Judy O’Connel writes well on issues of Libraries and learning. I like these recent excerpts:

… I am hearing or reading rubbish!!

Doug Johnson in Continuum’s End said

It seems to me that that the continuum between reactionary educators who still find overhead projectors a cutting edge tool and progressive educators who seem to master each tool and philosophy du jour is stretching ever longer every year. As a classroom teacher in the 70s and 80s, we all taught pretty much the same way, with the same sets of tools.

The question of importance to me is not the mastery of tools, but the underlying processes that are important. This is the rub – there are those who, rightly or wrongly, are amongst the elite in terms of commentary or influence on directions in education, who it seems to me have become what my own family constantly remind me not to be…..


Unfortunately there are some amongst us that are so poorly read themselves that they can’t see how silly it is to tout 20th century ‘industrial age schooling’ as the reason for educational change. Oh but they are probably the same people who run your education system, or institution and are good at verbose cliques to justify their actions.

Yes, there’s a lot that needs to change about schooling. Let’s focus on the facts to get there. Cliches are born of ignorance – that’s all. Focus on the revolution not the rhetoric!

I am reminded of the rubbish written about digital immigrants and digital natives – a cliche that doesn’t hold water. I have written about this a lot in the past and it frustrates me to still see people lapping it up at conference and in blog writings.

Some kids love technology, some love singing – sounds like my kids! Sure kids starting school now have only ever known the technologies as part of their lives. But give me a break, this doesn’t mean they are actively engaged with it and know it well. Any more than living in NZ means you love rugby and understand netball!

I do like Judys point about the widening gap between the teachers who actively understand and engage with technologies and those who don’t. Some would argue that we all have to keep up, but many don’t. There are lots of teachers and classrooms out there where a computer is simply and expensive typewriter and an even more expensive way to keep the room warm. ICT PD has extended to nearly 70% of primary schools now but how many schools who have ‘been in the programme’ now have few/no staff who were there when it was happening?

Good points to ponder on I reckon, thanks Judy.

7 Responses to “Rhetoric, cliches and claptrap.”
  1. Wikipedia has an interesting entry under “Digital Native” that includes this paragraph.

    Not everyone agrees with the language and underlying assumptions of the digital native, particularly as it pertains to the concept of their differentiation. There are many reasonable arguments against this differentiation. It suggests a fluidity with technology that not all children and young adults have, and a corresponding awkwardness with technology that not all older adults have. It entirely ignores the fact that the digital universe was conceived of and created by digital immigrants. Finally, in its application, the concept of the digital native preferences technological users as having a special status as it relates to technology because they use it, which glosses over the significant differences between technology users and technology creators.

    I remember hearing Marc Prensky speaking several years ago and although he was a dynamic speaker I couldn’t get my head around the fact that I was in a room where the average age was probably around 50 and he was speaking to a group who were high users of technology. I went back to my classroom and realised there was a whole lot of stuff my 12 years olds didn’t know about using technology that Prensky had just been telling me they were experts at. Perhaps a shift in technical capability is occuring. I have the general perception (no research to back this but just my feeling on it) that my children are better at solving things to do with the computer themselves than they used to be. They aren’t afraid of breaking it like some of them used to be. What I think is still the realm of the teacher is teaching children how to think critically about whatever they are interacting with, be this Shakespere or Software. And encouraging children to be creative in all manner of scientific and artistic endeavor.

    I do think too that we haven’t seen a significant difference in the power computers may be able to bring to schooling because we just haven’t had enough of them for children to get enough screen time for any significant difference to occur. My daughter has just spent about an hour and a half on tutpup.com competing in basic facts maths challenges with people from all over the world. It is only very recently that I have been able to access enough computers so that this sort of experience is possible in my class. There is criticism of classrooms where the computer is just used as an expensive typewriter but in reality it has to be shared so it can’t be used as a thinking and planning tool if it has to be given up to someone else. I have my children plan their writing using thinking maps. They draft by hand and then publish on the computer. Sounds like we are just using it as a typewriter but in reality they do not have enough access to allow them to have a computer whenever they need it. The personal computer hasn’t really been personal for our children. I think this is about to change and I believe we will see significant differences in the way our classrooms can operate. We have been exploring personalising learning. I think a personal computer will be a seriously important part of achieving personalised learning.

    (It must be a long weekend if I have time to write this much)

  2. Sorry I am still a newbie when it comes to html tags obviously.

  3. Hi Greg,

    I like Kathy Schrock’s title she’s been giving herself -- digital pioneer. That seems more positive and accurate for many educators who are now working with technology.

    Take good care of my son who is now working in Wellington!

    All the best,


  4. greg.carroll says:

    I agree Paul with the necessity for sufficient levels of access to enable the usage/engagement/usefulness to increase and as shown a couple of posts ago the threshold for this is pretty close with the emergence of sub-$200 laptops.
    I am not at all sure about 1:1 though. From my experience the power of the technology for kids is in the (immediate, f2f) conversation. Kids arguing about solutions and negotiating through problems seems to me to be a lot more creative and meaningful than engaging in a prolonged virtual conversation -- in written form (often) so requiring quite high level skills not necessarily related to the task as well.
    I suppose it is like now -- I would prefer to be having this conversation with you f2f. And I think we would probably both get more out of it and be able to explore the issues to a wider and deeper level than in the disjointed point and response mode this medium allows.
    Access to anywhere/any time computing is essential to come anywhere near the potential of ‘technologies’ to transform education. Thats why I like laptops rather than desktops. Wireless ability means they can be available when you need them and serving someone elses purposes when they are not. Scaffolding is vital for much new learning and for school learning it is the ROLE of the teacher to do this. Thats where I struggle most with Prensky in that I don’t believe kids have a genetic/chronological disposition to learn with, about or through technology any better than those of us who remember the three term year.
    I was asked the other day by some of our kids who know that ipod touches are coming for Xmas if they could bring them to school …. now there comes another whole realm of possibilities and challenges.

  5. Greg,

    Some good points here. I, like many, have a fundamental disagreement with the native/immigrant opposition. As you say, simple observation tells us just how wrong-headed it is. However, and slightly perversely, I do think Prensky’s notion has, at least, sparked a lengthy and ongoing discussion of the issues that arise around those who are comfortable with technology and those who are not, of whatever age.

    I also like the Digital Pioneer tag, and made the same suggestion in a post way back in 2006 -- the downside, of course, is that its use implies acceptance of the utility of the native/immigrant opposition, with ‘pioneer’ as simply an extension of the analogy.

  6. greg.carroll says:

    I keep coming back to the point Doug makes about the increasing gap between those who are comfortable and fluent and those who are reticent and reluctant. This seems to me to be a much more significant issue to ponder than some supposed arbitrary age-defined competence/pre-disposition.

  7. […] between digital native and digital immigrant into some kind of realistic perspective (see Greg Carroll’s blog for a recent discussion of this issue). More importantly, the Social Media Classroom seems to offer […]

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