December 16, 2012

PIE: Calculations and Understanding

 I laughed the first time I read the captions of the image ABOVE:

I grimaced when I saw the one BELOW:


Because together they made me think that as a classroom teacher I am incredibly guilty of holding kids back.

Add to this mix: my grandson was sitting on my lap, watching a Sesame Street YouTube. He was fiddling with a pen as well, as he recently learned that you could draw things as well. At one point he informed me, "You can bite this end." and proceeded to chew on the capped end. When his video ended, he flipped his pen so the cap was down and tapped the long bar to play the video again. It wasn't a lucky shot. It wasn't an accident. He knew exactly what he was doing. He's been ex-utero for EXACTLY twenty-eight months and one day, yet he handles computers as if he was born to them.

Oh. He was.

I was also thinking about a failed referendum in our district ($5 million over 5 years for technology updates) as well as reading how kids aren't reading much any more. Also, I read the blogs and articles of old folks (25 years old +) who trumpet the ascendancy of the ebook.

All of this together collides in this way:

Old folks -- those people who are 25 years old and older -- were born on the cusp of a renaissance. Once the computer had been integrated into society, it remained only for a generation to be born who knew nothing BUT instantaneous computer connections, keyboards and lighted screens. These kids are confronted on a daily basis with teachers who actually had to LEARN to use computers or type in HTML. Bits are placed in their mouths by people (like me) who once taught with mimeograph machines, overhead projectors, hand-written grade books, "attendance lists" posted on doors for collection, and 16mm film projectors -- and then they are told to "take notes and read this assignment making sure you highlight the main idea in each paragraph".



These kids can look at the first image -- and then find the answer without batting an eyelash by finding it on the internet -- my guess is that the second image was done by a 24 month old toddler.  These kids are not drawn into reading because all they have to read is paper textbooks and paper fiction. We (the public schools I work in) don't HAVE ipads, Kindles, Nooks or Sony Ereaders in our school library. These kids rarely, if ever, pick up a paper book to read. Especially when all they have to do is wait until the book is made into a movie. They will NEVER get the books we enjoyed as young people -- or the SF being written for young adults today (sparse to say the least -- because "teenagers don't read science fiction"...and the community refuses to support technology for the schools, believing (sometimes rightly -- but never always) that it will only be a waste.
I've tried saying this in other fora but not sure if I'm getting through: The REAL change will take place when STUDENTS start reading ebooks at school. Virtually every assigned textbook and novel-for-class in my school of 2000 students is paper. Until the SCHOOL revolution occurs (and I work at a school that is 55% non-white, 40% free-and-reduced lunch, one step out of the inner city), the numbers will probably stay flat. The first company that can REALLY get an ebook into the hands of middle and high school students (and I mean REALLY make it affordable to the lower middle class and poor) will be the first to change how the US reads...So, schools remain in the late seventies technologically with TEACHERS mostly from that same era (some slightly later) attempting to both educate and intellectually engage these young people.

I can say without hesitation that we are failing. As long as we blithely traipse into our future paying minimal attention to the young people we should be recruiting to our vision and blame them for their "school failures" (and please carefully NOTE: I am not saying we excuse laziness, sloth or intentional education sabotage), we will continue our long slide into a technological Dark Age.

All that from two silly internet images, my grandson's facility with a computer, the loss of a school district technology referendum, and the old folks (25+) trumpeting the proliferation of ebooks (while at the same time either not voting for the money to SERIOUSLY upgrade the technology available to public schools; ignoring the issue; or not doing lots and lots more to get ACTUALLY affordable ebook readers (at the bare minimum) into schools.

 Reference: Nathan Bransford's blog -- Comment #36,

No comments: