Teacher Voice trumps the Techno-zealots

The Techno Viking is a digital Viking

Further to yesterday's blog, I received a comment from Joe Nutt, who used to be a principal consultant with the CfBT, adding to the points I raised. He's written an extremely readable report (click here), and an even more readable power point presentation (yes, that DOES sound like an oxymoron) which makes many of the points I did, but with greater precision, research, and fewer references to viscera and swearing (if you LIKE that sort of  thing...).

Joe's got form; English teacher for 19 years, state and private; then consultancy work with a number of bodies; Teach First, helped implement the national intranet for Scotland, etc, etc.He is, in many ways, righteous in matters IT and teaching, which makes him a rare beast.

His report says, among other things, that:

  • The implementation of IT has been driven by suppliers, techno-zealots, and the surprisingly digitally illiterate.
  • That the push for digital literacy is simply a push for conventional literacies using new delivery mechanisms, and don't rely on anything ground shaking. In essence digital literacy is simply regular, ready-salted literacy with a funny hat.
  • That IT professionals are often the driving force for the adoption and implementation of resources in the classroom
  • That the government works hand-in-hand with educational suppliers in partnerships designed, from the outset, to promote the adoption of greater IT in classrooms
  • That teachers can be marginalised from this process
  • That there is a staggering paucity of data that supports the purported gains promised by the IT evangelists; that the gains they suggest in grades are spurious and unproven

'Mr Bennett is a C-U-N...'
Anyway, read it for yourself. It's fascinating. Just because children operate in an environment that sizzles with the EMP of wireless interaction, doesn't mean that they need to be taught in a substantially different way. Every future is new; every future is built on the foundations of the past, of now. There is nothing new in this. Just because some people are frightened of the future, doesn't mean the future is frightening. Just because IT is interesting and new, doesn't mean that schools should bow to their integration at every level; where appropriate, yes, but no further.

There is a dreadful assumption in schools now that greater and greater adoption of IT systems is 'what's happening next.' This is because it has become a shibboleth, trickling down from the top via partnerships with IT suppliers, down into LEAs, through Ofsted, and into the school arena. No one ever got a promotion by standing against the rising tide of useless IT. You may as well apply for a senior post by decrying the use of data-based interventions (and see how far THAT will get you).

The Digital Natives are Restless

'Blud, when I get out, we goin' Nando's, innit?'
Can you hear the drums? That's the digital natives, beating a binary tattoo, demanding greater use of interactive and blended learning. Actually, no they're not. Like children everywhere, they like to use what they're comfortable with, and I'm perfectly happy to run with that at times. But they don't dictate what the best way to learn is. Teachers know that. If it's paper and pen, it's paper and pen. If it's text on a screen, then let it be so. One of Joe's points I echo is that even if information is gleaned from multimedia sources, it still boils down to the same thing: text, audio, video. We use them already, only we call them books, TV, recorders. The different resources vary in their usefulness and applicability.

And the final myth is that, as digital natives, kids are somehow proficient in their IT use in a profound way, and teachers have to skip and hustle to keep up. Well, let me tell you, I teach a LOT of kids, and the word 'proficient' doesn't spring to mind, at least for the vast majority. Because it's only ever a minority that are truly proficient with anything. Some kids are coding geniuses (although they don't learn it at school, I assure you, where the emphasis is on 'How to use Excel' and I am NOT f*cking with you), but most are as hapless about even the basics (like the intelligent use of a search engine) as they are about many things. Digital natives MY ARSE.  

Liking Skyrim, Diablo and Halo, Facebook and BBM, isn't the same thing as being literate.

Just because kids are immersed in technology doesn't mean they are digital natives, literate and comfortable in the sophisticated manipulation of those tools, any more than bats, because they live in belfries, are Catholic.

This blog has been brought to you with the pre-digital literacies of reading, writing, and the letters A, B, and C.


Joe's blog
The CfBT report (with link to powerpoint)
My previous blog on this topic
Mt blog on the uselessness of 'Shift Happens' (warning: written before I understood the value of brevity in blogging)
The Techno Viking. Possibly one of my favourite internet memes ever. Wait til he starts doing HIS THING.


  1. Ann Kittenplan19 May 2012 at 17:45

    Went on a SMARTBoard course many years ago, led by the guy who runs echalk http://www.echalk.co.uk/amusements/OpticalIllusions/illusions.aspx.

    The introduction was: "Technology is an excellent servant but an appalling master"

    Wise words.

    They're called interactive whiteboards. I interact with them like crazy. The kids? Not so much.


Post a Comment