computers, classroom, climbing, etc.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What on Earth are we up to, Part III

Been off sleeping in a half-frozen swamp, trying to catch a glimpse of the mythical mating danse of the black grouse (no luck - this hybrid grouse/capercaillie showed up and scared off all the grouse.)

Still riffing off the huge discussion started by CingT on the use of computers in the classroom. (Check my previous posts below.) She described a school situation at least as bad as that on my earlier post What on Earth are we up to? . Pupils FaceBooking through their days, ignoring the teacher, disconnected from the school they are sitting in.
This didn't go far on del&bruk, but went haywire on her own blog and then spread via Twitter and from blog to blog. Guttorm Hveen has links to some of the most visible blogposts on the topic, if you can read Norwegian.
It's great that there's so much interest in this topic, but much of the discussion here disappoints me, particularly the teachers' views.
They tend to have 3 messages:
1. Teachers need to have good familiarity with computers, the web, and with what they can do with all this technology. Much of the problem is described as a result of teachers' lack of competancy.
2. Students need clear tasks and to work to a product that has a short deadline (usually the end of class) and that is visible and/or useful.
3. Classroom leadership, classroom leadership, classroom leadership. This was one of CingT's opening points, as she suggests that all laptops be closed when the teacher lectures. Several teacher bloggers have wondered if many of us need to be clearer about what kind of behaviour we expect at any particulary time and what exactly it is students are supposed to be doing (and why?).
All well and good, I suppose. I myself swing back and forth between apathy and exactly these positions. The trouble is all this doesn't help, because it doesn't address the problem.
The problem is, as CingT commented earlier here in this blog, "students don't care about school". The boredom expressed by many of the students at my own school matches the comments made by 'Beate' on CingT's blog: she doesen't pay any attention in school because she has something more fun to do and because there are no negative consequences.
The problem has nothing to do with computers. Not to do with teachers, either, although boring teachers and weak leaders probably have a worse time of it in the 1:1 classroom.
The problem is that students are well trained to be entertained, see no value in boredom and do not experience school as exciting or relevant for their lives. Giving them a PC gives them an alternative. It just isn't reasonable to expect them not to make use of that alternative.
So, teachers whine a lot, but my point is not to simply whine about the system for the sake of it. My teaching has come to a standstill and I don't think I'm in a position to change this easily. I haven't created the situation, so I need help in creating a different one.
Educating teachers will not help. Foisting responsibility onto individual teachers under the banner of 'Better classroom leadership' will not help. It's time to rethink the classroom more fundamentally.
Picture credit: lygren.blogspot.com/


  1. You're absolutely, unquestionably right. We need to rethink the classroom solution, teaching methods, and the education system itself. We need reforms and politicians who actually listen to the teachers and the students out there, trying to get attention and create awareness about the situation. There is no way we can deny this. And I'm not going to make a fuss about Acting Now this time, I've already said too much about that.

    Why don't you take this idea further? Create a discussion or a group in d&b, maybe Twitter Solhjell, or at least leave a comment on his blog, where you tell him what you think, and that you believe we need change. We need a lot more than some blog posts to be able to do this. We need politicians, and we need to create political awareness about this particular subject.

    I do agree with about the reactions from the teachers.
    The reason to why I suggest classroom leadership, is that I don't see this revolutionary reform coming anytime soon. But you're right, this doesn't address the problem. I believe we need change. But in the meantime we need to do the best we can with what we've got.
    The bottom line in everything we do, should be changing this system and the way we try and educate the future.

    To quote a rather famous politician - "Yes we can".

    (It will just take some time).

  2. Well, as usual, you're right too.

    I have class again tomorrow and next week and soon it's exam time. I need short-term strategy as well as long-term.

    The point is that increasingly, I find the things I do to cope with this situation are not the things that are going to work in the long run. This is whole reason why I keep banging on about this subject: I just can't agree with all of the teachers who post here and there making this the individual teacher's responsibility.

  3. -And there it is, the point I was trying to make, but didn't have time to write about :)HOW can we make what happens i the classroom more interessting? Because I am still convinced that Facebook will be less of a problem, if the alternative is an interresting lecture of some sort!

    (And as Simon already wrote it, I wont be writing that promised blogpost anyway.)

  4. Well, I'm not done with this yet, and neither are a whole lot of other people...

    This is getting a lot of virtual ink in Norway at the moment (on d&b for instance. The dominant view seems to be that classroom leadership and good teaching will solve much of the problem.


    I don't think so. I think this is the culture clash in the classroom that we often underplay coming into full view. I think that this is a real challenge to traditional schooling.


  5. My blog is translated to several languages (by machine):
    The english version is here: http://guttorm.hveem.no/blogg/en/2009/04/pc-i-skolen-elev-med-mange-gode-refleksjonar/

  6. Interesting. When Tom said that he was following the stir around Carina by using Google translate I checked out what automatically translated blogs and so on.

    Well, I've seen this kind of stuff before. It's regularly turned in as homework by unmotivated pupils in French (and German and Spanish). A kind of surreal poetry, but frequently meaningless. The nuggets of meaning that do show up are usually not in the original. Your blog looks amusing in... "English", but just compare it to the original. Or to anything written by a human, for that matter.

    I can feel another blog post coming on...