Sigh. The Guardian recently published an article “Do students know more about technology than their teachers?” here. Very disappointing. At our children’s primary school, Friday assembly often involves the use of a laptop and a projector, nothing too technical in this, the 21st Century I would have thought….yet, more often than not, a student is tasked with setting it up, or resolving the missing audio, or volume.
While this might be good for the student’s self-esteem, I worry that the technology gap between teachers and students is getting wider and wider. Five years ago I was teaching IT at a University in Japan. I took a really, I mean REALLY hard line on plagiarism. You see I was not the average Professor who had a ‘consumers’ view of the web. I’d been working with the Web since 1992, and I have a pretty good grasp of the technology. Using various tools, some free and some not, I pushed all my students assignments through various hoops to detect the plagiarists. The results were staggering, if not downright depressing. Over 50% of submissions contained some form of unreferenced uplift of content, from single paragraphs, to entire essays in some cases.
This was an International University with students from around the globe, the papers and assignments were not overly difficult, and certainly all the course material, if consumed, would enable any student to make a worthy submission. Despite this, half the students chose to use the web as an unreferenced source – the easy way out.
I wondered how many students, with less technically motivated teachers were picking up their Degrees following three years of a copy-and-paste approach to higher education.
I don’t have the answers, but I do know we need our teachers, whether primary, secondary, or tertiary to recognise that they have a responsibility to our students to make them think. In a traditional sense, I am certain most teachers do an admirable job, but in general the level of IT skills amongst the teachers I have seen at various levels are sorely lacking.
If the teachers don’t know how to make use of IT, and in particular the web, there is a real danger of students continuing to consume knowledge, rather than create it.
The ministries behind education, need to make a real effort to ensure that their educators understand their responsibility to embrace and learn about the technologies that are shaping our society, and at the very least, be ‘nearly’ as good at consuming knowledge as our youngsters, not ‘no-where-near’. Not giving up, not being a luddite, not being embarrassed about saying, “Look! I need help to learn this stuff!”. We can’t stand by and allow teachers to glibly say, “Those kids, it’s wonderful how much they know about these things”. We need kids who not only understand how to consume, but also how to create. [rant ends]
BTW – Naughton points to an interesting spin related to this… http://bit.ly/seMwoN