Digital Media* New Learners of the 21st Century: A Rant and a Reflection.

At the start of this video, someone says a beloved John Dewey Quote, which sums up his progressive educational ideology.  Dewey said that “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterdays, we rob them of tomorrow.”  There are many other quotes like this, and the idea behind them seems to be the same: truth is evolving and changing quickly; humanity is ever improving; catch up or be left behind.  This is foundation behind much of 21st century educational thought.

This does not jive with my world view at all.  I do not think that humanity is improving, nor do I think it is regressing.  I don’t think that truth can or will ever change.  I think that while we can use new discoveries and technologies to be better teachers, we should be very careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  We should never say that just because something is old, it must be bad.  That Dewey quote really rubbed me the wrong way.  Can last year’s or last generations’ or last century’s education be so useless that it keeps children from growing and learning for the future?  How can that be?  Our parents, grandparents, forefathers learned in the past.  The framers of the Constitution were educated in the past.  Shakespeare, Galileo, Johannes Kepler, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Moore, Aristotle, Plato, Archimedes, all were educated in the past.  How could something that has served humanity so well in the past be a disservice to modern students?  I can’t think of anything more arrogant than to say that all old things are worth less than new things.

That rant is probably the first part of an on-going series we’ll call “Hannah’s Struggles with Progressivism.”  Anyway, on to the wonderful programs shown in the video.

My favorite program in the video was the first one, where a school, in addition to teaching traditional subjects, taught game design.  I loved it.  The program found a wonderful way to help kids develop problem solving and creative skills in a natural way, which will help these students their whole lives.  I also really appreciated how the teachers were in control of the technology, in that they would remove the laptops when they thought that they were not helping the students to learn.  I was impressed how well it seemed that the students worked in a somewhat self-guided system.  My youngest brother, Sean, would do so well in a school like that.  He has figured out how to make flash animation videos on his own and has played around with some game design.  Kids at those middle years, in middle school and early high school, are very creative and do very well with those sorts of projects.  If there were a school like that around here, I would absolutely try to get my brother into it.

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2 thoughts on “Digital Media* New Learners of the 21st Century: A Rant and a Reflection.

  1. Interesting. I had the opposite feeling when that principal used Dewey’s quote. But you and I may be reading it differently. When I hear that quote, I hear, “We need to improve our methods.” I didn’t get the impression that using today’s methods meant that we had to chuck all the great stuff from the past. Because I definitely agree with you on the idea that we need to keep those classics that have served us so well. I think they give our kids valuable frameworks and points of reference for the world in which they live – tech-laden or not.

  2. Thank you for sharing your presepective. Traditions are very much part of who we are, but some of us have a romantic (not sure this is the adjective) view of our pasts. This seems very true when comes to reflecting on our education (a system that was designed for an Industrial Age that no longer live in). Did my high school experience prepare me for life 20 years ago? I struggled even back than with relevance with what I was learning…”you need it for college” was the best argument I heard. I stayed relevantly engaged and respected my teachers (growing up with a father that was a teacher and Union leader, I had no choice). Some of that respect for education in our society is gone, attacked by the media (are we still looking for Superman?) at the same time the US is changing. When the standards movement reached the schools, teachers became more accountable for not only what they teach, but how effective they teach. My high school experience did not have standards and I did not have to take End of Course SOLs. Would I have passed them? Systematic change is hard and takes time. New teachers entering the field can still respect tradition, but will quickly realize that keeping instruction relevant and engaging will be completely different the we experienced with our education. Is this a bad thing?

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