Whose Learning is on a Curve?

An article in today’s Sunday Age (“Brace for a steep re-learning curve in the classroom” by Mark Pesce) has inspired this post.

In this article, the author asserts that:

(1) “The classroom exists entirely outside the hyperative media sphere that teenagers today inhabit every..moment..the wealth of human knowledge..has been locked outside..the classroom is now seen by students as increasingly irrelevant to the real world”

(2) “The bigger problems are the lack of teacher training and the fundamental mismatch between a 20th century curriculum and its associated pedagogy and 21st century learning”

(3) “Teachers are overworked, underpaid, time poor and over committed. They may have enormous influence over the minds of their students but they have little control over the curriculum”

(4) “Dropping computers …[into classrooms]..precariously flips the balance of power from teachers to students..”

(5) “Teachers work from a mandated curriculum that, with very few exceptions, doesn’t even entertain the idea of computers and the internet. ….computers [must be] integrated into it, becoming a potent tool alongside the textbook and the chalkboard”

I hardly know where to start. I don’t know where Mark Pesce gets his information from about what’s happening in schools but I think that he needs to get on a learning curve of his own and begin a hasty ascent.

Many schools have been integrating the use of laptop computers into their methodologies for quite some time – some for as long as 17 years. Whilst the content of a curriculum may be mandated, it has always been (and hopefully will remain so), the individual teacher in a classroom who determines the methodologies by which that content is delivered. Regular readers know that I am passionate about methodologies that engender understanding within our students. These methodologies can, and should, be chosen from a broad repertoire…a repertoire that draws upon a strong pedagogical knowledge, a depth of discipline knowledge and a knowledge of available resources.

I have the privilege of working with people and knowing of people who are eager to learn about new technologies and incorporate these into their repertoire of methodologies. Teachers who use ClickView, who use PowerPoint as a self-directed learning tool for students, who set assignments that have direct links to websites to search for relevant information, who set activities on an online forum, who use blogs and wikis within their classes as well as to share their professional practice, who use podcasts, who ask their students “If you were to come up with an avatar for yourself, what would it look like and why?”, who access online sites such as Mathletics and Spellodrome, who use engaging activities such as Maths 300, who use resources such as the Learning Federation Learning Objects and the Curriculum Corporation site,who inform their students about sites that might be helpful for their learning…and the list goes on.

The picture that Mark Pesce seems to paint is one of well-meaning but under resourced teachers standing around the edges of the technology revolution looking flummoxed and ill at ease at the threatened loss of their power within the classroom once computers arrive. This may have been partially true some time ago but, in my experience, certainly is not the case now.

To objectify teachers as, yet again, beings to which things need to be done, is demeaning to the profession. We don’t need to sit around and wait for an education department to tell us what to do and how to do it…and we haven’t. We have the experience to best know what is best for our students. We are continually striving to weave together the threads of curriculum and appropriate methodologies in ways that take into account the available resources at our disposal and the methodologies we could use to create meaningful and authentic learning experiences.

We, as teachers, are active and engaged learners ourselves. We have a voice in this and it deserves to be heard.


About Linda

I have been involved in secondary mathematics education in Victoria, Australia for over 25 years.
This entry was posted in Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Whose Learning is on a Curve?

  1. Lois says:

    The same attitudes exist in the media here in the UK, despite the fact that teachers continue to innovate and change in order to improve their students’ learning experiences. It’s particularly sad that your media have this attitude; like many maths teachers I have been getting many of my best ideas from Australia for some time now…

    I notice the article you refers to is rather alarmist about a student knowing something that a teacher didn’t. Personally I don’t find it threatening or even worrying if this happens. In fact, if students are showing enough interest in the subject to research it and find stuff out for themselves, surely that’s a good thing and ought to be commended – I’d be delighted if more of my students did that! There’s a big difference between a teacher having a good and in-depth knowledge of their subject and being the font of all wisdom.

    After all, once students leave school and get out into the “real world” things will keep being discovered and changing; surely even journalists can see that the skills that we equip our students with will ultimately be more important than the facts we teach them.

  2. Linda says:

    Hi Lois – many thanks for your feedback. It isn’t really the media pushing this attitude; they’re highlighting this issue due to a political agenda rather than an educational one. What saddens me particularly is that the article was written by someone within educational circles and hence this attitude could be promoted in the general community solely because of its publication instead of its vailidity.
    I, also, was disturbed by the implication that we find technology, or students knowing something we don’t, threatening.
    I would love to hear more about the ideas you have found most worthwhile that you have sourced from Australia.

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