There seems to be a pattern concerning fears about modern technology and education. And it is a mechanism that is used to hammer teachers from the outside and within the profession. The notion is that teachers cannot compete with technology yet they must continually upgrade their teaching methodologies to comply with incorporating those technologies. Mostly this does not come from the students who do not seek learning experiences akin to the technology but when teachers invite such criticisms students join in. This meme reflects this pattern.
When I first started teaching there were apprenticeships in the UK. Business did not like to pay for these apprenticeships and they were phased out passing the burden onto schools without offering any financial resources. Work experience developed as a consequence but from then business complained about the quality of education.
When computers started to become part of the business world there were demands placed on schools. Computer courses that were way too difficult became part of the school system. Various operating systems were introduced as teaching Windows was far too complicated. Computer usage and education always lagged behind the business world because there was never enough money invested in either the resource or teacher education, for most of my teaching life schools did not employ a system manager/technician – the computer teacher maintained them for free. Teachers were expected to embrace every whim of the technology market and introduce appropriate education material without being given any time or training to make such developments. Younger teachers join the profession with more and more computer/smartphone experience, and this slowly pervades through the education system – SLOWLY.
Meanwhile there is ongoing pressure on teachers to incorporate technology – much driven by the vested interests of the computer companies who develop education schemes that require purchase of their products. And many teachers fall in line with this merchandising. Often teachers take a computer career path out of their own interests, and if those teachers are willing to spend sufficient personal time on such projects there are career benefits. Within schools there is always pressure to use technology, I left teaching in 2006 and for maybe 15 years it was a standard job interview question, how do you incorporate technology? Management never offered financial support but only career pressure. Undoubtedly good use of technology benefitted students and benefitted teacher administration such as reports and “markbooks”, but untrained teachers often struggled and it became a big time burden that was often imposed by colleagues – endorsed by the school administration.
When I see memes like the one above it makes me angry. The meme ignores the imposition on colleagues, those people who promote computer usage rarely demand appropriate R&D time for colleagues. Back in the 80s I made such a demand. In the National Curriculum there were maths computer components, I developed worksheets for these and the department liked them. I asked for one day’s research time and one day’s training time for the worksheets, and a supply teacher was quite rightly employed. The last year I did this however the school management placed the burden on the department, because they wanted the worksheets they accepted this. They didn’t tell me until it was already done!!! I would have refused, that happened the last year I was in that school. Because I made such a demand there was no career for me even though colleague appreciation was a good motivation. I hear libertarian attacks on unionism here, but in schools so much work is done by teachers in their “spare time” and then from outside there is criticism of quality; business automatically pays for what is required because lack of quality is lack of profits.
The meme is naïve in other ways. As a child brought up when black-and-white televisions were transitioning to colour, I was always criticised by parents for not amusing myself. But I do remember much time outside the house, football, cycling, “down the tip”, and as a teenager endless walking. As television and computers took hold young people became more and more “hooked”, less and less they learned to amuse themselves. As I said above the pressure to incorporate computing came from management who were unwilling to fund it, it was not the students. Yes the work was boring for them, it always was.
But the real assumption in this meme that makes me deride the naivety is the ignorance the teacher shows of what the purpose of education is. The underlying education methodology behind the meme is that education is meant to educate, and to educate better you should use the contemporaneous technology. Deep down education is not concerned with this. Deep down education is concerned with maintaining the status quo, kids of the 1% getting qualifications and jobs, and poor kids failing but miseducated enough that they think they need to get “loads-of-money”. Part of this conformism in education is the requirement that students accept school discipline, if you can accept school discipline then you can accept the world of work. “Boring” is part of the hidden curriculum, it is part of the training. Education is quite happy to allow teachers to put pressure on each other to include such in the curriculum (without paid Rand D), but it is never meant to be effective education – they want poor computer whizz kids to fail.
And there is an additional factor with “computer games”. Last century a small but significant proportion of computer teachers realised that computer games made for an easy life in disruptive schools. One teacher I had run-ins with made no attempt to teach computing, and just let the disruptive kids play games.
In the end, there is much wrong with this meme and the educational approach behind it. Blind self-interested careerism is a big problem in state education. When younger teachers make demands for such-and-such innovation they should also consider the implications for colleagues, but for many careerists their self-interest blinds them to consequences. This is a sad but common reality amongst the profession.
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