Recently, in the middle of a presentation to about 500 teachers, one woman raised her hand and said something along the lines of "Look, I'm not the most technologically savvy, but I have to tell you that in a lot of ways I think all this technology is the devil. I mean my kids plagiarize stuff left and right, they don't learn how to spell because of spell check, and I just think we'd be better off without it." And a number of people applauded.Jennifer Wagner wrote an antidote to the widespread demonizing of iPods in classroom education. Patrick Higgins provided context to the "Liverpool High School 1:1 laptop failure" reported in the New York Times. All these anti-technology teachers' fears of students cheating, plagiarizing and shortchanging their own educations -- are coming true.
These teachers are misreading their situations. They don't see how they appear to their students. These teachers don't realize the subtext of what they are saying when they give out assignments, oppose technologies and define problems with students "cheating".
Students have become sophisticated consumers of meaningful challenges. They welcome an authentic hurdle that makes them think, problem solve or experiment. It's obvious to them when a challenge is bogus, derivative or menial. The obstacle lacks meaning, significance or a narrative context. Students have a low tolerance for "going through the motions" because their technology-saturated lives are filled with real challenges and successes.
Students recognize "the game being played" in new situations. They figure out the rules of the game by messing around and then realize ways to win. They also know a "stupid game" when they see one. The rules don't make sense, the rewards are unfair and the tasks are absurd. The smart thing to do with a stupid game is cheat or bail - not play by the rules for no good reason.
Students expect grown-ups to provide great challenges and games to explore. They rely on older people to be clever, ingenious and slightly devious. Students want to be misled, set-up and ambushed. The challenges become more intriguing and engaging when they are far from obvious. Trying to cheat the game inspires designers to out-think the gamers, not frame the gamers as "missing the point" or "lacking aptitudes".
Teacher still assign research papers and oppose copying from the Web. Classroom instructors continue to give closed-book tests of perishable, short-term memory. Teachers still expect students to learn "because I said so" or "because it's required".
This sends a loud, subtext message to these sophisticated consumers of meaningful challenges. It's as-if the teacher is saying:
- This is a bogus challenge that's designed to diminish your curiosity and creativity. Please don't think about the pseudo-value of this challenge to you. Don't approach the useless exercise or flawed course design as the actual problem to solve. Don't see through this scam or find solutions among yourselves that I'll be clueless to comprehend.
- I'm pretending the web does not exist. I'm assuming you do not have successes every day where you easily find what you're looking for online. I expect you to experience information as a scarce resource that's difficult to find and disconnected from other sources. You are required to play along with me.
- This is a stupid game to play that deserves your contempt. I'm cheating you out of an authentic learning experience so please return the favor and cheat your way out of this stupid game.
- I'm a pathetic game designer. I have no idea how to add a narrative dimension to the challenges. I can only be blatantly obvious and boring. It's left to you to show me how to be devious, ingenious and clever in hopes I might learn what you know.
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