insideTeaching: updated every schoolday
about     search  

earlier entries >>
31 January 2005: Rocks and Chalkboards (3 of 6)

At , you’ll find a brief history of the chalkboard. It seems that up until 1801 in the United States, it was virtually unheard of to teach the entire class from one large slate on the wall. Instead, teachers circulated, giving students work to do on their individual slates.

By the 1850’s, a “leap forward” had occurred in public education, and

“teachers no longer had to spend so much time writing individual problems and lessons on a single student’s slate, but could speak to an entire class where everyone had the benefit of seeing the board.”

Technology? Certainly. Better teaching? Doubtful. By allowing for whole class instruction, and creating classrooms geared toward that method, chalkboards may well have been a significant step in the un-training of teachers. Now, teachers could teach many students as if they were one. This undoubtedly led to less teacher circulation around the room, and arguably to less differentiation for student needs.

01 February 2005: Rocks and Chalkboards (4 of 6)

Now, let’s again address current ideas of technology in the classroom. Computers and associated costs make up a huge portion of school spending each year. They are supposed to better equip our students for success in ‘the real world,’ and often are expected to help teachers manage the many demands put on them for assessment and record keeping.

A critical pedagogue, Apple reminds us to question things we often take for granted in our own classrooms—in this case, technology. When it comes to implementing new technology, Apple reminds us to stop and ask ‘why?’ instead of just barreling forward with ‘how?’

The answers Apple suggests to the question of why computer technology should be in public school classrooms can be discouraging. Maintaining class and race stratification seems a clear side effect, when one considers the differences in resources and teacher training from wealthier suburban schools to their poorer, urban counterparts. Certainly, we cannot ignore the capitalist motivations of computer manufacturers: donated computers often reap rewards through charging for maintenance or by creating a market for future sales.

02 February 2005: Rocks and Chalkboards (5 of 6)

One of the things that bothers me the most about this topic, though, is the way computer technology in the classroom can affect teachers and teaching.

Have you ever put aside time to try out the new ‘educational software’ before you let your students try it? I have countless times, but I never quite got there. I admit, it seems that turning in the latest cycle of assessment scores or planning instruction usually got the better of me.

Have you ever relied on computer assessments or programs to direct your teaching? When we’re told that these assessment strategies are more accurate and efficient than the ones we administer ourselves, why shouldn’t we take advantage of the technology to make our lives easier?

Have you ever taught a lesson about computers to your students? I’m not talking about how to use a computer, I mean a lesson about computers. Do your students know that most computer technology was developed for military use, or that there is no governing body regulating information on the internet for accuracy?

03 February 2005: Rocks and Chalkboards (6 of 6)

Returning to the chalkboard metaphor, I think it’s important to recognize that many teachers are returning to their roots. Individual-sized chalkboards and whiteboards are widely available in teacher stores these days. I’ve got a personal collection of 35, and I find them incredibly useful, especially in math, as they engage the students and allow for differentiation. So, although there are several large ones on the wall, we’re returning to a teaching strategy that was rejected in favor of technology over 150 years ago.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you throw your classroom computers out the window. Like chalkboards, the value of the thing is not in the thing itself, but in how it is used. What I’m advocating, in Michael Apple’s footsteps, is a critical approach. I’m telling you to ask questions that may otherwise go unasked.

04 February 2005: You Can Handle Them All (1 of 4)

While doing some of my regular trolling-for-resources web browsing, I came across a fascinating website I wanted to share. It's called Discipline Help: You Can Handle Them All ().

Here, the authors have identified 117 student behaviors that often hinder success in traditional classrooms. Frankly, it's worth checking out just so that you can browse the list. The list includes The Underachiever, The Procrastinator, and The Attention Demander. My personal favorites include The Apple Polisher (code for Brown-Noser) and The Goldbrick (aka Something For Nothing).

I would challenge you to find one of your students whose issues are not addressed somewhere on this list. Of course, this is not to suggest that students don't come to the table with their individual needs and personalities. On the other hand, if there were not patterns to these things, no one would have listened to dear old Sigmund.

later entries >>
teaching quote of the day

Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.

- Chinese proverb

archives by subject
archives by date

    insideTeaching: updated every schoolday
about     search