The Naysayers…

Why is it that the people who seem to get the spotlight when it comes to talking about new literacies, technology, and how kids learn are the naysayers? I’ve just finished reading “The Dumbest Generation” by Mark Bauerlein – another in what feels like a long string of books with the thesis that young adults/teens/children are becoming less and less “smart” given the kinds and uses of technologies made available to them. Sigh. My gut reaction to these kinds of books is usually to get heated, write something passionate for a teaching journal, and hope that a teacher’s thinking gets moved. That said, this, and the others like it (i.e., Oppenheimer) end up on the NY Times best sellers list and significantly impact readers across the globe. These writers aren’t teachers. These writers don’t do more than step into carefully chosen classrooms (usually non-representative or even generalizable) for a limited period of time, place their gaze typically on what they pre-determined they wanted to see, and then publish conclusions that have impact on parents’ and the “popular” view on the topic.  I think they miss a big point – technology is disruptive – and sometimes that is a VERY good thing.  I’m all for critically examining practice and new technologies – but this (and others like it) swings too far to the other extreme.

Maybe this is part of the reason that I want you to be thinking about the power of your voice (in creating a counter-story of sorts)… Maybe it is part of the reason I’ve been thinking so critically about the kinds of schema that teachers (and those in the popular media) need to have in order to create the classrooms that will actually move students’ thinking… Or, maybe, I’m just venting… This is a disappointing read – and one that makes our work harder. (And, I’m now wondering – what is the counter-text? And, could it have the same “punch” and impact? What if we tell the stories of kids and teachers who are doing really important, engaging work? Does that “sell” as well? Or, is there something “bigger” in our culture that we want to buy into the vision of technology as destructive as opposed to engaging/empowering/necessary… etc.?) I’m fired up. I want to write “The Smartest Generation.”

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2 responses to “The Naysayers…

  1. I hear you and hear you well! I think this is a trend not only with respect to technology and education, as you’ve expressed here, but with issues in education all around. People who are not teachers write and say outrageous things and make policies that don’t make sense for children. But somehow their words become powerful because of who they are or what position they’re in or… I don’t even know. But the voices of real teachers and students about things that really matter are not being heard. And it makes me really angry. The sad thing is… is that I’m getting tired of fighting. I’m losing steam in what seems like a very uphill battle. I don’t want to sound like I’m giving up, but it’s a hard fight to fight… and I don’t know what I/we can do or say or how so that people really listen and make moves that are best for children. Some of it is so deeply engrained in society, and how do we change that? I need some energizing forces but right now it all seems very draining. Does that make any sense?

  2. I agree. I know that teachers are doing some tremendous activities in the classroom which incorporates the use of technology and these teachers are able to balance technology with lessons.

    On a somewhat related note, I had a conversation with a colleague of mine who is a school counselor. I was explaining how this course and others in the program have really impacted my thinking about teaching and my pedagogy. As I was explaining how teachers need to used “multiliteracies” to engage students in learning, he brought up the point of educational “jargon” that means crap and why don’t we just call thing as they are? I’ve been thinking about this statement, is educational “jargon” a bunch of crap? I’d like to think that it isn’t but what else would we call “critical literacy”, “muiltmodal”, “multiliteracies”, “text to text”, etc… and the list goes on. Food for thought?

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