Chalk one up for James Pillans

This slide was posted by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach on the excellent blog, Dangerously Irrelevant.

The two statements in the slide ought to be obvious; and it ought to be obvious that they have been forever true. This is because technology is always new, which is the same thing as saying it’s nothing new. James Pillans’ blackboard and chalk were cutting edge educational tech when he introduced those in the classroom in the early 19th century. “The inventor of [this] system,” one Josiah Bumstead said, “deserves to be ranked among the best contributors to learning and science, if not the greatest benefactors of mankind.”

The more interesting thing raised here is that no one has said enough yet about what “effective” means, (or about why we would want students to connect and collaborate online). My hunch is that it doesn’t mean anything different than it did in Pillans’ day.

You may have seen this video, but the last 30 or 40 seconds makes a point relevant here and is worth another look if you have:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGCJ46vyR9o&w=425&h=344]

One Comment

  1. Reply
    Richard Smith c/o Braddo December 16, 2008

    Comments from Richard Smith, who emailed me his thoughts before I could get the Comment feature working. Thanks, Richard for the hubris: this did go out a little underdone. And thanks for adding to the discussion:I can’t comment on your blog – probably you have turned off comments for the reason many of us have, the spam is unmanageable, sadly – so I’ll do my best with an email.I am pleased to see your engagement with new technology in the context of teaching and I appreciate your critique. It is necessary. As a “star teacher” yourself, I wonder if you have been following the recent discussion stirred up by Gladwell on what it takes to find, nurture, and promote “star teachers” and what a profound impact they can have on education.http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/12/15/081215fa_fact_gladwell?currentP…Gladwell isn’t alone in this – and mostly he is just reporting other people’s research, as he does so well – as there are other studies coming in all the time. For example, this recent story:http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2008/11/good_teachers_are_key_to_stude.html”What both of these stories seem to highlight, for me, is the fact that technology is (mainly) irrelevant except and insofar as it is a tool in the hands of a good teacher. Better teachers are the problem – and the solution – to America’s ills, is this argument.I think this might be part of what you are getting at when you quote that woman’s slides about teachers being irreplaceable – which seems true to me, as long at that is a good teacher. Teachers – like technology – are not “good” in and of themselves. This is an easy fact to forget if you are a good and commited teacher. You imagine that the others are like you, when in fact a great number are complete duds. All the gear in the world isn’t going to help them (although it might help mask their incompetence for a while).I am surprised, however, that you agree with the second statement, that “teachers who use technology…will replace…” This does not, seem to be true and certainly it hasn’t always been true. For one thing, the “create and collaborate online” is something that couldn’t have always been true; unless you are drawing a very small window on “always.” And even if you drop the “online” part, I don’t think we have ever had a focus on creating and collaborating, at least in primary and secondary education in the western world.I am all for creating and collaborating (online or otherwise), and I’d like to think it gives me some job security or advantage, but I really doubt that.You state at the end of your post that the last 40 seconds “makes a point that is relevant here.” What I see there is Wesch writing: “writing on a chalkboard forces the teacher to move.” What does that mean? How is that relevant to what you’re saying? I don’t get it. By moving he is getting out of the way of the students? He is getting some exercise? He is at least being dynamic? See Gladwell’s comments (and my, and probably your, experience) on how facing the blackboard can result in students getting quickly out of control. In this regard powerpoint – or even the overhead – has an advantage that you don’t have to turn your back on the kids while you put down things.Or are you referring to the things he scribbles in the corner? It is hard to make out but it looks like he writes about all the things missing from the chalkboard (video, animation, networks). That seems like a pretty trite observation by Wesch. There must be more that didn’t fit in the 4 minute student video.Anyway, continue with your postings – I enjoy them and I am sure many others do, too.

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