How a Laptop is like a Calculator

This is a modified comment from one of the many blogs discussing this at the moment. I’ll throw out a few links so you know I’m not just making this up. Click here, here and here. I’ll get back to blogging about something else tomorrow.

I speak on technology only as a student teacher. There are plenty of places in our credential program that require understanding of technology, to all-but all exclusion. Unfortunately, that’s the problem.

Bear with this analogy: the approach my credential program uses — and, by the sounds of it, most programs — works as well as an elementary school math class that encourages calculators over standard multiplication algorithms. We new teachers become so dependent on technology that we can’t teach without it.

The calculator’s broken, so we can’t do our math homework. There isn’t a projector, so we can’t teach.

Complicating matters, technology is described as changing the face of education, as it were, and our professors and all the talking heads describe how important it is to be knowledgeable in the ways of tech — tech is all over the place.

More correctly, it’s all over the place, but only in the places that can afford it.

What isn’t emphasized is that the schools our new teachers teach at — the poor schools in ghettos and barrios — won’t have these resources. LCD projectors might be in a department or two on a campus of 3400 students. Most of those projectors are teacher-purchased, and new teachers, most of whom are paying off student loans, don’t have that kind of disposable income.

Why do credential programs teach technology during higher education class time that should be spent teaching how to teach? I’d rather take six units of “CI 163: Survival Tips from Professors With Relevant Teaching Experience” and “EHD 178T: Improvise, Overcome, Adapt” than yet another class that requires yet another PowerPoint.

If technology isn’t available, why force student teachers and new teachers to use it as a crutch? That’s the current effect of the programs.

Rather than introducing students to an exciting, new way of understanding the world through technology, technology encourages student teachers to introduce our students to a world of ineffective teaching in poor schools. Technology-dependent teaching doesn’t work in the absence of technology.

The widespread absence of technology is the first problem. Deal with it first, and don’t handicap our new teachers with ill-advised mandates.

  1. dkzody

    My one piece of advice to credential candidates, learn how to write grants. That will be the only way you will get anything for your classroom. It doesn’t matter how well you can teach, or how great your plans are, if you cannot get the money for supplies, equipment, and fieldtrips, then you will have a hard time. Also, being entrepreneurial helps. Look for ways to make money within the school. That’s the class I would like to see the colleges teach in preparing teachers–show me the money.

  2. Tom

    If the class focuses on the technology to such an extent that it’s useless without certain physical objects then things are seriously wrong.

    The way things ought to be done is to focus on the underlying pedagogy and theory and then look at how technology might be used to expand that concept or make it easier. It’s a waste of time to focus solely on technology as it’s likely to change drastically in a short amount of time. Concepts don’t. While powerpoint and projectors aren’t ubiquitous the ability to support your lecture in ways that engages multiple learning styles should be.

    Personally, I’ve found about 70% of my education classes to be a waste of time and taught in a pretty dismal manner. That’s really sad.

    I would consider that you can do a fair amount with technology without having much of it officially in your classroom. You might be surprised at the amount of technology even in “poor” schools. Just about everyone now has a cell phone which can take pictures- including middle school students I worked with who lived in housing projects in NY.

    I think creativity in addition to grants are key. I got 15 or so desktops and monitors donated for free from our local university and I was on my way to building a projector for my laptop although hooking it to the TV worked pretty well.

  3. Agreed. However, for the most part — as you say, there are “poor” schools that are doing relatively well — this is how things are.

    Maybe there should be a class that includes grant writing skills. That would really be useful.

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