Babies and Bathwater . . .

I was scanning through Twitter posts, something I do at least two or three times a day, when a thread caught my eye. A parent was commenting on the homework task her primary school aged daughter was working on. From what I can gather this task was the creation of a poster of some kind and involved printing out and sticking information on the poster. The mother was complaining about this task being boring and pointless in comparison the last project which used a variety of technology and (I am guessing) presented on computer.

I can’t comment on the value of this particular project and the mother may well be correct in her assessment of its educational validity … however, it made me pause and think about my teaching practice. I recently had three projects active in my year 8 classroom:

  • a photostory about a person, place or thing which is important to you;
  • a news report (presented on video) of a natural disaster of your choice;
  • and a multiple intelligences grid based on the novel Skellig where students were asked to complete 18 points worth of activities.

Some of these tasks involved the creation of posters or booklets.  A seemingly  boring and pointless task in light of modern technology however . . .

. . . not all of my students are tech savvy and while we are all developing new skills we still need to show our learning and understanding, sometimes ‘paper’ products allow that to happen.

. . . I can’t staple computers to my display boards and I don’t have access to a system that allows me to constantly play videos / blogs / animations / etc that students might create.

. . . students / PCOs / parents (in that order)  like to see student work displayed.

. . . teaching literacy still involves teaching print literacy so learning to read and then produce posters / booklets / etc is still a valuable learning experience.

. . . typing (and printing) text allows the use of spell check and levels the playing field in terms of handwriting (another old world skill we are not ready to throw out just yet).

. . . we need to provide variety for our students.

Students and teachers do have an ever-increasing variety of tools to demonstrate learning and understanding but that doesn’t mean we should drop the old every time something new and shiny comes along.  When I set a project I need to consider not just the learning and understanding that I am expecting my students to show but also the function of the product I am asking for.

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Footnote:

That is value of Twitter … the people I follow (my PLN) challenge me to think about my teaching practice and that helps me to become a better teacher!  As a professional educator, if you aren’t on twitter it’s time you asked yourself why!

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Posted on May 15, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I completely agree that we need a range of different tasks and experiences to provide as broad an education for our students as possible and, while I’m obviously a big user of technology, still see the value in different types of literacy activities. Without knowing what the task was, it’s hard to comment but printing stuff out and sticking it on paper does sound pointless and doesn’t compare to your own non-technology examples which involved creative expression and diverse thinking. Maybe that’s the difference – any task we set needs to challenge, provide an opportunity to learn, extend and display skills and have a clear focus regardless of what method is used to complete it.

    Good post and definitely agree on the Twitter comment – I’m still finding it hard to convince many colleagues but it’s great to be able to communicate whenever with those who’ve already seen the light 🙂

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