Weigh New Teaching Mediums
By Deborah Young
what would happen if a Johnny Appleseed character brought antibiotics
to a stone-age society. Without receiving instructions for the
medicine’s use, some tribe members might place the bottle on an
altar and worship it, and others might remove the pills and roll
them over their bodies. “Very few of them, I wager, would take
one every four to six hours,” said Chris Dede, the keynote speaker
at the early October conference “Making Technology Work in Our
having access to high-tech tools does not magically boost learning,
Dede told the crowd of roughly 200 educators at City University.
The key is incorporating technology into an educational model
that challenges stereotypes about schooling, he said. Discussions
about technology opened the door to broader questions about teaching
during an evening that featured Dede, of the Harvard Graduate
School of Education, along with panelists Allen D. Glenn of the
University of Washington, Director of the Center for Children
and Technology, Margaret Honey, and Chip Kimball, Asst. Supt.
at Lake Washington School District in Richmond WA. Anthony Picciano
of Hunter College moderated.
have many ways of teaching and learning that are really profound,”
Dede said. “Within my lifetime it will be considered malpractice
for people to teach with only one medium.”But educators must remain
creative in “this age of regressive schooling” and let go of socially
imbedded ideas about learning, he said. “Professional development
means unlearning almost subconscious beliefs,” he said. “It’s
not primarily intellectual; it’s also emotional and social.”
Pedagogical flexibility is especially important in the protean,
ever-advancing field of technology, where equity means more than
counting the ratio of computers to children, Dede said. “It’s
exciting and daunting and at the same time, it’s a very interesting
time in history,” he said. The sea change in communications also
means that students may be more technologically sophisticated
than their teachers, said Kimball, whose school district is within
shouting distance of Microsoft headquarters. “What happens when
the students know more than the teachers,” Kimball said. “This
is the generation ‘zap’ not ‘gap’“.
Even so, good teaching still stands on its own, he said. And model
technology education is expansive, not reductive, Honey agreed.
“There are upsides and downsides offered by the new technologies,”
she said. “There is the potential for the mundane-such as Power
Point as a motivational exercise in special effects-and there
is thinking about technology and talking deeply and seriously
about the kinds of learning we want kids to be engaged in.” For
students at the High School for Environmental Studies on West
56th Street, learning about technology went hand in hand with
inquiry and activism. They created a website based on ecological
findings about Brooklyn’s polluted Gowanus Canal, trading information
via email with scientists to further their knowledge. “Working
on computers made it much more convenient,” said senior Julia
Curtis, who was among students displaying their technology-based
work during the networking reception after the speakers. “We had
easy access to all kinds of information right in front of us.”#
Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001.
Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919.Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express
consent of the publisher. © 2002.