Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Clark Group Rebuttal (1 of 3) for the class debate

Yes, things have changed in the classroom. It does look different from even 10 years ago. Things are evolving. But these new things in the classroom do not actually have an effect on learning. For example, over 80 years ago, Thomas Edison predicted that film would replace textbooks with 100% efficiency and look what happened. Over 60 years ago, William Levenson thought the radio would replace chalkboards. Bill Clinton campaigned for computers to reach all classrooms. Likewise President Obama believes that “Every child should have the chance to get online….and that’s how we’ll strengthen America’s competitiveness in the world.” Within the next 10 years, someone else may make the same claim about SMART Boards. Research tells us that the majority of teachers are ill-prepared to effectively use computers in their classrooms. As Todd Oppenheimer, journalist and author of The Flickering Mind, wrote in 1997, “If history keeps repeating itself, the schools are in serious trouble.” He goes on to question whether or not the values of computers have been “oversold.” I refuse to believe that Kozma has finally found the panacea for how to best influence student learning. I think we should pause and question the motives behind these expensive new media, which is said to provide gains.
A change in a learning environment does not automatically lead to an increase, or decrease in students’ learning. A debate between learning theories has existed for over 100 years. What is a fact is that students can learn from a traditional or progressive teaching style, and even between the two, it has not been proven that all students benefit from one over the other. Constructivist lessons are exciting, hands-on, active, in the same way media can be exciting, hands-on, active. But no controlled study has proven to make a difference in student achievement levels. Lev Vygotsky’s theory of the Zone of Proximal Development is a great idea, but there are no results that indicate that it is the best way to structure learning for children. Yet, now that the latest new technology has entered the classroom, you are saying that media alone can increase student achievement? In my personal opinion, I would agree with Dr. Robert Marzano, who would argue here that effective teachers have the most influence upon student achievement. It is the role of the teacher who guides the lesson, who plans the steps that the students will follow and the connections the students will make to reach the standard. Teachers use Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences to manipulate the instructional method, but not which media to use. Some medium is always present in the delivery, but it is the method and not the media.
Lastly, while students may appear more motivated at the newness of the media presented as an alternative to direct instruction, media does not influence motivation. Motivation is tied to the beliefs and expectations of the learner. If a teacher can provide an instructional method for students to feel good about a learning process, an activity, a construction, if students can make a connection with a learning process, an activity, a construction, then these aspects may increase student motivation and possibly student achievement. But not media.

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