Monday, June 4, 2012

Response to 'Creating a New Culture of Teaching and Learning' by Alan November

Update 6/27/2012: Article Link


As my TCPCG blogging group will soon find out, I have a hard time saying things concisely. It's a by-product of being trained as a scientist - we (scientists) either write things so concisely that no one without context will understand anything being said, or we end up explaining our explanations of our explanations. That being said, my response to the November article will be systematically done for ease and clarity, since it will likely be longer than the article itself. :P

In result, feel free to respond to only a certain section.


From a writing standpoint, the 'hook' at the beginning (the anecdote) was a great opener to the article. I particularly liked the analogy that members of the older generation may be technologically literate, but 'speak with an accent', while kids are completely fluent in the language...I liked it because it was so accurate.

Starting this article, I thought I would know most of November's points about the challenges and possible dangers of technology. This is because our generation is unique in that we are old enough to remember a time when Internet and cell phones didn't exist, but yet young enough that the boom of technology did not overwhelm the majority of us and we adapted with ferocity. Therefore, we have lived through all the initial 'big' challenges of new technologies (i.e., Napster and music pirating, cyberstalking, etc.), and probably have a better grasp of the issues November talks about compared to younger or older age groups.

Framework for the New Culture
1) If it's on the Internet, is it true?

The story about the boy who told November's mother that the Holocaust did not exist was concerning to me. Not mainly because he believed the Holocaust didn't exist (though I did do a 'double-take' when I read that), but because 1) he was sixteen years old, and 2) this didn't occur at the advent of the Internet. This event supposedly happened in 2008. I would have been interested to know what region and other demographics this individual was a part of.

As November insists, these sorts of incidents are the exact reason why students should be taught how to use the Internet - how to evaluate credible sources while still maintaining the first amendment and all that jazz. And this needs to happen as early as possible in education. But students are not the only ones who need to be educated; adults (and not solely educators) are just as susceptible to online bias. I'm sure that the majority of our parents have simultaneously shot down our side of an argument, citing "not everything on the Internet is true", and then one week later say, "I saw this on the Internet, YOU MUST HEED IT." This is selective bias.

Another controversial argument between young people and some adults is the credibility of Wikipedia. I'm in the camp who asserts that as long as you never actually cite Wikipedia in a project or paper, it's completely fine to start research here, and even utilize the Additional Resources and Links sections as sources, after the usual evaluation of credibility. Some adults feel that anything on Wikipedia is suspect, and they have some validity in their argument, but the important take-home point is that we as an educational society need to come to some sort of consensus on these arguments/issues to maximize technology learning.

One final point. The Hate Directory is no longer online (or, at least, I couldn't find it). I wonder why that is?

2) Coming Attraction: Live Videocameras in Every Classroom

I believe this was a hot-button issue when the article was first published, in 2009. Today, however, I would argue that it is counterproductive to have live video feeds in every classroom, to the extent that the author implies. The author's vision is that parents would have access to these feeds on the web at any point in time, but this raises a migraine of issues.

To what extent would parents have the right to question or take action against a teacher, whether the teacher somehow violates school conduct policy, or is merely ineffective in opinion? Who would have the right to makes these judgement calls? The principal, the superintendent, the PTA? In addition, while one parent would enjoy this access, other parents may feel uncomfortable having their child be viewable on the web by potentially countless others. Even with password access, having a common password distributed to more than a dozen individuals at once increases the risk of a privacy breach.

I truly believe that the ethical and constitutional issues that would have to be sorted out is much more trouble that it's worth. I don't disagree that there will never be videocameras in every classroom...this could potentially be an important monitoring tool for teacher evaluation, but parental access is not a 'coming attraction', not anytime soon.

3) We need to tell our stories!

This reminds me of my senior thesis, which I completed last semester. It was in regards to a common science elementary curriculum...or, more accurately, the lack thereof. Historically, teachers have indeed been left in isolation, in that effective teaching methods were nearly impossible to disseminate to other educators looking for this advice. With the Internet, teachers are finally able to share their ideas, and receive those of others to improve teacher at a faster rate than was accomplished before.

