Low-Tech, High-Value Schools

Thanks to Nitin Chaubey for forwarding the following article to the Jester: “Brilliance in a box: What do the best classrooms in the world look like?” which appeared in Slate. (By the way, the Jester encourages court messengers to send him relevant articles via e-mail, whether they support the Jester’s sublime wisdom about technology or are techno-stupidian techno-utopian. Both provide good fodder for jestering!) 

The article is summarized by one of its interviewees: “‘In most of the highest-performing systems, technology is remarkably absent from classrooms,’ says Andreas Schleicher, a veteran education analyst for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development who spends much of his time visiting schools around the world to find out what they are doing right (or wrong).” It turns out that South Korea and Finland, both of which have high-performing schools, don’t have a lot of technology in their classrooms. And, the Finns manage this by spending even less time in school and doing less homework than Americans (how that is possible, the Jester doesn’t know).  Schleicher continues, “I have no explanation why that is the case, but it does seem that those systems place their efforts primarily on pedagogical practice rather than digital gadgets.”

This is a great entry point for the Jester to engage in his favorite activity: redundant pontification.

Wait, wait, wait, you say. Since you’ve heard many times, you can imagine what will come next: The Jester will say this is obvious because technology amplifies human intent and capacity, and that the problem with underperforming schools is deficient human intent and capacity. Then, he will say that the critical thing for underperforming schools is building or bringing in better human intent and capacity. Of course, he will continue, if you had the human intent and capacity, you would already have good teachers delivering good education, so that would obviate the need to improve education and fewer technologists would be knocking on the door selling their wares. The Jester will conclude with one of his favorite analogies… that if you had a failing company, you wouldn’t imagine that things would turnaround by buying employees new PCs; so, why does anyone think this solution will work for schools?

You took the words right out of the Jester’s mouth. Since you’ve left little for the Jester to say, he will add that the article hints that technology is distracting us from focusing on what’s important in education. And, why are we being distracted? Because technology is particularly good at amplifying the freak factor of gadget freaks. It’s interesting that Schleicher claims to have no idea why the best school systems aren’t drowning in electonic gadgets, because in the same sentence he answers his own question. The schools focus on “pedagogical practice rather than digital gadgets.”  Wow, what an idea!

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