Yeah, no picture of Damian Wayne this time. Sorry, dear readers.
I’ve been putting this off for a time, simply because I’m trying to get my thoughts in order about it, since I want to make sure that I’m thinking out my own stance as thoroughly as I can, and not just being a fuddy duddy about it. Critical thinking is, after all, only critical if it’s applied to your own thinking as much as it’s applied to the thinking of others.
The subject that’s gone over in teacher education programs, at least at the school that I went to, more than any other is the use of technology in classrooms, and it’s one that has very little critical thinking applied. We’re told repeatedly that we want our students to be in step with the world when they graduate and that we need to cater to a student’s limited attention span, all while being given more tutorials on Power Point and other similar programs than anyone could ever use. This is especially noxious when it comes to the English classroom, where such things just are not necessary.
Power Points actually serve as a very good example to push my point forward. What is a Power Point? Teachers are expected to know their material as well as they possibly can (within reasonable measure, after all) so that they can give the information to their students without having to resort to cards or notes. Power Point provides a nice little work around to this, with the excuse that it’s more engaging to students, or some other convenient excuse for slapping together a presentation, rather than engaging a classroom in a dialectic conversation.
This is my larger point, that every single technology that I’ve seen introduced in the classroom has been a shortcut in some way or another, without a compelling reason to use Product A over the dialectic method. It may seem incredibly antiquated, but I’m firmly of the opinion that any time that a student isn’t either engaging with each other or with the teacher is a wasted opportunity. When a student is absorbed with whatever is going on in a computer monitor, whether they’re on task or off task, they’re not as engaged as when they’re in a point-counterpoint conversation with the teacher, or with their fellow students. This is an important distinction to make, too, since I’m not advocating static lectures, but rather the resurrection of the Socratic Method, which is a lecture presented in a way that gets everyone in the classroom to think critically about the material being presented. And, after all, if the classroom is not just being lectured to, but is also being lectured to through Power Point, where is there any point for disagreement, counterpoint or actual discussion? Keep in mind also, that classrooms are often darkened whenever a Power Point presentation is being used.
Also of very large note is that not every student has the capability to access a computer or any other technological feature that’s being used in a classroom. I raised this point to a teacher once, and was given the rejoinder, “So you’re going to punish a whole classroom because of one student?” First of all, refraining from the use of technology in a classroom is not a punishment, especially when it’s the one student who doesn’t have the tech that’s being punished for reasons that are completely out of their hands. If a student’s family cannot afford to either give that student the technology that the rest of their classmates have, making that tech the center of a lesson is only going to make that student feel worse about their situation on top of presenting a potential problem with that student doing as well as they can in the class. Not just that, but they also may not have the ability to stay after school for any number of different reasons. Simply put, if every student does not have the capability to get an A in your classroom, then you need to reassess your curriculum.
Teachers are supposed to be teaching an entire class, after all, and not just the fortunate members of the class and they need to be doing so in a thoughtful, engaging and creative way that’s free from work arounds and cheap tricks.