On Friday I tweeted this:
It has since been retweeted by a couple of my PLN. So why did I tweet it and why might it resonate with other tweachers?
When the thought came to me I was hastily preparing for the first meeting of my school’s new PBL Research Team (more on this to come) and in doing so I was looking at the data from a DER in Stage 6 survey I collected last year. The survey was completed twice – once by teachers and once by Year 10 students. Essentially I asked both teachers and students what their expectations were for DER in Stage 6. (For my international readers, DER is the 1-1 initiative of our current federal government that aims to give a laptop to every student in Years 9-10, and Stage 6 refers to the highest level of secondary schooling in NSW – culminating in the external Higher School Certificate examinations.)
Here are some of the questions I included in the survey:
Responses from both surveys were very similar – students and teachers did not expect to use the netbooks often in class. The only technology that both groups wished to see being used was IWBs – and this would be as little as once a fortnight. If netbooks were used they would be used for accessing information on the internet. The responses weren’t unexpected – these students have been conditioned by a lifetime of school-setting education exposure to see education as ‘the filling of a pail’ – they are the empty vessels waiting to be filled by teacher. And teachers have been conditioned to see themselves in the same way. Stage 6 means big pressure for teachers and students – no one wants to fail, therefore no one wants to risk being set on fire. My analogy for teachers is the content management system – but the irony of course is that we are not robots, we have not been programmed to work in the seamless, repetitive and reliable way that a CMS can. So the acceptance of teachers as CMS actually necessitates failure.
Here is a definition of a CMS I found which relates nicely to how teachers are viewed by governments, parents and media and therefore shapes how teachers see themselves:
‘A CMS or Content Management System is used for the control and editing of content. Content includes electronic files, images and video based media, audio files, electronic documents and web text.’ (Source: http://www.kangainternet.com.au/content-management-system.html)
I like this definition because it engages with digital media – something many teachers are beginning to do more regularly since the introduction of DER. But the ‘control and editing’ of this digital content still stays firmly in the hands of the teacher.
I came across another type of CMS – the ‘Learning Content Management System’ when I was googling CMS (Yes, I had a normal person look and went to wikipedia)
‘LCMS is software for managing learning content across an organization’s various training development areas. It provides developers, authors, instructional designers, and subject matter experts the means to create and re-use e-learning content …’ (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_management_system)
The same essence is repeated even though this is specifically for ‘learning’ – the underlying assumption is that there is ‘content’ that must be ‘delivered’ to students after having been ‘created’ by ‘developers, authors, instructional designers, and subject matter experts’. Replace ‘delivered’ with ‘taught’ and ‘developers’ with ‘teacher’ and you get something like the Victorian ideal which is ‘teachers teach content’ … lol.
There is hope for teachers though! I discovered that you can buy a digital teacher online – see:
‘Ecampus LMS is a learning management system that gives organisations the tools and support they need to create and manage elearning content, manage student data and asses students.’ (Source: http://www.ecampus.com.au/solutions/learning-management-systems/ecampus-platform.html)
OK – I’m being silly, but the three things that the LMS does, according to the blurb, is what teachers are given responsibility for: create and manage content, manage student data and assess students. There just isn’t room for lighting fires – so don’t bother, OK? I mean – education is important, right? *insert sarcastic tone*.
Where am I going with this? Well, I too am a teacher and I too feel the awful mounting pressures of the need to fill students with content necessary to excel in the end of year examination. My Stage 6 class badly want the content – I can see it in their eyes, ‘Please Miss, please just write on the board what we need to know and let us put it in our essays!’ And I know what needs to go in there. But so far I have been resistant to ‘give’ it to them that easily – I have refused to ‘reduce’ the world of literature and ideas (which in my current case is the man himself, Mr W. Shakespeare) to an essay scaffold and dot points. Does that make me a bad teacher? Well it makes me feel like one. So my solution is to write a blog for them where I put up (in my own words) what they need to know to ace the test. And then I rethink this decision – because isn’t doing that just moving me one step closer to being a CMS/LCMS/LMS?
I know I’m going to do it anyway. I know I should get them to make the blog and write the posts. BUT I also know that they have pressures from other subjects and tell me repeatedly there is no time to do extra work like writing blog posts and making prezis. So, I’ll do it for them. I will. And one day the work I’m initiating with PBL in the more junior years will pay off because these future (and ideal) students will laugh at my vain attempts to maintain power by controlling the information. They will tell me I am a broken-down filing cabinet that needs to move into the 21st century.
And I will laugh with them as we all dance in the fire.