Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Teaching in 2030 OR Nightmare on Elm Street - The School House Massacres

It's Back To The Future time, y'all!!  That's right - time to think about education in 2030 and what the heck THAT is going to look like. 

*day dreams of train wreck*

Welcome to the second installment of my Future of Education series in which we pick apart a series of essays compiled by the Hoover Institute.  (If you missed round number one of this discussion, you can click here.)

As always, we shall place our focus on the role of TEACHERS in these essays, because someone has to.  It might as well be us.  Clearly, I'll throw in some Mrs. Mimi flav-ah just to keep you on your toes. 

Well, friends, as we have learned before, we must first consider the source. (I mean, if we took what everyone was saying about US at face value without considering the d-bag...uh source, I think there are many of us who would never leave the house again.)  As far as I can tell, Grover J. Whitehurst is a numbers guy.  When I read his bio, I learned that he was appointed to the Institute of Education Sciences by George W. Apparently he is all about "scentifically-based research." I don't know about you, but to me, that sounds like someone who is a pusher of "scientifically proven curriculum."  BUZZ WORD ALERT!!  That is one buzzword that totally makes my skin crawl. 

All of a sudden I'm picturing myself in a lab coat ( and fabulous spectator heels to go with the whole black and white look, of course), holding a clipboard and looking out at a classroom filled with children in cages.  Very lab rat.  Very unrealistic.

I mean, in my mind, boyfriend is like a step away from speaking the words "one-size fits all" and those words?  Those are fighting words. 

To be fair, I also learned that Mr. Whitehurst is very interested in pre-reading and looking at early reading achievement.  I guess that's an upside. 

Clearly, I need to work on being fair and balanced...

Okay.  So Mr. Whitehurst has written an essay entitled "Curriculum Then and Now."  I read it and now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get a tissue. 

Why, you ask?

Because I'm sobbing.  That's why.

The picture this man paints is bleak.  Very, very bleak.  And implies that we are going to take what we have learned about the importance of the relationship between teacher and student and throw it out the window.  After giving it a nice solid beating out in a field a la the copier in Office Space. 

According to this Whitehurst person (who feels more like the Grim Reaper predicting our demise right about now), teaching will fall victim, "... to the triple whammy of unsupportable costs, the dramatic expansion of parental choice, and the marriage of cognitive science and instructional technology."

Translation?  No more teachers standing in front of students. No more teachers planning curriculum.  No more teachers interacting with children.  Imagine teaching as we know it being completely replaced by technology.

Now, I love my lap top.  A lot.  A. LOT.  But right now?  I'm definitely giving it the stink eye.

Whitehurst predicts that massive teacher layoffs (which came about as a result of the economic decline in 2008 and the current climate of teacher bashing) lead to the demise of schools.  Parents, given absolute choice, were left to choose the best of the worst. 

By 2015, Whitehurst writes that we are all going to see the writing on the wall - the future of curriculum and instruction lies in technology.  Yes, friends, by 2020 the "age of paper" will officially come to an end and computers will take over.

Scope and sequences will be created by computers through a process called empirical back mapping which looks at the skills a child needs to acquire to be successful with a pre-determined end result.  We're going to call it "a content acquisition sequence."

Feel like R2D2, yet?

Students will receive "software-guided instruction" which will be highly individualized.  If children struggle with a particular skill, software will be designed to predict the best alternative module to encourage ultimate mastery. 

Finally, due to the predicted advancements in cognitive sciences, learning will largely be assessed by examining the degree to which neural changes have occurred in the brain of the student.

Say THAT five times fast.

Whitehurst concludes his narrative prediction with:
"He (the teacher) rarely stood in front of a class of students, but then nobody else did either."

And the scariest part?  Whitehurst heavily implies that this is all for the best.

Am I saying that technology is bad?  No, not when it is well integrated.  Am I saying that education should never change and remain resistant?  No, that is insane.  Am I saying that teachers shouldn't have to change with the times?  No, we need to flexible...I think that is one of the most exciting aspects of our profession.

I AM saying that the idea that we will essentially become computer programmers who no longer interact with children scares the crap out of me.


If this was a movie, I would walk out because it would be far too frightening.  But it's too late now.  I've read the whole essay.  Cue the nightmares!

7 comments:

Stu said...

I think he's wrong. There's a human element in teaching which technology can't reproduce. With all due respect to R2D2 and C3PO, a computer is not a warm, caring, understanding adult.

In 2030 I'll be 82 years old. I hope to be volunteering in one of my grandchildren's classroom. :)

Sunny said...

Sadly, the district where I work is already trying to do this at the high school level, although they are not using a good program. Basically they are going to cut some 70 secondary teachers and replace them with computer modules. Nope, I'm not joking. It makes me VERY glad I don't teach high school because I would quit before I would become a facilitator to a computer program.

eshyde said...

