Educators Vilify Technology In Attempt To Preserve Outdated Model

from the Sound-Familiar dept

China’s universities aren’t the only ones to have academic problems, cheating remains an issue here in the US as well. Predictably, educators are blaming technology, which is making it easier for students to have access to answers. It’s not clear why this is a story now, though the press rarely needs a reason to demonize technology. It’s true that in the current system, it’s problematic if students can text each other the answers, but that doesn’t mean the only solutions revolve around hobbling technology. Educators should instead be looking for ways to make cheating obsolete. There’s no way to get the answers if a test actually tests for understanding as opposed to rote memorization. Students who get to take open-book tests already know that they’re rarely easier than the closed book variety. Of course, implementing these changes assumes that teachers care enough to compose more creative tests and that the point of the educational system isn’t just to make students good at test taking. Neither of these things are a given, but if all of the effort currently going to fighting cheating could be redirected towards changing the focus of education from simple knowledge to understanding, perhaps something could get done.

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Comments on “Educators Vilify Technology In Attempt To Preserve Outdated Model”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I’ve said even when I was in school that rote memorization was a very bad way to structure an education system. I knew far to many people then, and know far too many now, who memorize tons of facts and figures (and even regurgitate them on command sometimes) with no real understanding of what the information means. They also have no real concept of cause and effect, with little capacity to analyze, or even fully understand, the full consequences of the decisions they make.

I’ve always maintained that intelligent thinking and decision making skills were the keys to a good education system, and after that rote memorization became a simplistic endeavor. One only has to look at the state of the country to see the rote memorization model doesn’t work.

MeOIP says:

thinking of a time...

I remember a time when I took an examin in a crowded theater, all 350 seats had a test taker. There were 15 different combinatoins of questions. There were 100 total questions each test only had 50 questions. A few minutes on the computer had each test made. The proctor said he color coded the test which wasn’t true but it sure was funny when a few of the blue test takers cheated and failed.

We also used test codes, I was 1892, we wrote this instead of our name then graded each others tests, so if you cheated on grading you helped someone else. The TA would review random tests to check for cheating and fail the graders test if he graded incorrectly.

Jeff G. says:


There are some instances where rote memorization is a necessary evil. Mostly, I’m thinking of math-type exams.

More particularly problematic are standardized tests which are multiple guess. Of course, testing agencies are getting smarter – e.g., students sitting next to each other don’t get the exact same exam – however, it only takes texting around to find who has the same exam as you.

Also, a problem are “brain fart” type issues. These are a necessary part of the testing environment. Tests gauge not only you’re ability to comprehend the material, but your ability to sit down and give a cogent answer in a finite amount of time. (another longer rant involves the recent proposal to break up the SAT into multiple tests on multiple days because 4 hours is just too long to sit in one place!) Under the “old” regime, if I “brain fart” and can’t remember something I have to dig through my brain and practice memory-recall tricks to remember the important item that I forgot – an important skill in its own right. Under the “new” regime, I just text my buddy and he can remind me. Yeah, “open book” would also solve the problem – assuming my brain fart is IN the book, and I can find it – and even then texting might be faster.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Understanding” is great, but it’s subjective. For the teacher to prove he or she is doing the job, the schools use “objective” tests. If the teacher want to keep his or her job, he or she need to teach to objective tests. That’s just how it is in the real world.

Fix the world if you are upset. If not, stop blaming teachers as a group. All educators do not speak with one voice, and you can’t blame the group as a whole.

chaoticset says:

Re: Re:

** “Understanding” is great, but it’s subjective. **

So is history. So is physics. They’re still useful, and understanding is actually more useful than either of those, *because it can lead you to them*. Apparently, you don’t understand understanding. Understanding is what points a person to rote items when it’s properly applied; when it’s not, it points a person to the principles involved, degrading gracefully to estimates or informational resources when the person’s memory fails them; when all else fails, it remains as a flagpost that points in the direction of the knowledge.

Rote memory is simple. Here’s data X, and if you don’t remember it…well, good luck remembering it! It’ll be on the test! Remember the hell out of it!

** If the teacher want to keep his or her job, he or she need to teach to objective tests. **

Yeah, but that’s precisely the point — the culture that you’re keeping a job in is precisely antagonistic to the intended goal of your job. If a teacher spends all their time with students teaching them things to ensure they have a job, how on earth is that an education? These tests are the product of a short-sighted need for a warm feeling about Junior’s future combined with a short-sighted need to pacify increasingly concerned citizens.

