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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Teachers, beware the ed-tech trap

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Education technology can be a waste of teachers’ and students’ time, argue two teachers in a new book, Screen Schooled.

Joe Clement and Matt Miles, social studies teachers at a Virginia high school, tell a story about a teacher who spent six hours creating a PowerPoint presentation with old political cartoons, writes Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews.

Students pulled laptops off a cart so they could follow and comment on the lesson online. . . . another history teacher . . . told him about her similar lesson, using not PowerPoint and laptops but printed copies of the cartoons affixed to large newsprint sheets. Students walked around the room and made lesson-related comments on the newsprint. He decided to try it her way. The lesson took 15 minutes to prepare. What had been a good if quiet class earlier, with students staring at their screens, became a boisterous, involving discussion.

Clement, a former UNIX administrator, and Miles, a former IT major before switching to education, list three core principles of good teaching:

(1) deliver instruction in the simplest possible manner; (2) focus instruction on what students are able to do; and (3) foster face-to-face human interaction and opportunities for community building.

 Clement and Miles describe teens who are screen addicts, writes Mathews. They need no help using technology. “What they need help with is critical thinking, problem solving, and community building.”

They think teachers do better presenting instruction, face to face. Freed of a preplanned program, they can stop talking and answer spontaneous questions. They can backtrack if students seem lost. They can adapt their lessons from class to class. They can query students to make sure they get it.

And, they can connect with their students.

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