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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Technology, anyone?

Sociology class. 12th years. Each pupil gets one of the key terms we have been working on and is to explain it on a short Mp3. The Mp3s go into a bank that pupils can download for help and repetition. I also want to get everyone familiar with Audacity and exporting to Mp3 so that I can get up to speed with a class podcast and other projects. As well as fun and variation, the effect that different media have on social interaction will be a topic for a later unit - so I want to use varied media in class before that.

One pupil complains:" Why all the technology? Why can't we just talk? Why do things always have to be so complicated? I'm not a technical person and I don't like to use technical methods to communicate. I'd prefer to talk face-to-face, in front of people."

I notice that she has two (2!) different chat pages up on her computer while she is saying this. She has also downloaded Skype (among other things) to her laptop.

Not quite sure what's going on here. Does technology become invisible when you are using it for a meaningful goal, and take all your attention when the goals are external or meaningless? (the claims of this pupil to not be a 'technical person' are particularly weird - in her daily life she does more complicated things than what I was asking her to do) Has technology become an easy place to hang one's general dissatisfaction with school? Do teenagers feel invaded when we use 'their' stuff in school? Or has school suddenly become an irritating 'geeks-only' zone?


Photo credit: eBuddy CC


  1. Very interesting observation, Simon. I've heard similar protests. I have a hunch that the students sometimes don't get the point of i.e. recording speech because very few take the time to repeat the curriculum anyway, so why bother? Of course there could be a number of other reasons as well. Somehow this is at the core of something that has to do with motivation and learning, I think - technology becomes invisible when you are motivated, when you need it to achieve something. The girl in your class needs technology to communicate with someone outside the room, or in the room without everybody listening - but she doesn't feel a need to record the oral exercise you provided, because she thinks that it is finished when she leaves the room anyway. A lot of learning (or maybe it's schooling) doesn't feel necessary enough - at least until you know what to do with the stuff you've learned. In this respect, technology is not the problem, but more the fact that the use of technology often requires more engagement than not.

  2. Indeed. I have similar experiences with, for example, administrative staff. Many of them work every day with Excel spreadsheets, financial systems, staff salary systems etc. All highly complicated with a vast number of features and options. However the same people seem daunted by Skype, wikis or iTunes and claim that it's all too technical.
    Maybe it's because they don't identify enough with the technology or see it as someone else's territory (only nerds use that sort of thing). A bit like people who work with computers but can't work out how the washing machine works.

  3. I think that many of the explanations I threw out may have something to them, but the meaninglessness of school to many pupils is probably the most important here. I think this is what Ingunn is pointing to (similar to an exchange I had here in the spring with Tom from Bionic teaching.) Pupils have often had motivation problems in school because they have experienced much of their education as meaningless. In lectures or class conversations, this isn't always so obvious as when we ask the pupils to do something. In this way, technology has a way of confronting us with some of schooling's central paradoxes.