On Pushback

I remember taking a course in university.  It was called the “History of Education” or something like that.  I also remember the textbook that we had to buy.  It was a very thin paperback with chapters devoted to educational researchers – Thorndike, Piaget, Montessori, Bruner, Skinner, …  If I recall correctly, there were thirteen of these education thinkers and we studied the works of each one, every week.  I like to think I’ve been most influenced by Montessori but I can see elements of the others.

I also remember the professor on the first night and his statement “We’ve been trying to understand how education and learning works for years and we’re going to study all of these but none have got it completely right”.  I remember my classmate turning to me and saying “Why didn’t he get us to buy the book with the person who did get it right?”  Yeah, we were way too young.

Even in my short period of time in education, I’ve seen various theorists come and go and we’re still in search of the magic bullet.  Fortunately, as a system, we definitely are getting much better at understanding how learning happens.

Aside from learning in general, there’s another system under research and that’s the use of educational technology.  If you’re a blog reader, you’ll have read about the magic bullets touted for educational technology, the latest being the SAMR model.

Miguel Guhlin caught my eye with his post yesterday “Tearing Down False gods: SAMR Pushback Begins (Updated)” and this morning Mark Anderson with “SAMR is not a ladder, a word of warning“.  Both are terrific posts and well worth your time to click through and read.  Both posts make reference to a couple of others “Why I’m Done with SAMR” by Mark Samberg and “What’s Wrong with SAMR in Education” by LeiLani Cauthen.  Read both these as well and then reflect back on your own thoughts on the topic.

There have been a lot of inane things that you see by those who have taken this model as an absolute.  “We got rid of SMARTBoards because of SAMR” and “I teach above the line” and “##### ####### has created an infographic of every educational app in the App Store and rated them according to SAMR”.  How can someone not in my district, my school, my classroom makes these decisions?  We’ve all read and seen the somewhat sarcastic, somewhat truthful posts about the need to study pencils in education with as much energy as we do other technologies.

I find comments like this and the way that people are using these things as just sad and, quite frankly, a discredit to the profession.  After all, do an internet search for “It’s not about the technology” and see what falls out.  More importantly, take a look at the focus.  It’s all about the teaching when the real focus should be on the learning.  When focused solely on the teaching, technology use becomes absolutes.  When focused on learning, it enables differentiation opportunities and, most importantly, increased the chance that students take charge of their own learning.

I’ve always chosen a simpler route.  As far as I’m concerned, there are two ways that you can use technology:

  • to do things differently;
  • to do different things.

all within the context of the subject matter being learned.

Of course, this is not the only “technology model”.  Miguel has a nice collection on his wiki.

Even this presentation takes me back to that university course.  There isn’t just one listed.  All of the researchers that we studied opened the door to our understanding of student learning.  None of them stand on their own.  Our understanding is growing and evolving.  So, it’s good to see pushback to those who would label this as the defining standard by which all should be evaluated.

One thought on “On Pushback

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