Who Needs Ed Reform Anyway?

CLASSROOM 21 | by Greg Limperis

Whatʼs all this talk about tech-fueled education reform lately, anyway? Why change anything?

Why can’t kids simply learn like we did when we were little? Look, I turned out okay and I never had access to all of that tech gadgetry and blended, mobile mumbo jumbo thatʼs out there now, when I was a kid. Don’t people know that all of this technology is expensive? Whatʼs wrong with students carrying around a bunch of big textbooks in their bag, anyway?

Okay, okay, so you child carries around twenty-five to thirty pounds on their back all day? Considering the current Letʼs Move movement, moving that kind of weight is good exercise! Yeah, I know. They do take up a lot of locker space, but how much trouble can it be for a student to go to his or her locker every time he or she needs a book? Sure, most trouble happens when students linger at their lockers chatting it up and hang out unattended, but teachers can figure it out, right?

Whatʼs that? Your school doesnʼt have lockers? Well, canʼt students just store their bags in the classroom? They donʼt take up that much room, do they? You say that a problem with this is that you know what else a student might have in their bag that they take out during class instead of the needed book? Well, surely you can figure that out, too, canʼt you?

Whoah, hold on—wait a second. Okay, youʼre saying that your textbooks are five, even ten years old? Worn? Written on? Written in? Missing pages? Well, how bad is that, really? How much can this world change in a decade, seriously? Plutoʼs still a planet, Bush is still President, and whatʼs all this talk about Common Core, anyway?

Sure, digital textbooks and content are cool—so what? You think they can be rapidly updated? Alright, alright. Well, fine. Who doesnʼt want an iBook? You canʼt get everything you want. Sure, I wish I had one when I was growing up. I suppose, if I had one back then, I guess Iʼd probably love learning on it, watching the videos, digging through interactive images, getting real-time, immediate information, taking instant- feedback quizzes, digital notes, even creating my own book.

But really—thatʼs gonna cost a pretty penny! Wayyy more expensive than any textbook! I mean, whatʼs a textbook cost these days, anyway? Canʼt be nearly as much.

What?! iBooks are much less expensive? Seriously, how do you figure? Well, canʼt a teacher just fill their students in on what theyʼre missing, anyway? I mean, an iBook isnʼt that cool, is it? Think about it: we could save double.

Sure, sure. Kids these days. Theyʼre interactive learners. Theyʼre growing up in a new media age. They watch more television than we ever did, play more and better video games, and are always online. Sure, most carry a thousand songs in their nano pocket device thingies, anywhere, anytime, blah blah blah. Theyʼre mobile, theyʼre totally wired, connected, plugged in and so on. They can connect to anything anywhere anytime anythis anythat and get any answers theyʼre looking for if they can just formulate the question. But letʼs stay focused—what does that really have to do with learning?

Granted, all of this new social media mobile yeah yeah technology is definitely cool— donʼt get me wrong. I myself have an iPod, iPad, Wii, laptop, netbook, desktop PC and smartphone. Sure, a lot of that stuff really helps me—with my job, communication, filling downtime, socializing with far-away friends and family, my whole life depends upon it— and yes, when itʼs down or I totally misplace it for about four seconds I totally freak out—but cʼmon, really? Why canʼt kids go for eight hours or so without it? Itʼs a learning environment! Theyʼre not business people! Let them read tattered texts.

Okay, really, Iʼll be fair: they can just bring the devices they have from home—to school! Problem solved—errr, wait a sec. District what? Policy? Youʼve got policies against it? Well, teachers are great for that. Theyʼre on the front lines—Iʼm sure they can figure that out, too.

In any case, all of this talk reminds me of when I was a kid. What I mean is, whenever I didnʼt do (or didnʼt want to do) my homework—Iʼd tell my teacher how my little brother destroyed it on our way in, or how my dog ate it, and Iʼd ask the teacher if I could bring it in the next day—or, Iʼd just not do it. Sometimes Iʼd just lose one of those million papers they would give me, Iʼd run out of notebook pages, or I had no way to get it on paper that day and Mom and Dad worked, so I just wouldnʼt do it. Other times the worksheets were just too boring. Boy, those were the good olʼ days! At the rate weʼre going, kids today canʼt get away with that. Technology solves too much. But Iʼm sure the teacher…

I know—Iʼve been leaving quite a bit for the teacher to figure out. And sure, they have to teach my child every day. Yes, Iʼve heard it all: overcrowded classrooms, mile-wide, inch-deep teaching to the test, aligning to Common Core State Standards, busy answering calls, requests, and emails, emails, emails from parents and administration. They go on for hours about all they have to do. When I have a lot to do at work, I just sit down at my computer and get it done! I surely canʼt do it at home—the kids are running around—itʼs so distracting! A nice quiet office is so much more conducive to optimal production.

Whatʼs that? Some teachers only have one computer in their class? And the students are on it? Seriously, when do they ever get their work done? No wonder teachers take so long getting back to me! Canʼt they just find a quiet space and respond immediately? When I need to type something, it only takes a few seconds. Gotta print something? Even faster. Whatʼs that? Teachers have to print to the photocopier? Hey, thatʼs not so bad. Oh, you’re saying that other teachers have been using it for lack of great content and theyʼve made so many copies itʼs now broken? Well, hereʼs their chance to learn something about technology, right?!

Seriously, though. Canʼt we change some of this? I mean, how do they work this way? This would drive me crazy, Iʼm quite sure.

But you know what? Iʼm also quite sure with all those students they serve and keeping track of all that learning that those teachers get paid like doctors. Theyʼre making it possible for our students to succeed in life with 21st-century learning, after all—and god knows I want my student to get a first-rate education, to be able to compete in a global economy, to be ready for their future, to have access to the best at home and at school.

I want them to have the best education in the world. I do. I want it all! Truly, I do! So…what will it really take? Maybe this is something teachers could use some help on—I’m betting, somehow, we might be able to figure this out together.

——-

Greg Limperis, now Supervisor of Instructional Technology for his district, was recently the Middle School Technology Facilitator in Lawrence, Mass., and founded the very popular Technology Integration in Education professional learning network, reaching thousands of educators worldwide. He has shared with others what he knows and they have joined him in sharing their insights as well. Join them in bringing about change using your 21st-century skills. 

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