Regular Joe

Unfiltered (and totally caffeinated)

Article Review – How many penguins does it take to sink an Iceberg

The article above was found on Scribd, and is a report from an Irish teacher about the state of education and the possible/perceived/hoped impact of web 2.0.  Overall the article is well put together and poses some interesting points.

The gist is that web 2.0 is more in line with how students interact with the world today, so it should be used in education (page 6-7).  Making a concession to the methods of students could promote better learning outcomes, etc. because we’re meeting them on their ‘playing field’.  I agree and have often touted the benefits of using good instruction in learning management systems because students are used to playing online, it’s not a hard stretch to believe they would also succeed at learning online.  However, my assertion is flawed: terrible instruction in the classroom, ported to an online forum is still terrible instruction.  The success of online resources is solely attributed to the successful pedagogical practices of the facilitator/teacher.  

On page 9 the report goes on to say, 

What ever the merits of our traditional education system and whatever the future needs of our pupils might be, it seems likely that the future economy will require an adaptable workforce with the skills, confidence and autonomy to take on new learning.  Web 2.0 can help prepare our students for this future…

I believe this also to be true.  Working with today’s technology is the only way to prepare for the leaps technology will make in the future (for it’s the experience our students have with current technology that will push the brightest to reassess the need for such technologies or provide them the inspiration to advance current technologies beyond recognition or imagination.  Afterall, this is why we think STEM is so important.  

The issue I have with this article isn’t so much the points of the author, but what it says about the outlook of educational researchers worldwide.  

What if we’re going about educational research mostly wrong?  When I was writing my thesis about education in Vermont (USA) I took for granted a very important tenet observable in educational research: that there is a way to measure educational success and that the mountains of available data shows that some areas/schools are better at it than others.  But the article makes me ask a question which I think is important.  What really are we supposing that educational success is?  (if we aren’t clear on that how can we be certain about what means are better than others?).  And if the goal of education is creating an “adaptable workforce with the skills, confidence and autonomy to take on new learning” are we certain that students just need to learn in groups and on the web?  Are those contradictory? I mean it in this way: if we’re certain what the goal of education is–adaptability–why would we compromise to meet students halfway when forcing them to adapt is really the point?

As you can tell, I’m currently confused by the assertation that technology is part of the answer.  Especially so when I have no idea which goal we’re trying to meet.  Standardized tests, college graduation, jobs, HS graduation?

Thanks to Darren Walker for penning the piece and doing the great research (I plan on reading several of the sources to get a better handle on this topic and more.

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Filed under: Education

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