Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How not to use technology

Are you looking for how not to use technology?

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

You'll notice that exhibit A encourages teachers to use technology to make quizzes and tests more efficient, while exhibit B uses technology to make grades more visible.

When technology is used to accelerate the worst forms of pedagogy, we should all cringe, turn and run away.

And those who endorse this crap should be ashamed of themselves...


  1. I don't see what is wrong with either of these. Quizzes, especially short and to the point, are a great method of quickly assessing part of a student's learning. If that is the only method used, it is wrong. I use quizzes in my class, along with projects, labs, research, and much more to assess learning. The quizzes are a good tool.

    As for online grades - it's a great idea. We currently have no way to report or measure our student's learning without grades (because the public and others are not ready for any other method yet). Allowing parents to track if their students are in class and how they are doing encourages parental participation in school. This is a positive thing. Grades are a measure of student achievement. The system will not just let a teacher say that a student has mastered a skill set yet.

    Neither one of the examples is "the worst forms of pedagogy". I believe in using quizzes as one method of formative assessment. I've developed some multiple choice quizzes that are very good at truly assessing a student's understanding. It is quick and easy and then I can adjust my teaching based on it. I also use other methods.

    I think your final sentence is pretty rude considering Exhibit A is from a very well respected educator.

  2. While I want technology to make learning more meaningful, more plentiful and more engaging, I also value when technology makes me more efficient at what I have to do. If tech streamlines my assessment and parent communication, then I have more time for planning and searching resources.

    If you have a point to make here, why don't you construct an argument, and do it with respect for the people to whom you're communicating?

  3. Since you chose my blog as "Example A," I'll rise to the bait. First, I'm not ashamed at all. Over the last three year I've helped tens of thousands of educators do the jobs that they're required to do more efficiently thereby giving them more time to do the things that make teaching the best profession in the world. The fact of the matter is that many many teachers are required to show administrators test and quiz scores. I'm not saying that is a good thing, I'm simply stating it as a part of the profession. Should that change? Probably, however while we work toward that change we also need to work with requirements of our employers.

    At no point in my blog post that you criticize did I say that giving quizzes was a good educational practice (although I do tend to agree with Dave's comment about the use of quizzes). The point that I intimated at the end is if an educator can spend less time doing the tedious task of grading formal tests and quizzes, he or she can spend more time developing engaging learning experiences for their students.

    Finally, after reading your last statement I was inclined to offer an equally rude comment toward you. I've restrained myself.

  4. hmmmmm......stepping slowly away from the computer now.......

  5. @Dave, the first sentence of your comment speaks volumes. That you can't see the problem with this use of technology is at the heart of the problem.

    @John, being efficient is not sufficient. This form of tech exemplifies what Gerald Bracey once said: "There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all."

    @Mr. Byrne if a multi millionaire test company came out with this kind of software would you endorse it? If not, why would we endorse something like this simply because it might be teacher created? And if you don't necessarily endorse such practices, it might be a good idea to say so on your own blog as a kind of disclaimer for these kinds of tech.

    Also, it's really important to differentiate between fulfilling an employers' work requirements and becoming an accomplice to their ignorance for sound pedagogical practices. You have a large readership who would benefit greatly if the technology you endorsed was backed by sound pedagogy.

    As hard as criticism is to take, I hope you can see why I object to such use of technology.

  6. 1. You comments were rude with absolutely nothing from you to back up your statements.
    2. Quizzes are a valuable way to quickly analyze your student's understanding. I also use other ways of assessing students, as I mentioned.
    3. No one said that this was the only way they did things. In fact, we all mentioned how we do other assessments and need to do some of these things by rule or regulation.
    4. Grades are required in most parts of the USA where we are. They are a form of measurement and there is nothing wrong with them if the assessments behind them are meaningful.
    5. Since we have to prepare our students for college and jobs, being prepared to take tests is important. Like it or not the SATs, AP tests, college tests, certification tests for careers, all exist. If you aren't preparing your students for these kinds of things by having them do tests and quizzes in school, you are not preparing them for the world.

  7. Joe,
    I typically agree with you. You, typically, use rational, thought-filled, well formed responses to the ills of these forms of assessment. That is why I follow your blog. I think, if you were to reflect critically, you would understand why you received the responses you did.

    I agree that quizzes, no matter how efficient, are dangerous. They give us an illusion of diagnosis where often there is none. They rarely, if ever, uncover or encourage real, authentic learning. I agree that promoting technology that reinforces bad practice is, bad practice.

    I don't agree, at all, with your final statement nor the tone of the post. It exemplifies the divide between those who are trying to make the shift and those sorting through many of the realities of a flawed system. It is a remark that I would not expect from someone trying to demonstrate the evolution of education and teaching. It shows one-mindedness and definitely not the tone that would encourage these educators to re-think their practice.

  8. Joe,
    I don't know how long you've followed my blog or if you actually follow it all. However, from the tone of your comments it sounds like you don't read it regularly. If you follow it regularly I think you will find that I don't use it as a platform for telling others what is best educational practice.

