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EdTech: Swimming Toward The Event Horizon…

Are we buying the right technology for today's student?


An event horizon as defined by Merriam-Webster: the surface of a black hole: the boundary of a black hole beyond which nothing can escape from within it.

Is this what is happening to education today? Did the current mandates create an event horizon? Is every dollar that is earmarked for education disappearing into the “is it on the test?” event horizon? The current mandate focuses on trying to pressure schools into achieving test scores. If the school doesn’t achieve the desired results, they don’t get budget. The problem is that there is no funding put in place to execute the necessary procedures. So basically it is: do this better with no added budget or we will take away your current budget. Do more with less and BTW smile when you do it.

I believe in hard work. Heck I was raised by a five-foot-four man who worked all night building both his own homes after working all day mixing cement and carrying it up a ladder. So hard work is not an issue. It is just that the students need to be taught differently today and the proper skill sets aren’t there nor is the proper technology.


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Most of the technology I see in high schools and lower grades seems to have been picked to keep up with other schools. A lot of teachers have shunned these new gadgets simply because they could tell that they are not worth the money spent on them. Teachers seem to know that if the child doesn’t automatically respond to the new method it will never really catch on. Trust me, I am not saying no technology, what I am saying is, get the right technology.

This is the basis for the book Blink! by Malcolm Gladwell. Subconsciously we know in the first five seconds: yes or no. Successful people seem to have that trait. So from the beginning, the concept of teaching around a test was thought by most not to be a good idea. This led to a departure from the practice of developing critical thought: a great concept but not the only one necessary.

Has the practice of critical thought eaten itself alive? Isn’t it best when anything is done in moderation and with temperance and proper placement? In other words isn’t a mixture of critical thought and proper application best?

Typically the pendulum swings from one side to the other, usually in extremes. A theory or practice is researched and then construed as a panacea for all our problems, Acai berries, aspirin, no-eggs, yes-eggs, no-eggs, yes…well you get the idea. This is acceptable from the general group of citizens who are not experts in the field of nutrition or health.

However when mandates come down from experts, then we tend to believe them. Not always the best idea; remember, it is called a “practice” after all. I usually ask my doctor, “When do you think you’ll stop practicing and get it right?”

I agree with the concept of knowing the facts before you implement something, and I also believe in trial and error. However, in education I think it would be best if we got it right from the start. At best teach the philosophy then show how it will be used. Theory and application in one lesson, constantly moving forward! Each time you build upon the last issue. A great line from a great Woody Allen movie, Annie Hall: “ a relationship is like a shark. It has to keep moving forward or else it dies. What we have on our hands is a dead shark.”

Is education today like that shark? Has it stopped moving forward? It is a business and should be run like one, no doubt. But don’t businesses have a responsibility to the customer? Especially if the customer is paying approximately 60% of their tax dollars to that company and they are basically the only company in town? Sure you could send your children to private school but you still have to pay those school taxes right? Now I am not saying vouchers what I am saying is just work harder. Just like that little cement mixer guy who I grew up with everyday. Work harder at your job –- all of us students, teachers and parents.

One of my children is exactly like me. They have a different way of learning. I was very lucky I had art to dive into everyday. My child followed in my footsteps all the way (a very good musician –- of course digital) and went to a private high school. It had just gotten a new principal. By mid-year my child wanted to leave. He had a confrontation with the principal, because he/she had worn their sports jersey on the day of a game. The principal stopped him/her in the hall and told him/her to take the jersey off. (BTW – They had stopped in the office and gotten permission first as well.) When you ask why do I have to take mine off? And the principal replies because I said so. At the same time two track athletes walk in front of you with their jerseys on? Needless to say the principal isn’t there anymore –- I guess he wouldn’t take his jersey off either? The reason for bringing this up is that, strict unwavering discipline isn’t always the answer, neither is just technology and spending. What is needed is a formative plan that interacts with the current child’s abilities and needs. May be this is the solution? Actually finding out what makes a student tick may be the best solution. If the solution is part technology and it is available for them to take home via the Web even better.

Purchasing technology because someone else did isn’t always the answer. Let’s try focusing on the needs of the student and maybe they will, too?

Hey, we could always say we are practicing our craft and moving forward, like a shark on the event horizon.

EdTech is a column that focuses on the combination of education and technology. Patrick J. Aievoli is a full-time faculty member at Long Island University, C. W. Post Campus, and has been the Director of the Interactive Multimedia Arts graduate program since 1999. He has been a full time academic since 1989 when he left his position as Senior Designer, Promotion at the McGraw-Hill Book Company. In this capacity Patrick helped in the creation of McGraw-Hill’s first CD-ROM “Encyclopedia of Science and Technology” in 1987. “EdTech” is a new weekly feature on longislandpress.com. To read more of his work, go to http://patrickaievoli.wordpress.com.

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