I chose Cuban’s book “Teachers and Machines: The Classroom use of Technology since 1920” from the corridor library as an Air New Zealand in-flight re- read for the return trip from Wellington to Auckland on Friday night.
It has been a while since I read Cuban so when I hit the following paragraphs I experienced an intense moment of déjà vu that crossed the decades and the continents ... in truth it was hard to suppress the urge to join in the dingo like howling of the infant from Oz in the seat infront ..
Seventy six years ago Benjamin Darrow was claiming
“The central and dominant aim of education by radio is to bring the world to the classroom to make universally available the services of the finest teachers the inspiration of the greatest leaders ... the unfolding world events which through the radio may come as a vibrant and challenging textbook of the air.” Benjamin Darrow in “Radio: The Assistant Teacher” 1932 cited in Cuban Teachers and Machines The Classroom use of Technology since 1920 p19
Sixty seven years ago
A survey of almost 2,000 Ohio principals, conducted in 1941, produced the following list of reasons cited for lack of classroom radio use and the percentage of respondents who gave each reason;
No radio receiving equipment 50%
School schedule difficulties 23%
Unsatisfactory radio equipment 19%
Lack of information 14%
Poor radio reception 11%
Programs not related to curriculum 11%
Classwork more valuable 10%
Teachers not interested 7%
I have nudged up against enough valorising claims about the potential impact of information and communication technologies on education, and “why don’t teachers use technologies in their teaching?” research findings and reports in the educational literature in New Zealand in the 21st Century to recognise simulacra.
I reckon conversations amongst the ict_pd community in New Zealand (and for that matter between any educator involved in attempts to reform a reliance on “teacher talk” in schools through the introduction of “a new technology” ) would be much more interesting if Cuban and perhaps Caroline Marvin were required prior reading.
And by “New Technology” I mean anything designed to ameliorate a reliance on teacher voice – eg chalk and slate, textbook and pictures, chalkboard, lantern slides, radio, film strips, film, overhead projectors, tape recorders, photocopiers, television, digital cameras, digital microscopes, computers, data shows, interactive white boards, graphic tablets, mobile phones, PDA’s and or the internet and the participatory medium of Web2.0 ... add your own ....
Cuban provides evidence from the introduction of radio, film and television in the 1920’s and 1930’s for the “exhilaration/ scientific credibility/ disappointment/ and teacher bashing cycle that results when new technologies are introduced by non teachers determined to change teacher practice.
This thinking challenges those nonteaching educators/ academics/ specialists/
administrators/ facilitators/ edubloggers and reformers who are no
longer charged with delivering the New Zealand Curriculum fulltime or even part-time to students
in classrooms, to acknowledge the expertise of those who are, when they are calling for the introduction and implemention of ICT charged change in schools.
“Reformers branded stability in teacher practice as inertia or knee-jerk conservatism. They viewed teacher reluctance as an obstacle to overcome. Seldom did investigators try to adopt a teacher’s perspective or appreciate the duality of continuity and change that marked both the schools and classrooms. Nor did any reformer even raise the disturbing issue that teacher expertise, drawn from a pool of craft wisdom about children and schooling that dances beyond the limited understanding of nonteaching reformers, should be bolstered rather than belittled.”
And Cuban raises something else of interest to those of us working to introduce ICTs in the 21st Century classroom.
If we want to know how successful our efforts have been perhaps we should monitor more carefully what is considered noteworthy of praise in the New Zealand Ministry of Education, the Educational Gazette, and other educational information technology media reporting.
For as Cuban notes what we see reported on as noteworthy ...
is an indicator of difference from the norm ... is an indicator of what we have failed
to implement and integrate with ICTs in education. After all we seldom reserve editorial space for how students and schools are utilising the felt tip pen.
When most of a school’s staff would embrace the new technology the effort would excite its boosters, like the story of the man who kissed his wife every morning for twenty four years and finally got kissed back. Teachers would be lauded; the principal singled out for praise; the school would be featured in newspapers and magazines. But such noteworthy praise and articles only have underscored how rarely teachers have used machines in their classrooms since the 1920’s. Cuban Teachers and Machines P51