Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What would it look like?

Hare rant 1/13/09

My school district held a meeting of media specialists, teachers, and administrators this week to review the technology curriculum. Not being a teacher I don't have background knowledge or training to know the ins and outs of pedagogy, nor do I have the slightest idea of the elements of a well-designed curriculum; however, I have been working in classrooms (preK-post high transition) for 25 years and in that time I have seen many a highly-touted curriculum come and go. The one curriculum I have not seen to date is a "technology curriculum." May I suggest the reason is there is no need for such an animal?

What would a technology curriculum look like? Answers abound: Computers, of course. Keyboarding. PowerPoint (I have another rant coming on that one.) Spreadsheets. Internet research. Interactive whiteboards. The list goes on, I am sure and as more items come to mind I may come back and add them. But for this post let's take a look at what we have so far.

Computers: do the computers in stores today--not classrooms--look the same as they did 15 years ago? Not at all. Any operations your learned on the computers of 1994 are now all but obsolete. Even since 1999 the operating systems on both Apple and Windows computers have changed numerous times offering vary little carryover old to new. This year for the first time sales of laptops exceeded those of desktops. I would venture a guess that desktops will soon be found only in schools, libraries, museums, and government buildings. Does it make sense that we take up precious instructional time pulling 4th graders out to teach them a "computer" that won't exist by the time they graduate from high school?

Which brings me to keyboarding. I am of an age where I took "Typing" for a year in 10th grade. It proved useful as I made some drinking money typing papers for fellow students in college. The legal age was 18 then. And as children today are expected to use the computer to publish their work much the way I was expected to use a fountain pen on unlined erase-able bond paper, it makes sense for them to know their way around the keyboard. But do we need to have a technology curriculum for kids to learn keyboarding? And think about this...What if there aren't keyboards five or ten years from now?

And talk about dead-in-the-water! PowerPoint, please, tell me what why we continue to beat this dead horse. When was the last time you saw a really good slide presentation, and I am not talking about those ones you get through e-mail with the funny pictures of babies and animals?

Spreadsheets are wonderful tools. I use them all the time. They should be taught across every discipline so that students can use them to collect and analyse data, build simple databases, perform math functions, construct charts and graphs,etc. Again, no need for a separate curriculum here. Just teach spreadsheets in the courses where the application is appropriate.

Internet research is an undeniably essential tool. We'd be doing our students a huge disservice by not teaching them how gather credible information from primary, secondary and tertiary sources on the Internet. Do we need a technology curriculum to do that or could this be a given objective in every subject we teach?

Interactive whiteboards? Wow, they look wonderful. We don't have any in our district yet. I'll try not to sound too sour here. Yes, they're great if the money is available and teachers take advantage of even half of the fantastic resources behind them, but it would be unwise to construct a technology curriculum around them. They are a tool to be embraced if they fit into the budget, but again they are a means to an end, not the end itself.

This rant is not yet finished. Next post, I plan to address the items that did not appear on the list above, but which I believe may be more relevant elements in a technology curriculum today.

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