Oct 18

Step Away From the Computer

My friend and colleague, Dean Shareski, shared this tweet today.

After reading the article, which you should do right now, a bunch of thoughts raced through my mind.  I want you to read the article, it won’t take long, and then come back and respond to my thoughts below.

I completely understand why the teacher did this.  Students do need to realize that information exists in other places than just the internet.  I’m certainly guilty of running straight to a computer to look up something I don’t know.  I get the point, BUT, did it really need to take 100 (useless) questions to make the point?  I don’t think so.

“Ms. Awad Lobe says she’s not anti-technology – her students spent three hours in the computer lab this week”  I’d like to know why it’s ONLY 3 hours a week.

The article mentioned how challenging this was for the parents, perhaps more than the kids.  Is it because they don’t know the resources available?  Why are parents doing the homework?  It’s not their’s to do.  One parent commented, “I didn’t even know where to begin, I had no idea” How should she?

Students use their gadgets for all sorts of things, most importantly, I’d argue, is school work.

“Still, most have grown up with the world at their fingertips, never further than the Web-surfing capability of their smartphones.  That’s exactly why they have so much to learn from going without their gadgets, according to Steven Womack, a high-school English teacher in Franklin, Tenn.”

WHY??  If they will always have the information with them, why not use it?  They won’t be carrying around a database of some sort or an encyclopedia in their backpack or pocket, they’ll have their smartphone.  If they can carry everything in one device, they should use it.  And, they should be taught how to use it effectively.  Do they need to know other sources of information exist?  Sure, but they also need to decide which source of information best meets their needs.  I think in most cases, it can be found online.

Sure, the students learned something by using other Oscar phoned his grandmother in England – who used to be a German teacher – to find out the word for horse. (I bet they used a cell phone) He found the population density of Hong Kong in an atlas at home. (Out of date information, I’m sure) And he and his mom drove to two different post offices to find the postal code for Ulukhaktok in the Northwest Territories.  (At least 30 minutes of work that would have been 30 seconds with the internet)

“I learned how many resources are off the Web,” Oscar said. “And I learned that people always want to try and help me.”  

I’m happy he realized this, mission accomplished for the teacher.  However, the same impact, or better, could have been made if this was done integrated into the curriculum rather than a ridiculous 100 question assignment that most of the students didn’t even complete because (I’m assuming) it was either too challenging or too time consuming.  I have a feeling this assignment actually reinforced to the students and their parents how valuable the internet really is and how important it is for learning.


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Graham Wegner
Graham Wegner

I was at an Australian Curriculum Symposium today where a keynote speaker, Dr Jenny Gore was talking about High Order Things Skills in the classroom. She said that in many classrooms trying to address critical and creative thinking involves the setting of assignments or tasks much like the one from the article which she described as "meaningless crap" devoid of context and relevance. Unless the 100 questions were part of an inquiry into information literacy, then the teacher could achieve her aims by setting an assignment that aligned to topics or concepts being covered in her classroom. And then there's the whole issue of the worth of homework anyway ... especially if the parents end up doing the work!

Alfonso Gonzalez
Alfonso Gonzalez

Hmm, I don't know if I agree with the 100 question assignment. I would have asked kids ungoogleable questions instead, and not that many and not for HW. I wouldhave asked higher order thinking questions. I would have them work on projects. If a question is googleable, then I have them google it!