20 April 2012

Stoll and Jonassen on Computers in the Classroom

I can see just why Stoll engages 8th graders so well. He is a character and seems to epitomize the mad scientist persona. However, I think he ought to stick to physics. Schools do need to be high-tech, but I disagree that schools think they need to "have the glitzy computers." (Stoll, 1996). His argument seems to leave no room for a middle ground. Basically, he says that we either have to believe that technology is going to revolutionize education or there should be none. I would agree with his argument that "a good teacher is the most important thing in the room" (Stoll, 1996). I saw Dr. Stoll use an oscilliscope to demonstrate the wave equation. When did he learn to use that thing? Was it not in a classroom? I believe by simply using that in his rant against "modernizing the classroom" he nullifies his argument. The technology didn't revolutionize his equation, but it sure did ENRICH it. I would also agree that "edutainment" is not the main goal, but we do need to make learning fun. I would be very interested to see him try to talk to a bunch of elementary students about learning being "hard", it "takes committment", the "reward is the pay-off." (Stoll, 1996) I also agree that there is no way to "instantly fix education". Railing against technology in education isn't going to fix it either.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that I both agree and disagree with Dr. Stoll. We do need to teach students that there is a payoff in education and it comes AS you learn. However, his argument is quite outdated in today's connected world. Not that he doesn't understand what's going on, but he certainly was not a fortune teller. Classrooms are more full of computers and media delivery systems even more than they were in 1996, not to mention that the internet looks quite different than it did 14 years ago, as well. He even said "information can get you the answer", therefore if you are able to FIND that information (information literacy/fluency) it can assist you in solving problems. I sat today monitoring students while they took End-Of-Instruction tests. While I didn't see every single question on the Biology test, not one that I did see were factual, so I'd say Dr. Stoll's argument that testing rewards students who are able to memorize factual information is null and void, too. No one, especially in this class, has ever said that computers should replace a teacher. If a teacher can be replaced by Google, it should. For the record, we are going to need both the plumbers and the programmers. This was true 14 years ago and it is still true today. If the libraries don't adapt to the new digital literacy age, they need to go by the wayside. It's called survival of the fittest. It happened to the blackboard creators, the wagon wheel makers, and the spear makers. Change happens! As a scientist, this guy should recognize that.

Jonassen, et al. fall MUCH more in line with my ideas on how technology should play a part in students' education. The quote on p. 32 says it best, "Computers can most effectively support meaningful learning and knowledge construction in higher education as cognitive amplification tools for reflecting on what students have learned and what they know." I've made this confession before and I'm sure I'll make it again: I'm a constructivist and technology (especially web-based tools) provide a perfect avenue for students to stroll into the information and show what they know. It provides a means for students to (learn to) collaborate and showcase what they have done. We don't need computers with a full suite of software and the latest gadgets. We simply need internet access for our students with a dependable network connection. Additionally, students need access at home. In fact, this may be the most important aspect of my "grand vision". There are only 8 hours in the day for instruction. However, if students have access at home, we can allow them to "get" information as homework and focus class time on concepts on which more instruction is needed. Class time can be spent on scaffolding instead of instructing.

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