Friday, December 10, 2010

The Threat of Technology

(News-Herald, December 9) Recent removal of an old foundation at a noted European archeological site turned up an important work, which I’m going to reproduce in its entirety here:
My dear sir;
I have been told that you intend to drag our school forward, willy nilly, into the use of new technology, a technology that is unproven, undependable, and prone to enormous abuse. I fear that this new technology will seriously disrupt the work of both teachers and students, and I think we need to think long and hard about implementing this.
I am speaking, of course, about your intent to introduce the use of paper and pencils into our classrooms.
Let’s consider the impact of this new technology.
Paper is fragile, undependable and untrustworthy. It is easily torn and crumpled, and the simplest bit of mis-applied pressure pokes holes in it. If pencils are kept too sharp, they will jab right through the paper. But if the pencils become too dull, they will barely make a mark. The technology is therefore completely unreliable.
This means that students will have to be taught to maintain and protect the technology. They will have to be trained how to keep the paper flat and clean, and will have to learn special techniques for transporting it between classroom, home, and school. I foresee our students having to find and purchase special protective devices for their paper.
And what of the pencils? What if my students arrive with a pencil that is too dull, or they have simply forgotten one? When the technology malfunctions in these ways, will my classroom be forced to grind to a halt??
Adopting this new technology will play hob with our academic setting. I know that you foresee a system in which students are made familiar with paper and pencil from a young age so that the use of this technology is so familiar that students use paper and pencil without ever thinking of all the hundreds of ways that they must care for and maintain the technology. I believe you grossly over-estimate them. I envision a classroom in which learning grinds to a halt as students clumsily snap pencils in half as they mistakenly try to write upside down papers that, accidently moistened by tears of frustration, collapse into sodden clumps.
Furthermore, you realize that these students can use pencils to write anything on the paper. Anything at all!! They could write naughty words. The more talented ones can even draw naughty pictures. By passing papers back and forth, they can communicate with each other at will. At the very moment I need their attention focused on an important matter of verb conjugation, they could be passing notes back and forth about what Fiona said during the barn raising yesterday.
Since paper is malleable, they can easily hide these notes behind legitimate work, and unless I walk around and pay attention to what they’re up to, I have no way of knowing whether these students are on task or not.
Can you not at least provide specific instructions on why, when, where and exactly how this technology is to be used? Your insistence that we can just experiment, try things out, and use common sense to find the ways that paper and pencil can be helpful is too vague. What if a student tries to fold the paper into a hat? What if he tries to write on the edge instead of the flat side? The technology offers too many possibilities, and frankly, that scares me. Can’t we take some of them away. Would it not be better, for instance, to make one side of the paper black so that it cannot be written on?
Yes, I know that most of the adult working world uses paper, and yes, I know that students use paper and pencil as part of their daily lives. I see no reason that my classroom should not linger in the past. Let them deal with this unfamiliar and difficult technology on their own time. Our job as teachers is not to prepare them for the future, but to make them comfortable in the past.
This technology is scary, hard to master, and requires new skills that will never, ever become second nature. We will never ever learn to handle the problems that the technology raises. Our old technology is more than equal to the task, as this letter attests—I have carved it into these stones in less than a week, and that is fast enough for any man.

1 comment:

Danny said...

dude, you is hard to follow. whats all of this about?

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