    As I've explained in at least half a dozen posts over the last three years, my intent is to share what I find, offer a quick suggestion for how it might fit in a classroom, and let readers decide for themselves where to go from there. Occasionally, I share what I'm doing in my classroom with various technologies. Again, preaching is not the intent of my blog. I'll leave that to others that I think are more qualified for that and to those who think they are qualified to preach. The ones that I think are qualified, I refer others to (some of those include Scott McLeod, Gary Stager, Chris Lehmann). Those that I don't think are qualified, I ignore.

  9. I'm not totally sure I agree with the comments in your post. If you are ONLY using technology as those two examples point out, then sure, shame/blame should be placed.

    However, if those two examples are part of a larger strategy to integrate technology, then awesome! I use googledocs for quizzes and tests and can give students feedback quicker than a paper test. I think many teachers would agree that adequate and timely feedback are crucial to student success. Its a piece of the puzzle.

    Additionally, I am a PowerSchool trainer in my district (and a parent of two students who attend my school). The integration of PowerSchool (and its ability to communicate feedback to parents) has been a boost to student success in our district and a great way for me to have constant access to my student's progress in their classes. Again, it all boils down to feedback for me and PowerSchool and other grade programs are a great way to pass that feedback on. Are these programs the be all/end all solution to the state of education? Uh, no. Just another piece of the technology puzzle.

    But that's just me and we all know what they say about opinions. :-)

  10. Hi,
    The point I think Joe is making is that the use of technology can actually fool us into thinking that we are using 21st centuary skills and that we are doing something different in education

    To quote ' Alfie Kohn ' Collecting facts in itself isn't constructivist at all, regardless of whether one pulls them from the World Book Encyclopedia or the World Wide Web. The number of sources of information, or the speed by which it's transmitted, changes exactly nothing in terms of the pedagogical approach.'

    technology can be used to help students ' construct modern knowledge ' - Gary Stager , Sylvia Martinez etc or foster a more efficient ' transmission model of education as opposed to a constructivist approach.

  11. Fascinating debate. I just coached a former student on how to study for a pencil and paper quiz where she will have to cough up all the capital cities and country names in Africa. She's panicked and will put many hours into memorizing this weekend for Monday's test. The true crime here? The waste of that child's brainpower that could have been spent trying to answer broader questions about issues in Africa or globalization impacts (or lack thereof) on that continent or exploring the uses of Google maps.

    I can't even open the door to suggesting to this student's teacher (who is also my colleague) that he try something different to assess knowledge and understanding of Africa because the debate is so polarizing.

    So yes: quizzes sometimes and yes, make sure they are absolutely necessary and reflective of best practices. And yes, yes, yes make them efficient and use tech to get 'em done.

    But please don't go to your corners on these issues. If we can't keep the discussions going, what does that say about the state of affairs? I turn to you guys out there when I'm silenced in my own workplace. Don't let me and others like me down.

  12. If you wish to see change take place in education, perhaps it would help to model the behavior you'd like to see. How does attempting to shame practicing teachers fit into your philosophy?

    To quote one of my favorite bloggers (dy/dan - google it): You have seriously overestimated the effectiveness of contempt as a precondition of reform.


  13. My, my, my, we teachers really are a sensitive lot. But, tough times call for tough measures. Loved the post and the responses, Joe. I agree 100% with your views and approach.

    I think we can all agree that technology is not just a conduit to a love of life-long learning, but a magnifier of best and worst practices. The truth hurts, but we're professionally obliged to bring them up. This very issue was an element of a paper I wrote on the subject of educator professionalism last year.

    Here is an extract:

    I have often wondered if my compulsion to share new ideas with teachers was nothing more than a form of professional trespass, and that I should in fact leave others to their own devices. That is, until I read that if change is worthwhile, it should go beyond the classroom and influence the culture of the school and further (Nieto 2003). Kramer (2003) posits that educators should encourage necessary changes through professional development, reflection, and collaboration with peers while being ready to defend them. Phelps (2006), affirms that, “rather than accept[ing] the status quo, professionalism means that teachers raise difficult questions.”

    In efforts to drag my school into the 21C I am constantly finding myself in the middle of this clash of civilizations - and I teach in an IBO school!!

    Judging from the responses you've hit a nerve that is deeply infected. Keep on keeping on.


    Kramer, P. A. (2003, Fall). The ABCs of professionalism. Kappa Delta Pi Record. Portable Document Format. (2007). In Walden University’s EDUC-6610I-6 Teacher As Professional Program. Retrieved July 13th, 2009, from

    Nieto, S. (2003). What keeps teachers going? New York: Teachers College Press.

    Phelps, P. H. (2006). The three Rs of professionalism. (p. 3) Kappa Delta Pi Record, 42(2), 69–71 Portable Document Format. (2007). In Walden University’s EDUC-6610I-6 Teacher As Professional Program
    Retrieved July 13th, 2009, from


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