The above cartoon was drawn by John T. Spencer. When I first looked at it, I wasn't really sure what it meant. After doing a little searching, I found out that it's comparing Mac and PC computers. Once I was able to make that connection, I understood the point (no pun intended) that Mr. Spencer was trying to communicate. Commercials for both of these two types of computers make it seem as if they are the best option, and the competition has nothing to offer. His description compares a cheap Papermate pencil versus a more expensive Ticonderoga. Essentially, PC's are cheaper but they don't have all of the bells and whistles that a Mac has. It just goes to show you how you can advertise anything to look the way you want it so that it will sell, but in reality you're going to get either an overpriced toy or something that won't last you very long. It's important to know what you're really buying so that you don't get distracted by the pretty ads and forget the purpose of your purchase!
Why Were Your Kids Playing Games?
The principal at Mr. Spencer's school is completely against any type of game. In his mind, "games" can't be used to learn and usually lead to trouble with parents. What Mr. Spencer is trying to explain to him that he can't seem to understand is that his activities are being used to help his students comprehend the material; they're not useless. I find it interesting that the principal talks of "abandoning slate-based learning", but then suggests a system using worksheets and packets, exactly the type of learning that he says he wants to stay away from. No, it's not the same as the teacher standing in front of the class and lecturing, and yes, it does allow the class to work at their own pace and do work individually; but that type of learning is not interactive at all. Mr. Spencer integrates the concepts into his games so that the students are able to learn and apply the information. Unlike the principal, he understands that learning should be more valuable than getting the kids to memorize information for a standardized test. Learning standards are constantly changing anyway!
The Con Academy
The principal at Mr. Spencer's school wants him to talk to a man about the idea of flipping his classroom. Instead of the teacher lecturing for most of the period and having little or no time for application of the subject and individual help, a flipped classroom allows for the students to be able to go over the material beforehand and lets the teacher spend precious class time answering questions that the students have and doing activities to help them apply the concepts that they learn. The system that the man proposed was to let each child learn skills on their own and use a step by step process to master each of those skills independently. It takes away the teaching role. While it does allow students to work at an individual pace, the only thing that they are actually learning to do is follow set of instructions. It won't show them how to interpret a passage from Shakespeare or write a good essay. They need someone instructing them; written guidelines can't explain a concept the way a teacher can. You can read more about it here.
I think Mr. Spencer is trying to make a point that you have to care about your students. Every kid deserves the best education possible, and it's our job as teachers to provide that. We have to be willing to learn along with them and be their guide to success. They eventually do have to know how to learn on their own, but we have to give them the tools to do that first.
Don't Teach Your Kids This Stuff, Please?
Scott McLeod plays a major role in technology advancement issues. He is the Founding Director of the only place that solely works to meet the technology needs of school administrators. In his post, he begs parents, teachers, and schools alike not to view technology as being evil. If it's monitered properly, it can be one of a teacher's greatest tools. Denying them use of these valuable assets isn't going to do anything but deny them a better learning experience. If students can use those tools to share knowledge with the world and spread their ideas and creativity, we shouldn't deny them the privilege. There's no need to assume they're going to abuse the privilege and deny them the experience, we're better off teaching them how to use it to their advantage.