If either of these groups looked, as a whole, to the possibility that these tests measure nothing and really only provide a way for administrators to cover their asses, they might start worrying about *the actual education of the students*.

And then world go boom.

Bob says:

Case in point

I elected to take French in HS instead of Spanish. I rarely opened my book and did the minumum of work to get C grades all the way through.

I had a knack for language, so the tests I got B’s on, without studying and doing the minimum homework. Today, I’m a little rusty but once warmed up, I can do okay conversationally, nearly 20 years later. The people in my French classes who got A grades all through HS because they “studied really hard” can’t remember the basic foundations of French or any key vocabulary, and they admit it. They ask me if I have studied French all along. I haven’t, but while getting C’s, I actually KNEW French at a C level instead of faking it and getting A’s which really don’t indicate anything important. I also got B’s and C’s in Physics and can still explain how things work and can figure things out, without a book. Cheating might get you the French word for “bread” on a vocab test and help you “pass” the test or the class, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to know ANYthing later in life. All I did was pay attention in class and try to converse in French with anyone I could find who was better than I. I also found that helping someone else learn a subject will improve your knowledge in that field even if you’re not that experienced in it.

When you memorize something, you’ll soon forget it unless you constantly perform memorization excercises. When you LEARN something, you actually commit it to memory by associating it with other things–it gets retained symbolically, permanently. How is it someone will remember an event that lasted only fractions of a second (like witnessing an accident), without studying? A two second incident becomes indellibly etched in your mind. Trying to memorize the event by reading a report on it will be difficult. By EXPERIENCING something, you learn it almost automatically. That’s why French was easy for me, I didn’t really study it–I experienced it.

We learn from experience? Hmm. Seems I ‘ve heard that before.

Tony says:

Re: Case in point

Remember an event that only lasted fractions of a second….

How do you know they remember it accurately? Often there is no corroborating evidence to confirm an accurate memory. The research has demonstrated time and again that eyewitnesses are notoriously poor at remembering details of an event, yet, they have high confidence in their memory of the event. Juries tend to weigh eyewitness testimony heavily as well.

The concept of “learning” is complex. It can involve repeated exposure to a stimulus (habituation is a perfect example of this)… associating new information with already learned information is also helpful. However, as someone esle said, memorization CAN be a necessity; becoming familiar with terminology can help to form the structure within which new learning can occur.

As for “we learn from experience,” I too have heard that before… and yes, I believe it is true. However, rote memorization is experience with the material… so… where are we now?

dorpus says:

Matters more for lower-level education

In graduate school or some advanced undergrad courses, it’s not really possible to cheat. In some cases, the schools will even offer copies of old exams. In my field, it’s a standard practice for the department to offer copies of old PhD Qualifier exams. The tests are based on your ability to formulate an argument based on your understanding of the material — it’s impossible to copy answers, and graders will spot such similarities immediately anyway.

SailorAlphaCentauri says:

As I’ve always been a poor memorizer, I have been fortuante that I eventually made it to a school where it was better to understand the content than to have it memorized. My family has always put a high value on education, so comprehension was always the name of the game for me, but I see another problem with rote memorization teaching: students suffering from the inability to think for themselves.

I’ve seen this firsthand in grad school recently: running into students who hold onto uneducated beliefs and regurgitate what they’ve been told without any thought behind it. It’s very hard to have an intelligent conversation with someone whose opinions are not their own. If we can encourage them in compulsory education, we may be able to prepare people to be functioning members of society who contribute to the world.

Or maybe rote memorization is still in place because it is easier to deal with people who subscribe to groupthink and, therefore, won’t challenge the views of “authority”, than people who think for themselves.

Hairball says:

College Calculus

Every quarter i get a piece of paper telling me that the calculator I use is illegal because it comes with a ‘Computer Algebra System’ capable of performing symbolic algebra and integrals/derivatives and much more. I say it doesn’t help my much because you still have to show your work. But then again, I can always open the text editor and check the notes I made before the test. Problem is, teachers can’t tell one graphing calculator from the next. When are they going to get close enough to tell ‘TI-86’ from ‘TI-89’ ??? Technology FTW!

Dude says:


all local tests should be either essays (humanities) or problem-solving re: complex fact patterns (sciences).

cheating moot.

many tenured academics too lazy to implement this.

abolish tenure as horribly anti-incentive, especially at the secondary school level.

for nation-wide tests (SAT, etc..), one presumes that ETS can figure out anti-cheating protocols..

