Last night, our friend and colleague David Treeby sent us an article. By a guy named Jared Woodard, the article is called Rotten STEM: How Technology Corrupts Education. It is great. Read it. Then scream.
Following the lead of France and Ontario, the Victorian Labor government has decided to ban mobile phones in government classes. One stated reason is to combat cyberbullying, but they’re probably lying. The good and blatantly obvious reason is that smart phones destroy concentration.
Still, any change, no matter how compelling, will have its detractors. There is the idiotic argument that the ban is unenforceable; the claim is almost certainly false, but if true points to such a profound loss of authority that schools may as well just give up entirely. And, there is the argument – one in a stream of tendentious half-truths – that occasionally the internet is down, meaning a lesson can only continue aided by a mobile’s hotspot. The argument is based upon a falsehood but in any case is much worse than wrong; any teacher so addicted to the internet for their teaching may first wish to heal thyself. They may also wish to consider a new profession. Please.
And of course there is discussion of the suggested educational benefits of smart phones, proving only that there is no idea so idiotic that some educational hack cannot be found to support it.
Luckily, it would appear that the Labor government is holding firm, and students will be able to get back to the intended lessons. On their fucking iPads.
No one appears to have a bad word for Eddie Woo. And no, we’re not looking to thump Eddie here; the mathematics videos on Eddie’s WooTube channel are engaging and clear and correct, and his being honoured as Local Australian of the Year and as a Top Ten Teacher is really cool. We do, however, want to comment on Eddie’s celebrity status and what it means.
What do Eddie’s videos exhibit? Simply, Eddie is shown teaching. He is explaining mathematics on a plain old whiteboard, with no gizmos, no techno demos, no classroom flipping, rarely a calculator, none of the familiar crap. There’s nothing at all, except a class of engaged students learning from a knowledgeable and engaging teacher.
Eddie’s classroom is not the slightest bit revolutionary. Indeed, it’s best described as reactionary. Eddie is simply doing what good maths teachers do, and what the majority of maths teachers used to do before they were avalanched with woo, with garbage theories and technological snake oil.
Sure, Eddie tapes his lessons, but Eddie’s charmingly clunky videos are not in any way “changing the face of mathematics teaching“. Eddie’s videos are not examples of teaching, they are evidence of teaching. For actual instruction there are many better videos out there. More importantly, no video will ever compare to having a real-live Eddie to teach you.
There are many real-live Eddies out there, many teachers who know their maths and who are teaching it. And, there would be many, many more real-live Eddies if trainee teachers spent more time learning mathematics properly and much less time in the clutches of Australia’s maths ed professors. That’s the real message of Eddie’s videos.
Well, sort of. Since 2010, France has already banned mobile phones from classrooms; what is controversial is the French proposal to ban mobiles from schools entirely. So, countries like England and Australia are only actively considering what France has accepted without question for years.
We talk about trying to stimulate STEM education in our schools … it seems quite bizarre that we’re talking about banning the most obvious forms of technology at our disposal.
Dr Joanne Orlando, an “expert on children and technology” at UWS is also against any such ban. Responding to government comments, Dr. Orlando responds that
it takes us a few years back from all the work we are doing in education and training … There are so many new ways that mobile devices can add to the classroom.
Thank God for experts.