"Indiana Plan for Digital-Age Learning” fails on logic and pedagogy

As sometimes I do when I have extra time on a Spring Break where it is snowing outside, I cruise on over to the Indiana DOE site to see what is “coming down the pipe” from Indianapolis. I know that 7 Habits encourages us to not concentrate on the Circle of Concern that is not within our Circle of Influence, but I still think what I say about an educational matter still has merit.

So today found me looking at the “Indiana Plan for Digital-Age Learning” (Jan 2007) publication and apparently final report. I know that I read it looking for the key words that gets me a bit keyed up (heck, I’ve begun a separate blog just for technology and education), but here are some things that will still be there when I go back and do a closer read (and my apologies to twitter readers for my ranting):

The makeup of the committee that brings the recommendation are truly shareholders in education: they are mostly business owners or administrators in the technology field. The only “educators” are either school IT people or school administrators. The only active teacher is Jan Weir, a high school chemistry teacher. My bet, and I pick this up from the report, that most of the data to support their recommendations came from other sources rather than real knowledge within the classroom.

The “proof” data itself is based upon projections and even if you didn’t like it, the book Freakanomics should be a lesson for us that those who try and forecast trends and especially educational ones are merely just giving a guess and not prophecy. You know this because there is little “here’s the other side of the story” discussion. About the only concession you’ll get on reports such as these are the obligatory “technology alone is not the magic bullet” and “technology is a tool” comments. But the rest of the report will sing the glories of the report’s conclusions.

Speaking of “proof” you always need an “edge” in scaring those who might disagree with your recommendations, and in Indiana it is “the brain drain.” All of our brightest kids are leaving the states to go elsewhere. Don’t you think that it might have something to do with the weather in Indiana (hey, it’s snowing today…and it’s Spring Break!) Bring in the woes of the economy and then use it as proof that you as taxpayers need to spend more money on computers. This is a logical fallacies because nowhere in the report does it give proof that if we spend more time and money on computers and this approach to how we do school will our kids be “more competitive” in the workplace (and btw, what about actually learning?)

My favorite part is the survey of teachers, because they come across as, well, a bit technologically dumb in the results (represented by handy Excel-generated bar graphs). And this is my favorite because it’s the most true: teachers are cautious because each 7 years, someone says that that “THIS IS THE BEST WAY TO DO SCHOOL” and teachers are human and pretty smart and will know that if it is as promised, there will be proof. For technology in the classroom (all the new whiteboards and snazzy software to make Johnny finally appear to be reading because of the report at the end of the session) the proof is not there.

So, all of this on a quick read. I fully admit my lack of close read and will do that later. My gut feeling is that my instincts are right: people love the new stuff and want a magic bullet, but rarely want to talk in depth about the relationship to pedagogy. Education as a whole has been the whipping boy of public discourse and politics for too long (you realize that the “Nation at Risk” document in 1983 is responsible for most of this and, surprise, may based on faulty data and conclusion).

Sure, we do things differently now than we did when I was in high school (1984); so, as we try and infuse some of these ways of communication into our classrooms, ask a teacher first…and pull up a chair and take note, because it’ll take awhile to see how solid pedagogy directs technology’s usage.

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5 Comments on “"Indiana Plan for Digital-Age Learning” fails on logic and pedagogy”

  1. Jan Weir Says:

    I would like to make a comment. I am Jan Weir and I am the teacher educator who participated in the development of the Indiana Plan for Digital Age Learning. Even those I was a representative for many and while I was the only active teacher on the council, I assure you that I had a very active and vocal role in terms of input for this plan. As an educator for the past 25 years, I’ve seen a tremendous change in the classroom over this span of time. I maintain that if we (as the educational system) do not completely embrace the digital age in our classrooms, we will continue to lose more and more students (both literally and figuratively). While I teach chemistry (and, I’ve taught the biologies and other physical sciences), I also serve as my high school’s “tech coach” – I assist teachers in the creation of high-quality, technology rich lesson plans and assist with classroom delivery. The technology coaching model offers on-going support, feedback and follow-up for teachers as they move through a continuum of activities. Teachers are given opportunities to share innovative ideas, lesson plans and success with their peers, fostering a spirit of collegiality and collaboration among participants. So many of today’s teachers did not grow up in a digital world – but, our students surely are! If we fail to help them “make connections” between the academics of the classroom and their real work place environment, are we really serving them well? I think not! What adult in the workforce today can do without their voice mail, blackberries, internet, email?……the list goes on and on. As educators, we must infuse DAILY similar technologies in the classroom to best prepare students for their future. I truly believe that the Digital Age Learning Plan will help create an academic environment that will do this…..otherwise, I wouldn’t have worked as hard as I did this past year in helping to design the plan in the first place!

  2. vergil66 Says:

    Jan,
    I am very happy that you’ve found this post on this site and I am happy that you were a part of the process. I do not doubt your passion nor your belief that what you did was futile (how many committees have you had to endure a cause that you didn’t believe in?).
    I do disagree with the current model of trying to play catch up with the technology, though. To ask teachers to get on board and create lessons that are technology-rich is a wonderful task, but this is certainly the minority of the schools in Indiana (I have absolutely no statistical proof of this, so I must appeal to my “gut feeling” on that claim). And I applaud your being a tech coach for your school…certainly this is by far the best model to sharing new ideas with teachers: teachers teaching teachers, instead of an outside consultant or the icky “staff development day” where someone teaches you how to use the technology via PowerPoint). But again, you are an exception to the norm: not many schools will take the time to embrace that model because of other issues at hand (e.g. NCLB, Budget concerns, School Safety).
    What I would like to see more of, is less businesses getting into the decision-making business of schools and more educators represented in committees such as the one you served on. I don’t buy the “well, they are a part of the community” line. Who knows education and pedagogy? Folks outside of education want to fix education and schools and honestly, they have difficulty with their own areas of expertise.
    Even more, I would like to see more discussion of the pedagogy of using technology for learning…that’s one that is commonly not discussed because teaching the skills of using technology is much easier to measure (e.g. Billy can create a database showing the info that he’s collected for his math project; or, and my favorite: Ashley uses a PowerPoint presentation to show her research). Each of those items doesn’t really address how educators use the technology for learning…those address products.
    Lastly, I think it is a misnomer that teachers are going to somehow prepare the students for tomorrow by using the technology of today. It’s too dynamic of a world (e.g. how many teachers can use a Facebook or Virb or Twitter account for educational purposes?). Most of the technology that we speak of today–podcasts, social networks, YouTubes, and Wikipedia– are already morphing into newer, more social applications. By using these technologies in the classroom really won’t prepare the student for tomorrow’s workplace, because tomorrow’s workplace will be different. I like the idea of connections, and I think students generally appreciate a teacher who can pull of a technology-rich lesson or environment without wigging out. But beyond the novelty of the moment, what is left? And that will lead me back to my hobby horse of pedagogy.
    Again, Jan, thanks for finding the post and taking the time in leaving a comment.


  3. […] 8th, 2007 · No Comments I’m taking a look at my original post regarding the current technology plan for Indiana and I’m rereading the original ,pdf report. I’m […]


  4. […] 12th, 2007 · No Comments Tonight, to make true to my promise after skimming the plan and writing about it and then making a few comments about businesses teaching education, I’m finding that most of […]


  5. […] mentor other teachers in technology. I have a feeling this is what Jan Weir is currently doing and I have a feeling that this committee is using her work as a model of how best to teach teachers: with teachers. This […]


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