Teaching is purely an act of humanity and relationship and I'm sorry, as much as stupid people try, you can't take the human out of teaching.

I'd love for these policy makers and budget cutters to come spend a day in a real classroom. Let's take my classroom...today I had two visitors from other classes come to me with needs that (SHOCK) were not academic.

How you can possibly begin to teach children their 10 facts or strategies of decoding without FIRST and FOREMOST taking care of the PERSON and establishing a relationship with that child, I've no idea.

Would you (policy maker) want to send your children to a school where they are not treated as a person and their needs (be it academic or social) are not met? I think not.

futureflstar said...

I think he is wrong but I also think we will see technology boom even further in the classroom. To be truthful, looking at next year I am beyond excited because I am getting a lot of the new technology(hello mimio!) but I also see the downside in it all. Computers can't do everything though so I am hopeful my job is secure...at least for now. I hope so anyway. I'm only heading in to year 2!

*Nikki* said...

i agree with a few of the other comments..you can't get a shoulder to cry on or a great big bear hug from a computer. I just graduated college with my associates degree and I have taken web classes along with sitting in a classroom ..nothing beats the hands on learning experience you can get from SOMEONE teaching it to you. Of course you can learn things from the computer ..we all do..but to learn something from a computer you know nothing about with no one there to give you a "good job" ..sucks! In my opinion hated the web classes..there was no social interaction...and you have to be extrememly self disciplined to sit yourself down in front of your computer to do your homework. Another thing..what is this going to do for exercise for these kids...to be sat in front of a computer to learn..sometimes we want to give kids things we never had..but we forget to give kids things we did have..
I had a professor make our class write a research paper over a topic..without using a computer...yea...we had to dig out the encyclopedias...and go to the library and search through library cards to find what we were looking for...and to tell you the truth I actually learned more doing it that way ..than copying and pasting and changing words around on the internet.
I don't know who this guy is..and could care less to know..but to me he sounds like a whack job!
sorry...i mean...a mean man! :) Just my opinion.

Me said...

Usually, I just lurk around and stalk your posts. However, upon reading this, I feel the need to drop the incognito-ness and rant a bit:

Technology is a very very good thing, but we are abusing it. Badly. If we don't watch out, we'll turn into some freaky sci-fi world and robots will take over.

We've already introduced a bit of this [crap] to the schools in my district. Mostly tests [of course.] And let me tell you, they bore the pants off of me. And it's not just a personal thing: everyone hates them. Students, teachers, parents, lower administrators, janitors, class pets, the cockroaches that hide under the desks. They're so... IMPERSONAL. Without human communication... there's no motivation. No incentive. No... satisfaction.
What do kids love? They love it when they schieve something and recieve praise from the teacher.

From the perspective of an honors student, I can easily say that without my teachers, I would be tempted to drop out of school.
People NEED human interaction. Need it. ESPECIALLY young children. Any children, actually. If you remove that element, you will have some very deprived, unmotivated children.

Can computers duplicate human love?
I don't think so. So let's stop trying, ok?

Patti said...

Boy, I had to take a deep breath after reading this post. As a person with a business degree with a focus in computing I have some definite opinions about the way that technology is applied to my current education career.

It mostly stinks.

Teachers and administrators, no offense, are often very intrigued by the new and shiny. Technology is very new and shiny when the marketer stops by the staff meeting. But all that glitters is not gold, my friends. Technology is not the answer, it is but one tool of the many you should have in your toolbox. You have to pick and choose what works for you and your friends in your corner of the world. I know that it's the admin types who need to hear this, but I don't see them listening to my rant, do you?

I think that something that's "highly individualized" is something I can support. But the technology isn't there yet and it won't be for a long time. Why not? Because the heuristics involved in creating such a program are HUGE. Just ask the folks programming automated recognition programs for the military. Recognizing if something is a tank or not from overhead photos should be fairly straightforward and yet it took the best minds many years to figure out how to teach to the technology. Now look at how hard it is to recognize what a child needs at any given moment. What a task! There's a lifetime of work for that, if you want the best of the best you'll need the best teachers you can find and then you'll need to follow their decisions for much of their careers. Think anyone's up for that in our world of instant gratification?

When you have a classroom of 30 friends your ability to make individualized choices for them is already greatly diminished. I can see how a well-done piece of tech can help with that. That tech could take some of that load from us and then let us deal with the whole person, guiding the tech when it seems to go astray and giving the hugs the rest of the time. But of course, it won't work that way. Maybe we won't even get to be with real live children at all any more.

I don't mind seeing my job as a facilitator because that's how I see it now. I may jump off a bridge if I'm forced to use such technology before it's ready and the schools are ready. There are so many cultural issues I can't delve into here, but I think you all have ideas about that too.

I guess what I'm saying is that in an ideal situation this might not be so bad, but I can't see the ideal situation existing in my lifetime. I just can't.

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