I am so out of it


I am so out of it

I have discovered I am completely out of it when it comes to dealing with the young. I don’t mean 20 year olds although that can be a challenge. I mean kids in elementary and middle school.
I friend told me that he had restricted his 10-year-old daughter from taking her phone to school. He didn’t want her distracted in class. “But dad,” she whined, “The teacher expects us to have one.”
Being a good parent he didn’t like it when his child lied to him, so he decided to go to the school and check this out. He let his daughter off as usual, then parked around the block, came back into the school, got a hall pass from the cop at the front door, letoff the metal detector, and walked to his daughter’s classroom.
He quietly opened the door and stood silently in the back. Each kid had a phone on his or her desk. The teacher would ask a question and the kids would respond with a text on their phone. He was stunned.
He crept out of the room, went to his car, and drove away. Still stunned. He was going to get to the bottom of this.
After school he went back to the parking area and approached the teacher when she came out. He introduced himself and asked her about the texting. Non plussed, she answered.
First she told him that he wasn’t the first parent with the question. Second she said that since the kids were glued to their phones, mostly a parent issue, she found she could communicate and teach better using the smartphone than in more traditional methods.
My friend just shook his head. “But, But, But’, he stammered, “isn’t part of learning being able to communicate and hearing the input from the other students, being a part of the discussion, arguing over the answer, hearing mistakes and then correcting them. Isn’t that what school is all about.”
The teacher smiled, patted him on the arm like the novice he was, and said. “You have a lot to learn.”
There is an old story about college professors requiring students to wait even if the prof is up to 15 or 20 minutes late. One day the prof was late and after 15 minutes the class left. At the next class, he yelled at them for leaving. “My tape recorder was here. When its here I’m here.” The next day he arrived to see 40 tape recorders neatly running on the students’ desk.
I guess this was the high tech of the day.
I’m saddened when I hear stories like my friend’s. Kids can’t do math (why when they carry around a supercomputer), kids can’t spell (cu, ty, and the rest), And write a complete sentence? HAW – wat 4.
The teacher above took the easy way out. Or am I just old and losing it? I’ll have to check with son Andy who teaches at a high-end college prep school in Northern California. I’m sure everyone carries an iPad. And the most expensive cell phone. Does that help them get into Harvard or Stanford or Cal?

Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

3 Responses

  1. My kids just left elementary school a few years ago and NO PHONES were allowed!!! I fear this young generation is loosing communication skills so anywhere they must use their brains, vocal cords and make eye contact – I am all for it. Getting a job will still require them to sell themselves for a position – I hope they can all do it and not text the boss answers to the interview questions. I still make my kids hand write thank you’s and treat adults with respect and make eye contact at all times. There is something about Old school ways that we must fight to keep around!!

  2. Thanks Dad, for the invite. The danger with asking an educator to talk about education is that we can really get “into the weeds” yet that is also some of the fun. Having been a teacher for 11 years, an administrator for 6 years and a member of the parking industry for 5 years-I have some experience with the education industry and the technology that goes with it.
    Technology is a tool and everyone who has ever used a tool believes that they are using it the best way they know how. I can not speak for the teacher described in the story, yet I can see some benefits for using technology this way. The first being that every student gets to answer the question. I am sure all of us remember the moment in class when the teacher asked a question and we would studiously stare at our desks and pray that the teacher did not call on us and then “zoned out” when the teacher did not call on us. Use of technology can require each student to answer and give the teacher much needed data on what is being learned. Yet I am talking about this in the most optimal situation and with the best of intentions. I would also hope that this is a tool used fairly infrequently and that it is only one of many options that the teacher has to use. Yet we all had teachers who relied on only one concept way too much. Lecture (an education tool that has been around for 1000’s of years) can be the death of learning just as quickly as a cell phone. (“Bueller……Bueller……Voodoo economics”)
    20 years ago technology was to be the savior of education and yet I have never thought of a tool as the savior of anything. It is how that tool is used. At our school (private, very affluent, college prep-95% of our students go to a 4 year university) students can not use cell phones during the school day (unless it is for a class purpose-the photography teacher teaches a unit on using cell phone cameras, etc.) and any other tech is to be used for a specific reason. The main reason is to make sure that students are “present” when they are at school. Makes sense yet I also know that there were plenty of classes that I was physically there yet not “present” for and I went to school when cassettes were all the rage.
    My grandmother retired from teaching prior to my birth (I am 46 years old) and today she could still walk into a classroom on my campus and teach. So could Socrates. Actually the concept of the socratic seminar is making a comeback in education and is a great way to help students to learn and to show what they learn (these are different things). Yet I doubt either one of them could show a youtube clip, use kahoot to play an educational game, access many online books, or utilize many of the tools in our science lab….all of these are great new additions to the learning that can happen in a classroom due to technology. Tech should always be something that enhances and does not take away from yet that is always dependent on who is using it and what they are trying to achieve.
    “Does (tech) help them get into Harvard or Stanford or Cal?” No, of course not, yet it can be a tool that can provide resources we did not previously have access to. I just watched 6 seniors at our school use technology to describe their Junior Fellowship projects. Over the summer the students put in 80 hours on individual projects (piano tuning, dress making, digital animation, etc.) and technology helped them to learn the how of what they were doing (communicate with experts around the world) and explain how they did it (videos of what they did), yet again it was just a tool. They had to learn and they had real live people supporting them.

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