”

“Today’s 21 year olds have played 10,000 hours of video games.”

“Today’s 21 year olds have talked 10,000 hours on the phone.”

“They’ve sent/received 250,000 instant messages and e-mails.”

“70 percent of 4 year olds have used a computer.”

Source: Did You Know 2.0

He asks why we accept
spending nearly 7 years of eight hour days watching TV? and nearly 3 years of eight hour days playing video games, and an equal number of years of eight hour days talking on the telephone…13 years of eight hour days spent watching, gaming, and talking on the phone.
rather than taking it to task. I will admit to have been skewed in the other direction for some time; by that I mean that when my colleagues brought that point up as appalling, I would smooth over it by saying that we are faced with it so we may as well just go along with it.

Reilly ends his article with a glimmer, and it's a point that I truly respect:

We can make the case for technology in our classrooms without resorting to “we can’t beat ‘em so why not join ‘em” arguments. We don’t have to accept the inevitability of 20,000 hours of TV watching, or global climate change, or poverty. No one is better positioned than educators to vet technology use so that it reflects the best aspects of our culture, not just the most popular.
This is the tools v. teaching argument in different form. One of the most common arguments for focused professional development of educators is this: throwing technology at teachers without changing pedagogy will lead to very expensive paperweights and disillusioned students. The reality, in my experience, is that students need to be schooled in how to be academic while online. They are skilled at entertaining themselves, as the statistics bear out, but they will have to do much more than that, and we should want them to produce richer, more meaningful content than that which just entertains. Unfortunately, the teaching profession seems to be losing ground here. This has to change.

We want them to enlighten. We want them to innovate.

From Barry Vercoe via Cindy Barnsley's most recent post:

The future is not to predict but to design… Innovation comes from:

  • a clash of cultures
  • clash of disciplines
  • clash of ways of doing things
  • high tolerance of failure
These are challenging skills to bring to students. These are challenging skills to bring to ourselves.

For some hope, check out Darren Draper's latest post about the successes of a veteran teacher. It is actually the post that started this line of thinking for me. I know this will be a common story over the next few years.

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CresceNet said...
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Carolyn Foote said...

I agree that students may be skillful at entertaining themselves online, but not necessarily at creating or using information well.

(of course that is a generalization and depends on the student!)

I think we have sort of a sloppy approach to the internet in schools, more often than not. Students are told to look things up online, without much guidance(perhaps because the teacher isn't very focused on what they want from students, or doesn't know other search methods, or hasn't set up clear parameters, or....?)

In any case, I just think we're guilty of being sloppy with students in ways we weren't sloppy in the "olden" days of research papers, index cards, etc. It seemed that then, we tried to teach them information literacy skills, albeit a different type.

Especially by high school, there seems to often be an assumption that kids already know how to do everything online. And sure, most of them can use Google, but....can they figure out what the good sources are, sort the wheat from the chaff, recognize hoaxes when they see them, etc?

And as you said, are their online uses innovative, or merely just modern because they are using the technology?

Lots to think about in your post!

Carolyn Foote said...

And to clarify, please don't think I'm wishing to return to the days of Bib cards ;) I'm definitely not!

I just think we had more of a measured, instructional approach then to guiding students through the research process than we seem to now.

Dennis Richards said...

Hi PJ & Carolyn,

I suggested to a colleague that the statewide STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) conference she runs each year should have free, reliable internet access next year. She wrote back and said they hadn't allowed internet access because they wanted the participants to be away from their emails for the day. She asked what I thought. Here's what I said:

I understand where your concern is coming from. Although it is a concern worth attending to, imagine a conference where having your computer connected to the wealth of resources on the internet facilitates your learning in new and powerful ways. Can you imagine the way the experience will transform the perspective of participants ~ a paradigm shift in the making. Of course, I’d recommend you ask presenters to give you a proposal that will take advantage of an audience with laptops connected to the internet. It may even challenge them, but that’s okay. Small steps make a long journey possible. If the planning is done right, it won’t take long for participants to realize that one-to-one computing for administrators, teachers and students is an essential ingredient for learning in the future.

It is the same thing with schools; make the technology do something to improve learning. Make it one powerful learning experience after another and they will be hooked on learning!

The kids want to learn; let's oblige!

Dennis Richards

Patrick Higgins said...


I couldn't agree more with you about our approach to internet research. Eric Hoefler did some great work a few years ago that I used to help some of my teachers learn to mine the "deep web" this past summer. I have not checked in with them recently to see how they have come along with applying some of the techniques we learned, but I will put that on my list.

Even some very simple things that we can teach students, like using more specific search terms, Google Custom search engines, alerts, etc. can have a profound affect on the level and quality of information you can mine from the web.

There is too much assumption that searching the web is something that must be slaved over much the same way that slaving through the stacks and bib cards was for most of us who are now teaching.

Patrick Higgins said...


You can't know how much that maddens me. For example, I am heading to TechSpo in Atlantic City in January where we will be presenting about using Tablet PC's in the classroom, but there is no wifi available. Huh? How do you expect me to bring in my teachers, who are far more versed in how to apply this to instruction, without the ability to wirelessly connect to them 150 miles away?

Your point about presenters designing presentation with the idea that their audience is connected is one that you will see more and more as you we move forward (look at NECC and the upcoming Educon 2.0), and is something that I will keep in mind as I present twice in January.

Lisa Holmes said...

I have posted a quote from your blog on my Grad Studies Wiki "The Paperless Classroom." I am exploring what I call ConstrucTECHvist educational theory that stresses the needed and require shift to a Constructivist approach to teaching for technolgy immersion to actually work. Thanks for the interesting discussion and debate.

Patrick Higgins said...


Thanks for reviving an old idea. Another great part about learning as I need to: ideas from the past can become new once again.

While this is only a few months old, it feels like my thinking has moved on already. Physically, we have moved to

As for the approach to learning through constructivism, I tend to lean that way as well. Although, from working with teachers more and more at the curricular level recently, I am seeing the need for authentic learning to take place on their part alongside their students learning.

It has to mean something to the teacher before they can make it mean something to the student.