Don’t Be Replaceable.

How do you view the ideas of “Flipped Classroom”, “personalized learning”, “Khan Academy”,…?


Dan Meyer writes,

Teachers are a great medium for lots of things that a YouTube video isn’t. “Conversation, dialogue, reasoning, and open questions,” as I put it in my post. If you, as a teacher, aren’t taking advantage of your medium, if you’re functionally equivalent to a YouTube video, you should be replaced by a YouTube video.”

Are we really leveraging rich access to online, networked resources and people so that we can improve the quality of F2F time while together in the classroom? Or instead, are we farming out the “really boring stuff” to be completed outside of school on one’s own as homework without the benefit of social interaction and learning frameworks that benefit the learner and learning? Or worse, are we just “personalizing” and gamifying the “really boring stuff” – the stuff that is best learned through rich, messy, complex, highly social experiences?

What’s the Faustian bargain that we are making? Neil Postman writes,

“This means that for every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage. The disadvantage may exceed in importance the advantage, or the advantage may well be worth the cost. Now, this may seem to be a rather obvious idea, but you would be surprised at how many people believe that new technologies are unmixed blessings. You need only think of the enthusiasms with which most people approach their understanding of computers. Ask anyone who knows something about computers to talk about them, and you will find that they will, unabashedly and relentlessly, extol the wonders of computers. You will also find that in most cases they will completely neglect to mention any of the liabilities of computers. This is a dangerous imbalance, since the greater the wonders of a technology, the greater will be its negative consequences.”

Of course, there are also many downsides to [poor] in-class instruction… This is what new technologies, new learning spaces, and new possibilities seeks to mitigate. However, rather than improve student-centered, meaning-making pedagogy, at what point are we simply chasing solutions that distract us from this goal?

Marshall McLuhan writes, (paraphrased here) that

“people tend to focus on the obvious, which is the content, to provide us valuable information, but in the process, we largely miss the structural changes in our affairs that are introduced subtly, or over long periods of time. As society’s values, norms, and ways of doing things change because of the technology, it is then we realize the social implications of the medium. These range from cultural or religious issues and historical precedents, through interplay with existing conditions, to the secondary or tertiary effects in a cascade of interactions that we are not aware of.”

Is augmenting an already-flawed reality helpful, or would it be better to invest our efforts in re-conceptualizing our current reality?

There has been much written on both sides of this fence. It’s really healthy to consider them both and think hard, really hard, about what is happening.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Be Replaceable.

  1. My own children come home bored many days and often its been a day of just consuming information from videos or monologues. On the days where they are engaged its a completely different story.

    Engagement is key but its hard work, made even harder when their are behavioural issues. Video feels like the pill that defers the behaviour issues and can be so restful.

  2. “Video feels like the pill that defers the behaviour issues and can be so restful.”

    That’s a really interesting statement. For sure, teachers sometimes choose activities and media that may do more entertaining than educating, especially when we are where we find ourselves now at the end of the school year. I am always sad for my own children who come home, reporting that they watched “x” video in “y” class – nothing to do with learning or curriculum. There are so many interesting things to explore and learn, especially with the powerful access that digital tools provide.

    You’re so right that engagement is hard work. It’s hard work for both the teacher and the student. However, it is so worth it because the actual experiences of learning become meaningful and rewarding. Seymour Papert called this “hard fun”.

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