The Moore County Board of Education held their March Curriculum Agenda Meeting at the Moore County Schools Administrative Offices on US 15/501 beginning at 4:00 P.M. The focus of the meeting was to introduce the Board members to the "embracement of technology" in the classroom.
The administrators and teachers in this meeting credibly argue that today's kids are more attracted and "engaged" by technology than past generations. Of this there is really no dispute. From this point, they argue that classroom instruction must now "embrace" and, indeed, become focused on and around new technology. This is not merely disastrous, but it is absolutely false.
I will support my premise:
First, take a look at this video. Watch closely the actions involved. Observe carefully, the interaction of the teachers with the Board members and administrators in the breakout sessions. What do you see? I posit that you will see far more focus on learning the apps, manipulating the computers, the mechanics of typing, the manipulation of files and images -- far more on these mechanical things than on the actual "subject matter" of the lesson. Beyond the mechanical, there is far greater emphasis on the "collaboration" and "sharing" of the "experience" through the so-called "back channels" and the "file sharing" than there is on the "subject matter" of the lesson.
And don't tell me that this only because these "old fogies" are technologically inept. No, anyone introduced to new applications and the complexities of sharing data between unfamiliar applications and devices would be so consumed with manipulation of the technology. The students are going to be more focused on all the "bells and whistles" than they will be on the "subject matter".
But beyond that, the students will, undoubtedly, arrive at the "correct answer" to the question. But all they will "know" at that point is (a) how to manipulate their computerized devices to arrive at that answer and (b) what the answer is. They will NOT comprehend anything else about the subject matter.
Consider the acceleration experiment. All the time was focused on "choosing your cars", "taking a video", "marking your points along the path", "transferring your output data to the graphing application", "comparing the graphs", and then recognizing the correct answer. I'll wager good money that the student will not understand anything fundamental about acceleration at the conclusion of this exercise. He/she will not understand the formula for acceleration (that was embedded deep in the computer programming). He/she will not understand WHY the lighter car accelerates more quickly (because the student has not had to apply the underlying theory and formulae). He/she will not be able to CALCULATE acceleration or the increases in acceleration (again that is hidden in the programming, and all the student has to do is to touch the "go" button).
The conclusion is that the student will arrive at the correct answer to the question presented, but will thereupon understand merely the computer mechanics and not the theory, math, and application of the concept of acceleration.
The same can be said of the manipulation of "microscope" images of microbes in the Breakout Session "B". When I was in high school biology, we had to prepare the slide, look at it through a real microscope, analyze what we saw, sketch the image, and label the parts of the cell. What did these "teachers" ask? Take a picture, share it with others in the class, and "comment on what you see". Wow! What a diminution of standards! There is no responsibility to learn, analyze, and document. Only to manipulate the devices and "share" your "comments".
I observed the beginnings of this mess when my own children were in public school. When I attended NC State University, we were not allowed to use fancy new calculators with formulaic functions. No, we had to document our calculations in steps to prove we understood the concepts and how to derive the correct answer. We could use a slide rule (ewwww.... what's that?) We were graded not just on whether we arrived at the correct answer but also on how we got there.
When my kids were in public school (before we pulled them out in horror) the kids were using not only sophisticaed calculators with formula functions but computers, if they could afford them. These students were not learning the theory, fundamentals, and underlying math, algebra, geometry, or calculus -- but only how to enter variables into computerized functions. They, in effect, learned nothing.
I can starkly illustrate the result with a recent experience in a Southern Pines grocery store. I stopped in to pick up a few items on an errand run. Since my purchase was relatively small, I decided to pay in cash. The cashier was an attractive young lady who is obviously a recent graduate of our local high schools. I struck up some "small talk" as she "rang up" my purchase, learning she is, indeed a "local". She finished scanning in my items, and, with a beatific smile said: "Your total comes to $8.06."
This is where I made a terrible mistake.... I handed her a $20 bill and 11¢ in change. I said to her: "I don't have a nickel, so I'll let you give me back a nickel." She looked at me dumfounded and in consternation. She looked at the change in her hand and then at the cash register and then back at the change in her hand. You could see her struggle.... Obviously she had seen the $20 bill I had pulled out in anticipation of paying (I had nothing smaller), and she had already entered that as the payment amount in the register..... Now, she could not simply give me the change the register indicated -- I had changed the equation unexpectedly.
She thought for a while, and then she punched some keys on her register, trying to correct the "amount tendered" in the transaction. She failed. She couldn't figure out how to "fix" the entries. She turned and called to the manager for help. The manager was busy and couldn't come over right then....
She turned back to me with a lost look on her face, apologized, and pulled out an old-timey hand-held calculator. She punched in some numbers on her calculator and announced: "I owe you $12.94 in change.... Right?" "No", I said. "You owe me $12.05 in change." She punched in some more entries in her calculator, shook her head, and tried again with the cash register.... After a while, she looked at me and said: "$12.94?"
Now, I pride myself on integrity and honesty, so I smiled at her and said, "No, I am quite certain that you only owe me $12.05." Exasperated, she turned to look for her manager. Seeing no help, she literally threw up her hands and said, "OK, if you say it's $12,05, that's fine with me...." And she gave me $12.05, whereupon I smiled and left.
This little exercise consumed about twelve minutes of my life that I can never get back.... But what's the point? It's this: This nice young lady, this unfortunate product of our Moore County school system, did not have a clue what she was doing. All she knows how to do is to scan items into her register, enter the amount tendered, and give the customer the change indicated by the machine. She knows how to operate the machine in a perfunctory fashion. And that's all.
When confronted with an unexpected event, she does not know how to calculate proper change. She doesn't know how to do simple addition and subtraction. She cannot count change in the real sense of that term. She can only enter information into the machine and wait for the machine's answer. Pathetic. Terrible. Demoralizing.
But that is what this system is producing. Oh, you don't believe me? Well, look at the video for yourself and think, really think, about it!