Wired business had an article come out earlier this month about a small school in Mexico that saw huge gains in learning because of some computers put in the classroom. If you haven't seen it, you can read it here.
Because Wired is wildly popular and because education is kind of a hot topic right now, this article has been making some waves. Even in the office, it made its rounds as a fantastic idea that schools are behind on. The teacher in me welled up and wrote a
preachy soapboxy email to the group passing it, and I figured I would post it here as well.
I'd read this article earlier this week. It's a fantastic, heartwarming story, but I do want to make one comment (this is the teacher in me talking now)…
Gupta downplays the role of the teacher. While on the surface, this looks appealing for a lot of reasons. Students can explore on their own without the dictator at the front of the room. They can work collaboratively, problem solving and self-democratizing. This is all great, but having a teacher is still important (and that's not because I'm a teacher at heart). All of this can be done, but the role of the teacher is to provide context for the content. Anyone can get online and look up facts about the moon, DNA, or the French Revolution. What is missing is a facilitator providing context to the flow of information we get from the Internet. There have been plenty of times students are learning the content, but then fall flat on their face when they try to explain it because there is no good way to put information into a box, nice and neat.
I saw my job in the classroom as being a content resource, yes. More importantly, I could ask the probing questions and listen critically to what students were saying back to me. I'm sure Correa was doing that in his classroom, but not brought out in the article. Consider the number of times you get up and talk to someone here who knows more than you do about a task you're trying to accomplish. You can read StackOverflow and forums all day and still not be able to accomplish the task. It's the same thing internships are set up to do. We don't call each other teachers, but we all teach a little bit each day.
I'm not trying to rant against the article…it's a fantastic story of success against really stacked odds. I'm glad to see stories like this getting press and some time in front of people who might never hear them, but I'm worried that the trend of downplaying the role of educators is going to continue.
Ok, I'm done soapboxing. Thanks for indulging me.
Yes, computers are great at finding information. But, it still takes the wisdom and experience of teachers to put that content into context, and that's the valuable lesson here.