Hereâ€™s a recent example. Michael Schrage, someone Iâ€™ve never met, but whose works I have enjoyed reading, wrote recently in the Financial Times: The â€œedutainersâ€ merit a failing grade. Now this is a guy who wrote Serious Play, a researcher in innovation at MIT, someone who has been active at all levels of education for a quarter of a century.
So I take notice. He says â€œWhat better way to breed cognitively spoilt children than sparkly tools that cater to their impatience and short attention spans?â€ He goes on to say â€œClassroom computing offers less of a bold vision than a cowardly cheat by technocrats counting on technical innovation to shield themselves from hard questions about what schools should be.â€
I believe he makes three important points.
- One, misguided early adoption could have resulted in painful write-offs: a timing issue
- Two,Â most educational software has nothing to do with cultivating character: a process issue
- Three, technology could be used as a medium to redefine relationships between schools and communities creatively
I agree with all three points. I also agree with him that we shouldnâ€™t make the hyperactive short-attention-span problem worse.
I infer from his article that he does not believe in Taylorist assembly-line cookie cutter approaches toÂ education, and that we should celebrate the rich diversity present in student humanity. My words, not his. And I agree wholeheartedly.
But despite all these agreements, I believe there is room for computers in the classroom and in the school. For the social aspect of education, for cooking-pot approaches to learning. Blogs and wikis. Networks of networks. Letting our children do things we wouldnâ€™t have dreamt of. Let them have their magic and wonder, and let us do everything we can to protect them from hypnos and mesmer.
I guess what Iâ€™m trying to say, Michael, is I agree with pretty much everything you say about this subject bar the use of social software. In fact I think it is imperative that social software is used to reconnect the child to the teacher and the school and the community. Itâ€™s not about gadgets and glitz. Itâ€™s about connectedness and belonging and sharing and bonding. Thatâ€™s what we need in schools so that learning can take place.