Thursday, December 25, 2014

Audrey Watters is freakin' awesome or where can I find a gear to jam.

When I started this blog, I wanted to write about the gap between ed-tech claims and ed-tech reality.   I quickly discovered that there was somebody on that beat who did it much better than I ever could.  Ladies and gentlemen (and the rest of you), if you haven't already met Audrey Watters:  
This summer, America’s premier education expert Bill Gates explained why ed-tech fails. “New technology to engage students holds some promise, but Gates says it tends to only benefit those who are motivated. ‘And the one thing we have a lot of in the United States is unmotivated students,’ Gates said.”
The problem, according to Gates, is not that ed-tech is crap. It’s not that many ed-tech entrepreneurs are snake-oil salesmen. It's not that people make these ludicrous claims about ed-tech revolution and ed-tech magic. It’s not that education policies are ridiculous. It’s not that the market-forces skew what gets pegged as a “problem” and what gets sold as a “solution.” It’s not that school is often boring and schoolwork often meaningless.
It’s that kids don’t give a shit. It’s their fault.
Ed-tech, on the other hand, is awesome.

And then she links to the Lego movie song.  Go read the whole thing along with all the Top Ten trends in ed tech list.  Then weep, weep quiet tears of grief for our profession.   Between a post on teaching skills that describes the de-skilling of American teachers and the creeping idiocy of a nation that sees education only as a tool for employment and not for making a better country (or even for nurturing competing ideas about what that phrase might mean), to a despressing account of how big businesses has been skimming money from school budgets for private profit with little to show from it on the results side.  I don't generally go for the full-blown Jeremiad, that's generally Withwindle territory,  but after that Top Ten list we have the moment where we despair.  If that  top ten list is the future, than we all are in a heap of trouble.  But than, I remember I am a history teacher and that for better or worse, many people saw a guy talk about his education and it helped launch a movement.  Here in Philly, the movement has started.  It's started in Chicago, and it's linking up with other movements.  We still have hope, it's not too late.  As long as your realize:


  1. Diffident Jeremiads, if you please. And Half-Cocked and Half-Baked, never Full-Blown.

  2. Most of the money in the city council budget for schools in NYC this year comes from settlement money because Microsoft over charged them, so saying they receive finding for tech is a joke, and the person who deals with infrastructure budget requests in District 6 (top of Manhattan island) Estimated that 15% were for wiring improvement to support wifi. Meanwhile Dalton, has 1:1 iPads for 1-3 graders and 1:1 laptop for 4-12, and a lot of the 3rd grade teachers report not using them every day because they want them to be effective.
    The gates run edutopia, which has examples of effective tech uses, and some of the most effectively classrooms they cite aren't 1:1 nor do they rely on tech for teaching, but teachers using it sparingly and thoughtfully, so saying its disinterested students just doesn't work within Gates' own context.
    I still take notes by hand in classes I care about because I think it's better, and psychological studies have shown that though less text filled, handwritten notes are more comprehensive and thoughtful.
    Technology can be helpful and effective, but anyone who says it's the demise of teaching or a silver bullet is diluting themselves.

    I don't know how I feel about teaching coding. I only know flash which isn't real and felt tedious, boring, and formulaic, and what I've heard from friends is most paid early work is dull, so teaching it seems secondary to problem solving skills.