Response to “libraries”

To support the use of non-electronic media, II would note that more and more research is catching up to the wildfire-like spread of electronic communication, incl. note taking, presenting lessons, grading, doing portfolios, etc. The preliminary things I’ve seen as reported in popular formats and professional advisories indicate growing skepticism regarding the deletion from practice of using more traditional formats like books, notebooks, pen and pencil and paper, etc. Some of it has to do with the sophistication needed to evaluate sources and some of it with the way the mind-eye-hand connection works incl. neurological patterns in learning. We know so little about the brain (why it bothers me that so many cite “brain research” as the basis for practice as if we have a handle on how the brain works e.g. 20 min. into a presentation people need to shift, sleep, or have a cookie), it is premature to abandon techniques that have worked for so many for so long.
That is in no way to turn away from technology but rather to use it judiciously, e.g. allow students to take notes in a way that is comfortable for them, i.e. do not force a student who wants to take notes by hand and therefore cannot do so verbatim to regurgitate the lecture word-for-word. This is what I see happening, teachers who are comfortable with one medium imposing it on all the students in the name of getting them used to new media. If that is the purpose of the class, fine; but if the purpose is to learn a body of knowledge, then what happened to all that talk of multiple intelligences?
My way of teaching involved a scatter-shot approach where I tried to net as many students as possible, appealing to all types. I can go on and on about the various kinds of learners I’ve encountered, more than just the usual auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and so on. That’s one reason I totally – and I mean totally dude totally – approve of tprs – it allows the teacher to allow the student to shape his own learning, to access what he is ready for, and so forth. It is not possible for a teacher to know what every student needs and how they can obtain it. You have to provide a rich environment, a target-rich environment where everyone can find something to learn/acquire.
We see that with language – at least on this listserv – but I’ve heard so many howlers in other subjects from teachers. One of my favorites was when walking down the hallway I passed a room where the teacher was lecturing on medieval history and she mentioned monasteries. She paused and said, “You know what monasteries are, right? Where monks pray and all that? Right. So the king went after the monasteries….” I doubled over laughing, imagining these 16 year olds living in Mesa, AZ., heavy Mormon country, knowing what monks are. But guess what? The teacher had COVERED IT and CHECKED FOR COMPREHENSION (“right?”). A kid with a lap-top could have quickly looked up monastery and could have had a fighting chance to grasp the context of the what the teacher was saying. So technology can help students fill in the gaps teachers inadvertently leave.
Because of my own undisguised hostility toward technology (is there anyone else who’d like to smash a smart phone against the wall when you are trying to talk to someone and they’re fingering the frigging phone?), I push myself to see the good stuff in it and then still urge everyone to question it and preserve good stuff from B.T. (before technology). I can imagine some ancient guy grappling with writing saying, “Kids these days have no memory; they have to write everything, and if they want to know something, they have to read it! Reading and writing will be the death of us!”

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