My aim is to agitate and disturb people. I’m not selling bread, I’m selling yeast.
-Miguel de Unamuno, writer and philosopher (1864-1936)


Abandon hope all ye who edit here
Huh! Never! I'm a helpless optimist :->> Jill H.
Ahh a "what do I know I don't know" about teaching and learning and ICT's page (Pam 11/9/06)


On R(e)scue Rhetoric

"e-learning has the potential to transform the way we learn. Its about exploiting technologies and using ICT effectively across the curriculum to connect schools and communities and to support evidence based decision making and practices in schools." Steve Maharey Minister of Education 2006 Enabling the 21st Century Learner

I like Humphrey's addition to The Edge 2006 What is your dangerous idea? competition (Pam)

  • "Bertrand Russell's idea, put forward 80 years ago, is about as dangerous as they come. I don't think I can better it: "I wish to propose for the reader's favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true." (The opening lines of his Sceptical essays).It is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it trueNicholas Humphrey Psychologist, London School of Economics; Author, The Mind Made Flesh

Argh! Swat, swat... where is my sceptic repellant.... avagood mind... er... Bertie was a wee bit too clever for mere mortals I suspect, or at least mortals who believe that accountants (a computer is an accountant with a personality) rool. cj 12.9.06

On putting the blessed things in schools

Is it silly to even imagine we could ever have grounds/research/statistics for believing that ICTs can enhance the conditions of value in teaching and learning? ["...if you have to test something carefully to see the difference it makes, then it is not making enough of a difference in the first place" Negroponte] (Pam)

That's not to say that it couldn't if we did the right things. Jill H.

love that quote... that is soo neat. cj 12.9.06


I've read Negroponte's book, Being Digital. and have seen that quote before. I'm almost certain that what he meant was that ICT's were capable of changing education dramatically but that existing school structures and social relations held things back. He was saying the same thing as Seymour Papert, they worked together at MIT. Papert was saying, since 1980 (before the www), that programming languages such as logo could produce megachange in school but also warning that School as an institution would block this.

Yeah well.. it took him a wee while to figure that schools were the problem parked squarely in his progressive parking spot. Never did understand curriculum the old Seymour. cj 12.9.06

I think Seymour did understand curriculum and how it was / is blocking reform. Here's a quote from him as evidence:
A caricatured hierarchical theory of knowledge and of school might run something as follows: Knowledge is made of atomic pieces called facts and concepts and skills. A good citizen needs to possess 40,000 of these atoms. Children can acquire 20 atoms per day. A little calculation shows that 180 days a year for 12 years will be sufficient to get 43,200 atoms into their heads - but the operation will have to be well organised, for while some overrun on time can be absorbed, as little as 10 percent would make it impossible to achieve the goal. It follows that the technicians in charge (hereafter called teachers) have to follow a careful plan (hereafter called the curriculum) that is coordinated over the entire 12 years. They must therefore be required to write down each day which atoms they have delivered into the students memory banks. The problem of quality control is facilitated by the discovery that there are hierarchical relations among the atoms: Facts fall under concepts, concepts can be classified as subjects, and subjects split up as grade levels. A hierarchy of people can be constructed to match the hierarchy of knowledge. Teachers can be supervised by curriculum coordinators and department heads, these by principals, and these in turn by superintendents. (Papert, The Childrens Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer. 1993, p. 62)

We need to view the way computers are used in schools as part of an ongoing sociological drama, to look below the surface to the real issues underneath.

Yup. Mirros of mind and of systems..... now who is the wicked witch in this scenario? cj 12.9.06

Although far broader than a single issue, this point was well expressed by Seymour Papert WRT the issue of computers being chained up securely in computer labs:
The shift from a radically subversive instrument in the classroom to a blunted conservative instrument in the computer lab came neither from lack of knowledge nor from a lack of software. I explain it by an innate intelligence of School, which acted like any living organism in defending itself against a foreign body. It put into motion an immune reaction whose end result would be to digest and assimilate the intruder. Progressive teachers knew very well how to use the computer for their own ends as an instrument of change. Schools knew very well how to nip this subversion in the bud. No one in the story acted out of ignorance about computers, although they might have been naive in failing to understand the sociological drama in which they were actors.

