Content delivery and assessment v. discovery and empowerment

Audrey Watters says:

Theres a line in a 2011 Wired Magazine article about Khan Academy where Bill Gates calls constructionism “bullshit.” It’s a line that’s stuck with me because it makes me so damn angry, no doubt, but also because it highlights Gates’ dismissal of established learning theories, his ego, his ignorance.

And it highlights too, I think, the huge gulf between those like Gates who have a vision of computers as simply efficient content delivery and assessment systems and those like Seymour [Papert] who have a vision of computers as powerful and discovery learning machines. The former does things to children; the latter empowers them to do things — to do things in the world, not just within a pre-defined curriculum.


Educational technology should be about learning, not control

Glass ceiling

JogNog did a short survey of more than 150 teachers and principals across America. One of the questions it asked was, “What are your three biggest challenges to being a great teacher?” The top two responses were motivating students and student behavioral issues.

Over at Education Rethink, Steve from Jognog said, “The technology can create even more control issues in class – more headaches for the teacher. So the technology needs to be simple and consistent.” But the top two responses fall within the category of students aren’t buying what we’re trying to sell them and are instructional/curricular issues, not technology issues.

I’ve got two quick thoughts on this: 

  1. If technology in your classrooms is viewed as a (lack of) control issue, you’ve got bigger issues. It’s not about control. It’s about learning. Yet again, our needs to box in and manage students get in the way of engagement and learning.
  2. As Seymour Papert used to emphasize, good technologies should have low floors (i.e., it’s easy for novices to get started) and high ceilings (i.e., it’s easy for experts to work on increasingly sophisticated projects). ‘Simple and consistent’ may be desirable low floor characteristics but we need much, much more for our students.

What are your thoughts?

Image credit: Web architecture, Bigstock