Don’t date Technology or Why you shouldn’t replace your current practice with the new stuff

(a conversation about how pedagogy intersects with technology and why you should avoid computers in the classroom).
Dating Advice
The more I teach, the more I am concerned with my students’ choices in life and the one that seems to get in their way is that special time called dating. I’m not trying to rain on their happiness, but I stoically remind them that this time (high school) should more of a time of building relationships (conversations) with the opposite gender and less time “hooking up” with someone.

So, here’s the script: usually toward the beginning of a grading period, I have “the talk” with my new students. If I happen to have a student that has taken a class before, the conversation is sometimes prompted by those students: “Mr. Judson, when are you going to tell the class about your advice on dating?” Slight shock and perhaps a giggle later and I begin:

“Here’s my advice on dating…” (dramatic pause and perhaps I scan the class)…”My advice on dating in high school (pause) is (pause) don’t” and again, I scan and look for the person who has the “What a Moron” scowl on their face.

“Not a good idea, you know, and I will never tell you, for those of you who ignore my advice, that when he or she does dump you, and dump you hard, and you say to me ‘Mr. Judson, I should have listened to you’ I will not say ‘I told you so.'”

And the class smiles, but I know what they are thinking:

“I know what you are thinking: ‘Mr. Judson didn’t get any dates in high school’ and to that I can say that I dated…a little…and besides it was a long distance relationship…anyway, more importantly: I ran around with a big group of people, guys and girls, and we spent a lot of our time having fun, talking, and just being a group of friends.”

I scan the classroom again.

“I know, now some of you think that Mr. Judson thinks his way is the best way and to that I could say: sure. You will be spending the rest of your trying to communicate with the opposite gender, why lose out on time to do that in high school. High school is about friendships and memories and why blow it on hoping you can keep stringing the guy or girl along until after prom?”

“Now, I know that some of you have it in you that you simply must date. You are currently in a relationship or you are always in a relationship, or you really think that being in a relationship is the key to living. So, for you folk, I do have an amendment to the imperative (that means a command). If you feel that you must date, then make sure that that person (pause) reads books” (wait for the laugh line or for the girl who mutters ‘well, I’m in trouble’). “Here’s the thinking: It’s Friday night and it’s 30 minutes before curfew and you are parked in a dark and secluded place and the windows are fogged up: if you want to be doing something worthwhile, you should be talking about books.”

The story is not meant to be a way to talk to your students about dating or meant to be contrary to everyone who married their high school sweetheart; it is meant to provide the major overarching metaphor for my assessment of the relationship between teaching (pedagogy) and technology (in our case: something related to the digital frontier: personal computers, the internet, the Web 2.0 and even Moodle (a combination of php, html and a database)).

From my experience and reading I’ve come to the conclusion that my advice to teachers and their desire to use these technologies in their classrooms is constant with my dating advice: Don’t. The promises and the newness will yield more frustration than told to you and in all the while you miss out on working on what really counts: books…no, kind of, no the stuff of teaching: pedagogy. I will try to talk you out of using Moodle (or other computer-based technologies) only because it, like other technologies through the ages, can never replace an intelligent, caring educator who works the craft of the science and art, the humanness of teaching. But, if you really think you have to enter into this relationship with technology, then at least know why you want to and what this new relationship (or old) will do or can do in your teaching.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and I fiddle constantly with the newer stuff that’s floating around. I had my first class website (which I built with Claris Homepage in 1997 and later modified with Inspiration’s html capabilities in 1999) and starting adding newer interactivity (using Blogger and then iBlog with tagboard and Quicktopic…I also tried using Freeway for one class, but gave up on the old model of interneting) until I came upon Moodle 2 years ago. But it that process, I’ve had to come to terms with that relationship. Some of the times, it has been wonderful and has fulfilled my vision of a classroom I’d like to be in; but many times, it’s been a struggle and has caused more frustration than I have ever experienced in trying to get a copier machine to copy onto an overhead transparency. Many times, I’ve wanted to scrap the whole thing and tell everyone else to do the same. But, as in many relationships, we get wiser and better at communication and I think that in the relationship with technology and education, we need to turn from the capitalistic/political version of education and remember what the big rocks are in our pedagogy.

(orginally posted at on 07 April 5)

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