As a parent whose children are entering grade 1 and grade 2, I find myself being more and more interested and concerned about the trends and proposed practices that are being used in the educational system now and in the future. One aspect I find myself having concerns with is the addition of computers to the classroom. My concern is not related to the use of computers in general, but more to how computers are being integrated into the classroom activities themselves. As we have seen in Agile and in Software Development in general, adding technology to a system rarely improves the system by itself. In fact I have had experiences where the introduction of technology to an existing system has made the system much worse.
I find it ironic that as we are re-discovering new ways to collaborate in Agile, the educational system seems to be going in a different direction. In Agile, we are looking at non-technology solutions as a better way to collaborate and communicate. From User Story Mapping to Innovation Games to Silent Brainstorming to Paper Prototyping to UI Design Studio, we in Agile have discovered that getting the person-to-person communication maximized has an immediate and impressive effect. In addition, we have also discovered the incredible increase in communication and comprehension when moving from textual to visual communication.
The science behind Silent Brainstorming as a means to generate new ideas and innovate is startling. Steve Rogalsky made an excellent presentation at both Agile 2012 and SDEC12 on the topic. You can find the slide deck by following this link.
More Stickies less Texting
I understand that the computers will be used for educational research purposes and this makes perfect sense. Everyone I know consults the Oracle of Google daily. I feel the more concerning use of technology is to use technology to replace basic mathematical and communication skills. For example, I have heard that exercises will require the answers to be texted or emailed to the teacher. I understand that this is being done to increase the engagement of the children. Although this may very well increase the engagement of the children, I fear that the value of the skills being taught is being lessened. I also believe that any use of technology to perform mathematics that the individual cannot do without the computer is fundamentally wrong. The computer should be an aid for execution, not a replacement for learning.
More importantly, where are we teaching the critical thinking skills, creativity, innovation, and problem solving skills? These are the skills that will drive the economy in the future. I honestly can’t see how the addition of computers to the classroom will help in this regard.
I sincerely hope that group activities and group projects are still a critical component of the education, but how much better would the curriculum be with exercises in Silent Brainstorming? Teams would experience how to self-organize, facilitate, and that the best ideas don’t always come from the loudest or best speakers. There is an excellent TED Talk on the Power of Introverts by Susan Cain that you can find by following this link.
When my child’s teacher requires computers in the classroom, I know I will be asking for a description of how they plan to be used. I’ll probably even take the opportunity to discuss principles recently presented by both Steve Rogalsky and Susan Cain.
Our children are worth it. Spread the word.