professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Planned Obsolescence

Anyone who loves gadgets as much as I do knows all about planned obsolescence. Have a new iPad? It will only be a matter of months before a newer one is launched. Ditto cell phones, mp3 players, etc. In the past, cameras were part of this planned obsolescence; they still are as megapixels increase and new apps can create what it formerly took a studio and someone knowledgeable about photography to do. These days I wonder if teachers are part of the planned obsolescence. I hear more and more about replacing teachers and individualizing learning using technology (software and hardware). And I have heard about the death of the book for more than 20 years. So, I approach a blog entitled: 21 Things That Will Be Obsolete by 2020 ( with some hesitation. Just glance at #1: DESKS. Has this person been in a classroom? Rows of desks are not the norm (at least not in the classrooms I see nor in the one I used in 1980!). We used trap tables (trapezoid shapes) to reconfigure class from day to day or even within the day so kids could work in different groups, have more work surface, etc.

The AP exam on its way out? Doubtful with David Coleman at the help. Differentiated instruction giving way to customizable instruction? Lovely, but have you seen CCSS? Paperbacks? Sorry, the book is here. And for some kids it is the ONLY access point they can take home and use in residences without internet access. Will they all read on their phones? How will that happen? I am not trying to erect obstacles here. I am asking how this can happen given reality.

But this disturbs me greatly: "There is no reason why every student needs to take however many credits in the same course of study as every other student. The root of curricular change will be the shift in middle schools to a role as foundational content providers and high schools as places for specialized learning." Okay, kiddos, get with the program. By 13 you need to have all the foundational knowledge you will ever need. After that, it is all about specialized learning (does this reek of career readiness somehow?). Combine this with preschool testing programs (yep, Arne Duncan wants accountability there, too) and you have the greatest educational dystopia ever imagined (or not even imagined yet).

Some ignorance of how things operate right now shows in this piece including a call for teacher education programs to include more technology and the change from parent-teacher conferences to emails and blog postings and tweets, I suppose. What I see in some of these suggestions is the loss of the human element.

The human element is the reason I am here, literally. Teachers saved me at various points in my life; this is not overstatement. It is the truth. Being with adults who saw me as someone who COULD rather than someone who COULD NOT did not just give me confidence. Teachers opened horizons, suggested courses of action, propelled me forward, encouraged me to do better and to do more.

One of my fears in our online program is that I lose that human touch. FTF meetings allowed students to understand my warped sense of humor, to know that I cared about them as individual students, to feel part of the course and the class. I try to make this happen electronically, and I think I succeed to some degree. However, I miss the contact, the face time, the human element. When I see calls for virtual classes for kids, I worry that we are keeping them distant from the human element that can mean so much: the teacher IN the room.

Bring on the technology, but bring the teacher along with it. Keep the person with personality. Maintain the contact that can contact the learner deep within.
Tags: education, future, technology
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