Related to the last post, a friend passed along a link this afternoon to a story in the NY Times about a school district in North Carolina that is having notable success implementing technology in the classroom. Here’s a representative passage:
“Mooresville’s laptops perform the same tasks as those in hundreds of other districts: they correct worksheets, assemble progress data for teachers, allow for compelling multimedia lessons, and let students work at their own pace or in groups, rather than all listening to one teacher. The difference, teachers and administrators here said, is that they value computers not for the newest content they can deliver, but for how they tap into the oldest of student emotions — curiosity, boredom, embarrassment, angst — and help educators deliver what only people can.
Many classrooms have moved from lecture to lattice, where students collaborate in small groups with the teacher swooping in for consultation. Rather than tell her 11th-grade English students the definition of transcendentalism one recent day, Katheryn Higgins had them crowd-source their own — quite Thoreauly, it turned out — using Google Docs. Back in September, Ms. Higgins had the more outgoing students make presentations on the Declaration of Independence, while shy ones discussed it in an online chat room, which she monitored.”
Yes, you read that correctly. He did write “quite Thoreauly.” As unfortunate as that line may be, it’s not the most disturbing:
“Many students adapted to the overhaul more easily than their teachers, some of whom resented having beloved tools — scripted lectures, printed textbooks and a predictable flow through the curriculum — vanish. The layoffs in 2009 and 2010, of about 10 percent of the district’s teachers, helped weed out the most reluctant, Mr. Edwards said; others he was able to convince that the technology would actually allow for more personal and enjoyable interaction with students.”
Once more, the layoffs “helped weed out the most reluctant.”
I’m far from suggesting that there is never a time to let go of incompetent teachers, but it seems to me that this is a net that is just as likely to snare competent teachers as incompetent ones.
The message in this case seems clear: resistance is futile, I believe is the line. It rather reminds me of the motto of the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair which I stumbled upon recently — “Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms”.
So it would seem, at least as this writer presents the case.