This blog features observations from Randy Turner, a former teacher, newspaper reporter and editor. Send news items or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, August 31, 2013
Joplin's IPads for eighth graders and 21st Century learning
(The following post was originally published Friday at Inside Joplin)
As I watched the accompanying KSN video extolling the virtues of IPads for every eighth grader in the Joplin R-8 School District, I kept wondering about some of the things that were left out of the report.
How do the parents feel about this? How do the students feel about this? What changes are being made in the way teaching is being done?
Under the present R-8 Administration, the primary goal seems to be to spend hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of dollars (or find someone else to spend it for them) in a never ending quest to be the first to do something. It might be laptops for high school students, IPads for eighth graders, or whatever new innovation comes along the road. Whether it is technology or the newest, trendiest programs and buildings, the greedy educational architects at 32nd and Duquesne have to have it all.
And while the students are being handed the latest in technology, administration has been pushing a new, supposedly better way of teaching in which the teachers serve as facilitators while the students, using their brand-new playthings, are supposed to take charge of their own learning.
Teachers who lecture, even those who are quite effective at it, are going to be graded down by their principal evaluators. Teachers who lead discussions are old hat. Teachers who actually teach are not going to score as highly under this new 21st Century method as teachers who sit back and bask in the glow of all the learning that is magically taking place by highly motivated students with IPads.
There are many wonderful lessons that can be created with IPads, but from what I am hearing from the teachers at East Middle School, where I taught until top administrators made the sudden decision that literacy was important and kicked off this discovery by reading my books, longer writing assignments are a thing of the past.
The teachers were given paper and pencils, but only because someone had contributed them to the school. The not-so-subtle message the teachers have been given is that paper and pencils are instruments of the 20th Century. They do not belong in Joplin Schools.
That has made it extremely difficult. It would still be possible for writing assignments to be given on laptops, if that were the 21st Century device that had been given to the students, but it is not easy to do a longer writing assignment on an IPad.
As much as I would still love to be in the classroom, I have to admit that I would not be looking forward to trying to figure out a way to have students do my third quarter civil rights research paper on the IPads. The research can be done on the IPads, obviously; the writing is something altogether different.
Since my class was writing-intensive, students had at least one longer writing assignment each week. The best ones were put on the Writers’ Wall of Fame.
Thankfully, I will never have to figure out how to staple an IPad to the wall.