Why are schools the only ones that are immune to modernity?

‘Currently, it is important that teachers and students understand that they can contribute to the effective use of technological innovations in different formats and on different occasions, as well as new ways of using them in activities and projects in the classroom.’ Debora Garofalo – Teaching Collaborative Programming – a Creativity Adventure Using Lynx

With the constant shift that we are experiencing in technology it is extremely difficult to keep up with all of the developments. Snippets here and there can attempt to address these changes however this approach is time consuming and can often seem futile in the face of the ever changing technological landscape.

‘Many people do share this sense of urgency for school improvement… yet, somehow they keep pushing in the wrong direction. Why?’ Lior Schenk –  Fablearn Fellows Webinar

One approach of schools is to seek external support in the form of resources or specialist teachers to fill ‘the gap’ this approach only serves to broaden the divide and deskill staff. The core subjects and the changes in the national curriculum are of primary concern and as a result non-core subjects such as music and computing are considered less important.

Gary Stager recently reminded the FabLearn Fellows of a quote from Papert:

‘The phrase ‘technology and education’ usually means inventing gadgets to teach the same old stuff in a thinly disguised version of the same old way’ Seymour Papert 1971

My son was recently sent home from school as someone in the class Covid ‘bubble’ had a positive covid test. Having to self isolate for ten days, my wife and I embarked on the juggling act that is ‘home learning’ with a six year old. The double edged sword of trying to spend meaningful ‘learning’ moments with our child whilst attempting to meet the demands of our full time jobs is disappointing at best, for all involved.

Like many families, my wife and I work full time from home and have done so since the beginning of the UK lockdown. Through the access to Google classroom, the days continued with a drip feed of .pdf documents to his inbox. The fatigue of endless worksheets not only filled him with dread but the addition of ‘payed for content’ added an extra blow to proceedings. Listening to badly recorded voice overs and slick slide animations for a day is enough to make the keenest enthusiast’s toes curl, let alone ten days.

The disconnect between access to technology and the ideology of the media ensures that our generation has been marginalised. The irony of the situation is that we have in our pocket right now the ability to collaborate and learn. Instead most people choose to observe other people and compare themselves to them.

Gary Stager also reminded us to ‘Reject the notion that some people don’t want to learn, if you’re awake you’re learning, they just might not be learning what you want to teach them.’This idea reminds us of our responsibility as educators to make our teachings relevant. It can be difficult to face the reality of technologies that are constantly fighting for our attention. This is a problem not just for our learners but for educators too. How do we embrace new discoveries and compete against highly funded manipulative forms of media, could I be looking at this in the wrong way?

The continuous development of staff in the mainstream education system is centred around core subjects that have little correlation with each other, each stands alone in a silo, a discipline independent of one another. Meanwhile the ‘glue’ or common factor is slowly erased from existence. Creative subjects are regarded as a sideline, a hobby, something that won’t amount to anything or result in any real gains. This opinion is perpetuated by the reduction of funding for education and the oversimplification of ‘entertainment’ through reality TV and media.

‘One might even consider the popularity of reality television as a manifestation of our desire to make things and have authentic learning experiences with experts’ Sylvia Libow Martinez, Gary Stager Ph.D – Invent to Learn

The event of reality television has given rise to the idea that we can all become celebrities, the idea of becoming ‘rich’ is observable and enticing. Why listen to teachers when ‘you’re gonna be a millionaire’, let’s not think about the now, let’s be in the ‘when’. In the meantime the diet is supplemented by endless scrolling; entertain me, let me watch, I will judge and move on. I’m going to be something. Has this form of oppressive media replaced our desire to learn and in turn halted our path to liberation?

Reality television can suggest to us that we should behave in a certain way, laugh at the same things and look the same way, we perceive the world through a production’s lens. Any deviation from the ideology presents an opportunity for ridicule, this teaches us that to exist we should ‘conform’ to the norm. Money, access to money, perceived wealth, coercion and manipulation play a huge part in today’s society; this is something the modern education system is not currently equipped to navigate. At the same time small time ‘education resource’ companies compete with big media; Instagram, Tik Tok and Facebook that all churn out terabytes of manipulative content a minute, fresh for human consumption.

‘Does a focus on entrepreneurship serve to create things of value for a common good? Or does it rather serve to feed a pipeline of workers for elite corporations?’ Lior Schenk – Fablearn Fellows Webinar

Education’s interest in entrepreneurship is perhaps an attempt to keep up with corporate globalisation. This is the currency that we are told we should aspire to. This message is enforced by tech firms that dictate how we should use our technology. The ‘sealed unit’ electronic devices with huge computing power that we carry around with us bear little resemblance to the ‘mud pie’ that Papert dreamt of.

‘I am talking of a world in which children have free access to a computer. They decide where to go with it and what to do with it’ Papert – Intelligent Schoolhouse – Readings on Computers & Learning

Gary Stager’s statement ‘if you’re awake you’re learning, they just might not be learning what you want to teach them’ rings true, maybe a solution is to acknowledge how social media affects communities. We must find a way to use the technology that is widely available to perpetuate learning instead of allowing it to program us and our children and as Papert did ‘try to deviate this force a little’.

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