George Couros has me thinking (again): “What is the difference between school and learning?”

His article, One Question We Should Always Ask… made me think deeply about how the relationship between the classroom teacher, the students, and technology. The battle between getting a student’s attention when all they want to do is gaze at the Mirror of Erised of their smartphone is no joke.

You do not have unlimited data, Harry…

Compare two schools’ data; one with 1:1 technology and one without:

report 1
School #1: Little or no access to consistent technology
report 2
School #2: 1:1 laptop, technology-rich-environment

The reading and math scores are both well below 50%. There is a lot wrong with the SBA test–more wrong than is right when it comes to students of poverty, ELL, and marginalized communities. But one way School #2’s district tried to level the playing field was to provide technology to all students. Is it fair to judge a single point of data as a measure of success or failure? Of course not. But since the SBA was introduced to School #2, the scores have remained flat. I would argue that one glaring reason is that teachers are not trained in the metrics of the test. This is far beyond ‘teaching to the test’ — this is a complete paradigm shift in what is being measured. And since we teachers aren’t allowed to look at the test, and sign a blood oath, there is nothing to share or discuss until released items come out.

And one tragedy of my professional life is I did have the work done and was ready to share it. But because I didn’t deliver the message in a pleasing way, (thanks again George Couros), it was ignored. Literally. Was told by admin that my SBA Brief Write work ‘had too many slides.” Reminds me of Amadeus’ problem with the King: “too many notes.”

My friend Jennie had a great idea: conduct a research study of high-functioning tech-literature teachers (such as myself, hmm-mm) and see the data associated with their students. Hmm. I know when I taught in the Technology Academy my students’ scores were between 65% and 75%, which is included in the overall population.

But ultimately, I know that technology helps if done right: it must have the intentionality of being a creative tool– not just a hammer–but paintbrush, wand, or quill and ink. And ultimately, students will never be inspired to create or learn unless one thing is taught above all:

Teach students it’s okay to be in their own heads. To make their inner life more rich, more interesting than any external force.

From The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught You by Zat Rana:

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

All the technology in the world will continue to be a drain on souls and imaginations, an external reflection that never creates a new meaning for us.

Look away from the mirror, and do the work of teaching. Even if the messenger is crabby.