Whence and whither technology? Why?

from the Diane Ravitch blog:

That is, all too often technology is no
panacea to improving learning and often undermines funding that might have
gone to reducing class sizes, and improving teacher salaries and facilities.
Based on his many classroom observations, Oppenheimer said that “more often
than not” classroom use of computers encouraged “everybody in the room to go
off task.” He noted that a UCLA research team investigating results from
the Third International Math and Sciences Study (TIMSS) reviewed video from
8th grade math and science classes in seven different countries. One
difference stood out: while American teachers use overhead projectors (and
increasingly now LCDs), teachers in other countries still use blackboards,
which maintain “a complete record of the entire lesson.”

A recent Texas study found that “there was no evidence linking technology immersion with student self-directed learning or their general satisfaction with schoolwork.” And the New York Times reported recently on classroom use of technology in Arizona, where “The digital push aims to go far beyond gadgets to transform the very nature of the classroom.” As the Times reported, “schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.”

Now this reflects what I felt years ago (I’m in AZ, BTW) as computers and other AV devices were installed in classrooms. How was I to use these? Of course, the school district and professional organizations all rushed to provide teachers with training on how to use all this marvelous technology, but I never saw anything that really made sense in terms of replacing face-time with a teacher. I liked Prezi b/c I loved using graphic organizers, but I would put the graph on the board or OHP (overhead projector) and have students fill it in with me as a way of getting in lots of comprehensible input. Most of the countless power point things – I’ve never used those – seemed ominously tilted toward grammar instruction. I certainly instructed students in grammar, for reasons other than acquiring the language, but I found that prefabricated displays on handouts, blackboards, or higher tech devices, fell on deaf ears and blind eyes, it was not received as input – and I don’t mean input in L2, just mental processing input. When I wrote out a lecture in the TL on the board, filling several blackboards (actually, white boards in the latter days of my teaching), I would erase it all and do it all over again for the next class.

Oh, and lots of eye contact. My neck still hurts ten years later what with all the turning around to check for comprehension as I scribbled on the board. It is my firm belief that many teachers would regard me as just silly for doing all that; why not just type it up on a handout and “go over it” with them?

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