Chaining in labs not the problem. Puttin the blessed things in skool was the problem. See the penance or detention readings (and search for Cuban or Hodas) I suggested the other day. cj 12.9.06

On institutional kneecapping

There are many such example of the way in which computer use is crippled in Schools. For instance, it might be claimed that censorware or filtering software is being used to protect children from pornography and to keep them safe from online predators. On the surface that appears to have some validity but when you examine it closely you find that it is not true. Schools don't care about keeping children safe from on line predators. One thing they do fear is being sued by parents but the real issue of censorware is about controlling how everyone thinks, children and adults. The show on the surface is just part of a deeper sociological drama between the forces of freedom and the forces of conservatism.
(Bill Sep 12)

Ahh, Pam alerted me to this one! I belive that you are right on the button Bill. Last year's minor furore about web filtering in New Zealand didn't really go anywhere. frogblog, and The Fundy Post had a bit of a go but for the most part the mainstram press stayed quiet. Nicki

How ethical is it to valorise the connectivity and just in time facility of ICTs for education in conference blurbs and Ministry releases when we ensure that these very facilities are the ones kneecapped in schools? (Pam)

In May 2005 the then Director of South Australian government school education, Steve Marshall, quoted Alan Kay:
  • "the best way to predict the future is to create it" ... with the release of the Department's Statement of Directions, 2005-2010 we have chosen to embrace similar sentiments.
On the one hand education departments are calling for innovation, change, creating the future, constructivism, more emphasis on engagement with less emphasis on content. On the other hand they are blocking one of the most important sources of the creativity (the read / write web) that they profess to crave for. Does the left hand understand what the right hand is doing? Probably not. It's far more likely that the "progressive theorists" are talking on a different wavelength to the hardnose technocrats. In short, the system is failing us.

"As for government euphemism, it is contemptible not because it is a form of mind control but because it is a form of lying" (Steven Pinker referring to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four. The Language Instinct, p. 58)
(Bill Sep 17)

Does not come cheap either Bill - check out the 0.8 million dollars put aside for "Internet Safety"- now there is a language feature - a little like "peace keeping missile" (Pam 17/9/06) )

Ahh a nice little post "Filtering Frustrations" on New Zealand edublogger Bardwired's blog that is relevant here. (Pam)
  • "Well i did know it was going to happening - an upgrade of the School Zone filtering system. I had my opportunity to vote on appropriate school content but logging on today i find i can't get into my 3 most used sites - flickr, blogger & delicious.
  • You can log onto the Smart Filter database to see how they categorise sites here is the result of my search on some of my favourite sites. Blocked as personal pages - i think we need to look more closely at how we create these filtering categories they don't seem to take into account web 2.0 sites. It's a real tricky question - emerging technologies (such as the many that are now blocked) have huge potential to extend and amplify learning opportunities for our kids (& teachers) yet how do we balance this with providing a safe learning environment (filtered school networks)??
  • Schools do have the ability to unblock sites but who decides in a school and how do they decide without resorting to the knee-jerk reactions to block (or allow) without fully understanding the benefits & issues around Web 2.0 in the classroom. Some work to be done here :-) In the meantime schools plz unblock blogger & flickr so you can read this blog. (of course i am writing this at home on an unfiltered & fast.... connection)

On what we are trying to accomplish

Does education in schools ever accomplish what we believe it does? (Pam)

I think we need to start with the question, "what is education in schools trying to accomplish"? and in light of ICTs, I'm not always sure. Do we want students to be consumers of ICT? or critical consumers of ICT? users of ICT? or exploiters of ICT? As someone who works in teacher education, but not necessarily "ICT", I can't answer those questions! As a parent of too many teenagers, from my observations of their education, I honestly don't know what the point is. Their ICT use at home far exceeds that at school - their learning about the use of ICT doesn't come from me or their teachers (they far exceed my abilities and skills!), it comes from their need to know, their conversations with mates, their experimentation, etc - the digital divide seems to me to exist between what these kids really 'do' with ICT and what happens in education. So what exactly are we trying to accomplish through ICT in school? then we can talk about if we actually accomplish it.(tlr 12/9/06)

Why do we spend so much time worrying about the ICTs? We ought to spend more time thinking about the students! We're often too far behind them to influence their ICT use, but if we engage with them, be prepared to learn from them, be prepared to question and challenge their thinking (hopefully using the medium of their generation), we may have a chance to influence their view on life. We may have a chance to encourage them to think more than superficially about what impact they can be on themselves, their peers and the planet. I know I'm a helpless optimist, but I'm a believer that it is in our engagement with kids that the future lies. Jill H.

