Sunday, November 29, 2009

As a democratic society what is it we need of our schools in the 21st century?

As a democratic society what is it we need of our schools in the 21st century and has our expectation of teachers shifted? The cost of technology is socially complex and expensive compared with the traditional tools of teaching. Is this cost bringing us closer to what we need? Do we need to re-examine the assumptions that are propelling reform through technology? Is it enough in our democratic society to just educate teachers and students in how to use technology?
On one hand, we have aspects of our society craving higher standards, with a need to be efficient about collecting data that demonstrates measurable achievement. In the Alberta Guide to Education document they state, “The school’s primary responsibility is to ensure that students meet or exceed the provincial standards… that education inspires and enables students to achieve success and fulfillment as citizens in a changing world.” (2009-2010 p.2).” In my view this indicates a standards-based, accountability-oriented approach concerned with effective delivery of this program of study and the teacher is responsible for collecting this data.
Yet, at the same time looking deeper into the school curriculum teachers are being asked to make a fundamental shift in their practice away from a teacher centred delivery of content to a more generative and collaborative exploration of content. This shift requires a major adjustment of the traditional power relationship between teacher and student.
As a classroom teacher, I find myself uncomfortably squeezed between the two. Do teachers find themselves trapped in a paradoxical profession as Andy Hargreaves boldly states (2003, p. 9)? Do we as a society have a clear request of its teachers or has teaching in the 21st century become so complex we are confused? Alberta teachers are being asked to embed technology into every area of their curriculum. “As technology is best learned within the context of applications, activities, projects, and problems that replicate real-life situations, the ICT program of studies is structured as a ‘curriculum within a curriculum’, using the core subjects of English Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies as a base” (2003 p.1). Yet much research suggests there are barriers to teachers doing so. What might explain some teachers eagerly infusing technology and others not? Is Larry Cuban correct when he reports that computers have been over sold and under used by teachers (2001 p.195). As well, in their examination of the use of computers by teachers Dexter, Anderson, & Becker uncovered from teachers that they felt time to reflect was more of a catalysts than the technology itself for instructional change in teacher practice (1999).
If technology is not the catalyst what might be? I think it might be time to stop thinking that teachers are the obstacles to over come in school reform? Do we take seriously the experiences of teachers? If explanations contain the seeds for solutions, can I as a researcher explain or rather interpret for school reformers the teachers voice in this place? In the heart of this question I wonder, what do teachers say about of the relationship between technology and exploratory learning in constructionist classrooms today?

Cuban, L. (2001). Oversold and underused: computers in the classroom. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Dexter, S., Anderson, R. E., & Becker, H. J. (1999). Teachers' views of computers as catalysts for changes in their teaching practice. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 31(3), 221-239.
Hargreaves, A. (2003). Teaching in the knowledge society. Teachers College Press.

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