4) Don't Do Technology Plans and 5) Automating versus Informating

Not much to comment on here. Technology should not be for the sake of technology, and teachers should be integrating technology in the classroom so it has a significant contribution to the learning of the class. It must have meaning. I read an article in my local newspaper that every Freshman in my high school alma mater would be receiving IPads in the upcoming year, and I had to do a double-take. I hope that teachers will receive adequate training so that these IPads won't simply become a number (a very expensive number) in the yearly education budget, that they will be integrated and not collecting dust in the corner.

5) Collegiality is what's needed

Again, this is about training (and constant feedback from co-workers, etc.) so that technology not only becomes a meaningful tool in the classroom, but also so that educators can teach students that value and challenges of technology.

It's like any other area subject; learning about the Civil War is important, sure, but it's when that unit is taken to the next level and students begin to understand the deeper issues underlying the unrest and the consequences of taking action (or inaction), then students can take away something that is transferable to real life. Students must learn to evaluate credible sources, understand privacy risks and individual rights when it comes to technology, and be able to contribute to the ongoing discussion and evaluation  of new technologies.

I wonder if November has written any follow-ups to this article. I would be interested to know how his views have changed, if at all. As I thought, most of what November said were issues I was already aware of (with the exception of the videocameras part) and had agreeing views with.


  1. Kate, it is hard to say things concisely when there is so much thought behind such a "short" article! I could honestly have a full day worth of discussion on the topics mentioned in this article!

    I feel that with the technology age, schools need to incorporate courses which teach computer usage...not to be left to core teachers to teach students how to use computers in the computer lab when conducting research. We've all been learning our way around computers for probably a decade and just build on what we know, but for current students there is so much more to learn and all at once with all the changes occurring!

    And ALL freshman in your town are receiving iPads? Is it for keeps or for them just to use for the school year? I personally haven't really used an iPad because its the same thing as a laptop to me minus the hard keyboard and a larger version of the iPhone. I can see students using this the wrong way or a whole lot of other problems coming through. I mean iPads may be good for research I suppose, but you can't really type a paper or do an assignment on them, can you?

    I just think that he raises a number of issues that need to be addressed and are topics of controversy because this is all new to society and the right answers or choices may not be clear in every aspect...

    1. I think in terms of 'teaching technology' we need to attack it on several fronts, not only having an actual course, but making sure that all subject areas integrate technology as an interdisciplinary topic. I believe in the future a Technology course will be thought of as in the same league as the typical History or Math course, in that it becomes an accustomed subject, not a 'special topic'.

      And I don't know if there have been any updates to the IPad article...I was home for winter break when I first heard about it and I believe that ALL the freshman are indeed receiving IPads, much like how TCPCG hands out laptops to all the students. But I don't think they can keep them at the end of the year...they must return them as they do for their textbooks. You can type documents up on an IPad, but as you mentioned, the keyboard is entirely virtual. I don't know about you, but I generally like having physically keys under my fingers (I have enough frustration with my Android phone and it's on-screen keyboard!)

  2. You bring up a lot of good points. The boy who said the Holocaust is bogus is ridiculous. I have heard things like this before that some people do not believe it actually happened, but hearing a 16 year old say that is so much worse. Have his history classes taught him nothing?!? In Terence's blog, he said that he googled the Holocaust and nothing negative came up about it. So this kid must have had to actively search for it which makes me wonder what his home life is like to think such a thing.

    I also do not like the idea of video cameras in the classroom. It is so creepy and infringing on privacy. I do like that you said that this was a 2009 article and that it doesn't seem to be of debate anymore. I could imagine that the teacher unions had something to do with that.

    I cannot believe your school is giving iPads to the freshmen! That is ridiculous! I honestly do not know if a freshmen is mature enough to have one. What I mean by that is, I would bet almost any amount of money that they would be using it during class for other things, like Facebook, Twitter, games, etc. and not for educational purposes. With that said, I don't think that any student would be using it just for educational purposes during class, but I would hope that some older students would use it properly.

    Overall, I think students need to be taught how to use technology properly, so there are not copyright problems or credibility problems. A technology class should be a requirement of all students. Maybe start in sixth grade, then move to middle and high schools with it. It is the only way students will learn how to use the Internet the right way and how to be safe on it.