The reality, I think, is that technology seduces the students into mindless time-wasting. We are fooled that they will learn but students know a lot more about technology than many teachers and they have a fine time mucking about, wasting hours. (Or do we learn when 'wasting' time ? on repetititve, low-level stuff?) As for building on knowledge, if students are problem solving then maybe they learn - the smart logical thinkers do. These logical thinkers will always learn, whether it is with a screwdriver, sand on the beach, pencil or technology. As for the majority, they indulge repetitively in some mindless activity and do not progress beyond that occupation. It all comes down to teachers learning more so that they can manipulate their learning intentions usefully and be able to guide (sorry, facilitate) students. Too negative? Lin

Best question prize to tlr. My answer... kudos, PR, status... only real purpose the damn stuff achieves. Buggered if you don't have me in the classroom and buggered if you do. (cj 12.9.06)

Wow! A prize ... this article might be of interest to skeptics - relates to my concerns over the "disconnect" between kids' use of ICT in social and educational worlds. I wonder if this results in a disconnect between learning and school - learning and life?

Selwyn, N. (2006). "Exploring the "digital disconnect" between net-savvy students and their schools." Learning, Media & Technology 31(1): 5-17.
Educational commentators have long feared a ‘digital disconnection’ between emerging generations of technology-rich students accustomed to high levels of Internet use and their technology-poor schools. Yet few studies have empirically examined the existence and potential implications of such a disconnect from the students' perspective. The present paper replicates Levin and Arafeh's (2002) US study which solicited online stories from students detailing how they used the Internet for school. Responses from 84 UK secondary school students show that just over half felt restricted in their Internet use at school. Unlike the original US study, the primary disconnect between UK Internet-using students and their schools was not one of physical access but the restriction of their Internet use through school rules and content filters, firewalls and other technologies of control. Whilst some students displayed frustration and disenchantment, most gave measured and sometimes sympathetic views of their schools' less-than-perfect information technology provision. As such, many of our students were well aware of a digital disconnect but displayed a pragmatic acceptance rather than the outright alienation from school that some commentators would suggest.

Here Selwyn suggests the divide is pragmatically accepted by students, albeit with a sigh - whoopdi-do. When we get people who expect not to be able to use technologies effectively they (and we) just grind along in the old ways, going almost nowhere, continually re-creating exactly that same divide.

Students have always had limited resources in school and have looked to public libraries and other places to subsidise their needs. Shortly they will be accessing everything they need on the internet from their cell phones. The resourcing is not the issue. We need to stop using that as an excuse and get on with our number 8 wired approach to life. The glass can be half full. Jill H.

Jill,my glass is always half full however I feel that resourcing is a key issue in schools.There is reference to the digital divide in this wiki but the digital divide in turn creates a huger "knowledge divide".Equity of resourcing is an issue in low decile schools and unfortunately my half full glass doesnt change reality.(By Joves)

*applause*
am delighted Jove that you believe your glass to be always half full - is obvious that you have never been drinking in Irish bars with the Magnet and I - the flaw in Jill's argument is as you identify that the fullness of the glass of the observer is not the significant issue.
Is hard to argue for equity of outcome when some people have not got access to the numvber 8 wire and others are related to the manufacturer (pam)

Just discovered 2 "mindset lists" that are interesting - developed at Massey http://mindset.massey.ac.nz/ based on one developed in the US http://www.beloit.edu/~pubaff/mindset/2010.htm - not much on the NZ one regarding technology but would be worth thinking about.(trl)

The more we discover about cognition and the brain, the more we will realize that education as we know it does not accomplish what we believe it doesJamshed Bharucha Professor of Psychology, Provost, Senior Vice President, Tufts University (Pam)



On drowning and other metaphors

School education is a well constructed shipwreck designed to select the best swimmers. Computers are a new kind of ship, which has more complicated wrecks.
(Bill, Sep 12)

But only in skool Bill! (cj 12.9.06)


On "doin' diffrent stuff".

When we are all done havin' phun at the poor folk who believe in integrashun, tewls, n larnin' with pootahs we best put our demented minds to thunkin' bout whut we 'all figga is sumthin' positive in alla this. Fer meself, it's not 'bout them silly little boxes of dirty silicon, it's 'bout doin' diffrent stuff. (ceejay 12.9.06)

what "different stuff" ceejay? and do we need ICT to do those different things?

