Delete Teacher. Insert Automated Learning.

Two Items of Note by the late Arthur C. Clarke (as reported by Sugata Mitra):

  1. A teacher who can be replaced by a machine, should be.
  2. If children have interests, then education happens.

Pithy, poignant, perspicuous.

On to other things: In the gray days of winter, one must find humor in the smallest thing. Today, I admit, it’s a very small thing. However, I suppose I find it a bit amusing whenever the naysayers and sky-is-falling Chicken Littles of the world determine that this time, for sure, teachers will be excised from the world at large… or, at the very least, from the educational scene.

Seriously?

Gregory Ferenstein’s Fast Company recent article on whether or not teachers will soon be replaced by technology broaches the question yet again. I have not so much against the article – he actually does a pretty interesting job of weaving together some intriguing premises – and I suggest that you read it (and, of course, watch Mitra’s TEDxGlobal Talk, if you haven’t already!). He challenges us all to re-vision the role of teacher in his final line: As for the concept of a “teacher” as an expert consultant who acts as a glorified megaphone of facts at the head of a classroom, there’s a Google search for that.

But it occurs to me that continued reinforcing of this idea — that technology is a threat or, conversely, that technology will save the world — clouds the real issues, actually muddies the water, stifling the conversations that we really need to be having. When technology is seen as either “a straw man or as a standard bearer” (Labbo & Reinking, 1999), dialogue stagnates, breaking down into rants of limited vision. (Please note that I do not interpret Mitra’s talk in this way; I’m referencing inflammatory nature of Ferenstein’s first sentence: Just as the Internet replaced telephone operators and the nightly news anchor as the default source of information, teachers may be next on the chopping block.)

Fiery rhetoric breeds fear, heated arguments, and distrust. What we really need is frank, open dialogue that seeks what is best for our children. Let’s put everything on the table, examine all options. Let’s seek understanding, enlightenment, and charity. Let’s stop fearing for our jobs or for our pensions or for our traditions. We limit ourselves and our worlds by the boundaries we, ourselves, set. We need unfettering.

Labbo, L.D., & Reinking, D. (1999). Negotiating the multiple realities of technology in literacy research and instruction. Reading Research Quarterly, 34, 478-492.

Second Hybrid Doctoral Cohort & Application Deadline

Awesome news, my scholarly-leaning teacher friends! You, too, can join the EPET hybrid doctoral program at Michigan State University.

A year and a half ago, Michigan State University announced its first ever hybrid doctoral program in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology in late January of 2010. Although the deadline was less than two months away, the number of applications that poured in proved the demand for a ground-breaking program that honored the reality of education professionals dedicated to their fields.

The first cohort consists of teachers, university faculty, and professionals from both the local area and places as far away as Texas, Idaho, Utah, and even Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This blended program combines the best of on-line and face-to-face programs as it focuses on the evolving nature of new technologies and how these can be levered to enhance thinking, learning, and communicating. The unique nature of this program allows for the synergistic intersection of successful, innovative, and forward thinking educators and a doctoral program grounded in research and taught by the movers & shakers of the educational world. These Ph.D. candidates bridge the two worlds, with one foot in their individual fields, rich with research opportunity and material, and one foot in a consistently top-ranked doctoral program.

If you didn’t get the chance to apply then, don’t despair. The second cohort will begin in June of 2012 — and applications for the 2012 program are now being accepted. Please contact Dr. Robin Dickson, Coordinator, for more information, and feel free to ask me if you’ve any questions of a more pragmatic nature.