Fear is a prison

Fear is a prison

As Howard Rheingold notes,

The technology affords an environment in which students [can] take on more of the power and responsibility for their own learning.

But we don’t see that. Instead, we see

a hype-and-bust cycle that goes back to the personal computer. Look at all the marvelous things technology is going to do! And then it doesn’t happen.

And the reason, as Rheingold correctly identifies, is

the secret, or maybe not so secret, agenda, which is that the classroom is really for teaching compliance. That was useful when societies were transforming from agrarian to industrial, but it’s less than useful in a world where you’re going to need to be thinking critically about the information you find.

And there we have – all tidy and neat – the biggest barrier to effective technology integration in today’s schools, even in those 1:1 environments that provide computing devices for every student. We could be (should be!) utilizing technology to empower youth at school but instead it’s still about control. That’s why we have acceptable use policies, not empowered use policies. And that’s why in most classrooms we continue to see replicative uses of technology rather than transformative uses. It doesn’t matter that computers are the most powerful learning devices ever invented in all of human history if we’re afraid to lets kids fly.

Fear is a prison. And empowerment within tightly-constrained, adult-directed parameters isn’t really empowerment.


[Guiding question: What can we do to give students more agency and ownership of what they learn, when they learn, how they learn, and how they show what they’ve learned?]

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3 Responses to “Fear is a prison”

  1. So here’s the thing: I do see teachers and institutions, even with 1-to-1, replicating the same old industrial model. But, what worries me more is that many students don’t take charge of their own learning even when given the opportunity. Partly they’re stuck in a system where they have to pass the next test (even if it’s not a teacher’s!). At my school, it’s the SAT. At others, it’s state tests, etc. Students seem more afraid than teachers to learn on their own.

    As a teacher who supports self-directed learning, I guess I just have to keep trying new things, keep creating the environment for that learning to happen.

  2. Stay the course. Our students have been socialized for years and years into a ‘just tell me what to do’ model of formal learning. That won’t change without significant effort, energy, and redesign on our (and their) part. Keep fighting the good fight!

  3. a colleague pointed me to a Hermann Hesse novel “Beneath the Wheel” that mirrors Howard’s hypothesis. Looks like a must read.

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