Law in the Internet Society

The Magic Bullet, The Cross-Eyed Marksman

In my 6th grade Social Studies class, Ms. D’Amico made us write a paper about our favorite verses from “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” And sometimes we watched movies during English class. That was pretty much the extent of “technology” use in my grade school experience. Despite the growing presence of things like computers and the Internet in my life and the lives of my classmates, our educators did very little to integrate them into our education. Sure we wrote papers on computers and could cite sources we found online if we wished, but that was about it. There were resource limitations in school, it’s true. And perhaps our teachers also feared that unequal resources at home would unduly disadvantage some of us. Perhaps they thought of us as “digital natives,” who simply didn’t need to be taught about technology. Or perhaps they just didn’t know how to use new technologies, at some level didn’t care enough to learn about them, and just hoped that it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Who knows, maybe they thought they were doing a good enough job, when they told us to “Cite three sources, including one webpage,” of integrating “technology” into our education.

Whatever their rationale was, they were wrong. They, most educators and education policymakers, were wrong because they simply failed to provide us with what we needed to be effectively educated. The most important skills which would contribute to our prospective success in the modern economy were never taught to us in school. And now we’re the ones failing the next generation.

It’s easy to criticize education on a macro level because a) it could always be better and b) it’s generally terrible. The Common Core Standards were promulgated, and adopted in 44 states, in an effort to address discrete areas in which education should be better and to alleviate some of that general terribleness. Meant to promote inter-state educational consistency and better prepare students for college and career success, the standards outline English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics learning goals. With these objectives in mind, one would expect the standards to strongly promote the use of new technologies in classrooms.

And they do, kind of

You might not expect to find too much about technology in the Common Core Math Standards, and for the most part, you won’t. The Common Core ELA Standards however, begin with a broad mandate that students should be able to strategically use diverse technological and digital materials; essentially saying that students should develop digital literacy and integrate it into their interactions with academic content:

“Students employ technology thoughtfully to enhance their reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use. They tailor their searches online to acquire useful information efficiently, and they integrate what they learn using technology with what they learn offline. They are familiar with the strengths and limitations of various technological tools and mediums and can select and use those best suited to their communication goals.

This mandate seems like a significant development in the movement to integrate of technology into education, but unfortunately it amounts to little more than a facade, since the actual discrete objectives in the ELA standard do little to directly back it up. In the discrete objectives, Internet use, or the use of collaborative technology, is only mentioned once per grade level and only in connection with writing:

“Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and link to and cite sources as well as to interact and collaborate with others, including linking to and citing sources.”

Otherwise, any reference to technology in speaking, communicating, or reading objectives is subsumed under the terms “digital media” or “digital sources:”

“Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest; Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources; assess the credibility of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and providing basic bibliographic information for sources,” etc.

So under the new standards, students are only required to work with digital sources and digital media, which might just mean working with things like this, or VHS movies, played in a dim room on an old Samsung TV.

The Common Core Standards essentially make the integration of some basic technologies mandatory, while making the integration of advanced technologies discretionary. An educator can fulfill the standards relating to digital literacy by teaching students how to retrieve, evaluate, and use a variety of online sources. Or an educator can fulfill those standards by showing students a movie and giving them a worksheet to fill out. The standards represent a positive development because they partially promote the first educator’s action; they fail because they make the second educator’s action defensible. And so, far from presenting a paradigm shift towards technology-integrated pedagogy, the Common Core Standards made at most, a modest step forward, which provides little cause for celebration, in an uphill climb, when the current state of education lags a hundred paces behind. Education standards are highly politicized and their politicization likely explains their vagueness. But in considering how to implement the Common Core Standards, states and schools should consider excising the discretionary element of the ELA standards’ mandate. The explicit integration of advanced technologies, not just “digital media,” should be required through elaboration on the current standards’ general language.


Webs Webs

r9 - 30 Nov 2014 - 09:04:23 - NigelMustapha
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