OK ... very quick argument: all this tech stuff is about changed relationships (witness this wiki... etc etc) Schools have been pretty good at maintaining existing patterns of relationships and doing its darndest to limit, constrain any new ones that pop out - ie filters, limits to what kids can do etc. in school. So a rethink of what kinds of relationships schools might have with the outside world more or less was the underpinning of the KPS agenda. This is just one small, modest, tiny experiment in doing school differently. In my view we ought to have a zillion such experiments. Assuming that we know how to do it (i.e. school), that this single approach of the current form of schooling is somehow the anwser to educating the youth into this century is fanciful in the extreme. And yes... when you do do different stuff... surprise, surprise the IT stuff kicks in - buit it is NEVER the beginning point. It is always handy to do things with but if you begin with it.... well.... It's a bit like beginning a class with a pencil... ok let's see how we can integrate pencils into the classroom. We will probably need some pencil literacy. We better make sure we have pencils across the curriculum and keep reminding ourselves that the pencil, after all, is just a tool. Enough? (cj 15,9,06)

CJ, you raise an interesting point about schools recreating existing patterns. Recently I heard Frances Valintine of the Media Design School talking about education and, for lack of a better term, the "digital native" (don't choke please). You state that IT is never the beginning point but I think it could be argued that for her and the Media Design School that it was. She created a school for producing specific industry standard skills in graphic design, 3D animation, visual effects etc, after identifying a gap in the market about 8 years ago. Check out their gallery: http://www.mediadesign.school.nz/gallery_overview.asp. Now, there are some basic differences mind, it's a private, tertiary school that produces people that will work in industry. She also discussed the terms by which they employ their tutors. They only come out of industry for 2 year contracts and must complete a further 2 years in the "real world" before returning to the school. She talked about them needing to be up to date and maintaining relevancy. Imagine if you made school teachers be out in the "real world" every two years!!! What would they do!?!? (Cheetah, 17/09/06)

Hey Cheetah, Yep - well media design one owuld hope would start with matters of media and design... which may mean the silly little boxes that manipulate 1's n 0's. I kinda worry about making industry ready folk while accepting the press is on to do just that. What you end up doing is producing folk who fit in quickly but are not well prepared when the ship of industry lurches off the original course. Actually your point about real world stuff is well made and there are some teachers who'd have no trouble - in fact they are probably teaching cos their real world passions/interests don't put enough bread on the table. Here I am thinking of teachers who work in the Arts- ie musicians who have access to mature insider forms of practice (in your terms the 'real world'), drama teachers who act and direct, painting teachers who paint etc. But what about teachers of the high status subjects: maths, science, english... might be in a bit of bother. (cj 18.9.06)

On a different track, I am coming to the conclusion though that school is like "kids work". You rock up at set hours, just like Mum and Dad, you get paid in positive reinforcement (unfortunately not $) and you get weekends and holidays. Why should it change? Aren't we doing our job by producing good little workers? Does it matter a jot what technologies you employ? (Cheetah, 17/09/06)

'cept and perhaps like Mum and Dad they are bored out of their little trees, don't believe in anything they are doing much, other than it is means to end and if they have no end they can readily see then.... (cj 18.9.06)

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet? Captain's log star date 2247: mission to integrate computers into classrooms. We have left the dark planet leaving behind the army of robots chanting "integrate", "we are just tools", "learn for constructivism's sake" and seek refuge in the ministerial nebula, famous for it's sweeping vistas of rapidly changing colours and shapes. The Sceptica call it chameleon sham. Out of the sparkling distraction a new planet emerges. It is a wobbly planet, covered in long white mist. Beam me down Arti!
(cj 12.9.06)

7.10.06. Thank you for the articles in The Edge. I gobbled them up with great interest. I was unsettled but pleased to read Mahzarin. R. Banaji and Eric R Kandel. If we do not know ourselves through introspection and free will is exercised unconsciously then it is important to expose ourselves to other people - people who we admire or who can nurture us, dare I say it, sprititually. I also think that as teachers, we should expose our students to higher level thinking strategies so they can do this unconsciously - with no free will! That a paradox! But if that is what it takes, why not!
I was also intruiged by Judith Rich Harris who says sero parental influence can be a healthy and natural state. On that argument, I think we should stop trying to get the kids to like us, and get them to like themselves, as an unconscious (free will) act. Lin