Just some teacher says:

I think it’s pathetic that we are willing to sacrifice the advantages that knowing BOTH facts and application have.

Rote memory gets a bad wrap these days. No, it’s not the most or only important part of education but there are advantages to knowing facts, developing the dicipline to memorize them and be able to move on to application without being dependent on technology to fill in huge gaps of ignorance.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Uh.. hello? BAN CELL PHONES / PDAS from Class?

I guess I am just old and stupid and Catholic school classically educated. That’s why I can’t comprehend how the heck you public-school products can keep refering to ‘text your buddy’ type cheating?

When I was in grade school / high school in the late 70’s / early 80’s we had to surrender our calculators at the door and were’nt allowed to bring our backpacks to our desks on test days. The Jesuits did instill us young mush-heads with an honor code but they made it easy to follow by removing the temptation apparatus.

I absolutely don’t get how you people get to bring cell phones with you into a classroom on test day.. Hell we weren’t allowed to bring our phones with us into class at any time! Too many damned wires would’ve been a tripping hazard. HA!

Jamie says:

Memorization is still needed.

I agree that rote memorization by itself is useless, but that does not mean that it is not useful at all. Ther are many areas of education were rote memorization is essential to learning the concept. I believe someone already mentioned math as an example, but I’ll bring it up again here. In math you HAVE to memorize formulas or you will never be able to keep up. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to also understand how those formulas work and when to apply them. When I was in college, I was a terrible math student. I usually got great grades (A’s and B’s) but I never memorized the formulas. I had no trouble grasping the concepts and doing the work, but as soon as we moved on I would forget the formulas needed and be reduced to looking them up in the book. There were other students in the class that always memorized the formulas, but had a lot of trouble getting the concepts. I even tutored a few of them. Now, those same people who memorized can still do the math, while I have forgotten most of it.

Math is the easiest subject to use as an example of this, but memorization has a place in nearly any subject. The point is that it takes both memorization and understanding.

dennis parrott (user link) says:

boy, oh boy... you are sure expecting an awful lot

while the answer to the “problem” of technology in education seems pretty obvious (adapt! change!) you are really asking for the educational systems to do something they are really ill-prepared to do: guide real learning and assess competence.

there are lots of factors that mitigate against the “average” instructor being able to accomplish this feat. to whit,

  • classrooms and the traditional lecture format are designed to enforce “order” and “discipline”. those factors of order and discipline, if present, may help some students learn the material but their presence is NOT a guarantee of success.
  • people go to school to become “teachers” and take tons of classes about “learning theory” and not nearly enough classes about the material they are going to teach!
  • the traditional lecture format hits less than 25 per cent of the ways that people actually learn. (as a ski instructor, i learned the 4 primary ways people learn and i can safely tell you that NOBODY ever learned skiing from a lecture!)
  • “standardized” curricula! boy, that surely gets those students motivated to memorize stuff! when a teacher is forced to use a standard curriculum, standard teaching materials and then give a standard test, well, technology will get used to cheat because the crap being spewed in class is JUST PLAIN BORING AS HELL!
  • teachers themselves are, often as not, not truly competent in the material they are teaching so how can we expect them to really guide someone’s learning and be able to truly assess competence
  • over-reliance on “experts” who tell us how we should educate people, what material we should use, how we should use it, yada yada yada. most of that stuff is crap.
  • No Child Left Behind, various state initiatives to “certify” minimum competence where funding is tied to “student achievement”. these movements are truly evil in my book. the education establishment KNOWS that their bacon will be totally blackened if their kids don’t shine on the stupid standard tests used to “assess progress” and so they end up forcing teachers to “teach to the test” in the hope that the kids will pick up enough of the material to keep the $$$$ flowing…

the sad truth is that the education system is completely broken in the USA. the teachers unions seem to be totally fixated on politics and funding levels to address the problem. legislators only care about things that have well-heeled lobbyists to spread $$$$ around to make them give a rat’s ass about a problem. parents are too damn frazzled to really have the time to stop and look at the problem so they end up throwing their hands up to the “experts” demanding a “solution”.

my kid sister is a teacher. she last worked in one of the poorer urban districts of the Detroit area (Highland Park); there is no tax base to really fund the schools, the administration is pretty corrupt, the teachers union is pretty incompetent and there is a perverse lack of good parenting. regardless of all those other problems i mentioned, she can tell in a matter of days from first meeting a new student whether that kid had any chance at all of academic success. if the kid showed up on time, had at least one parent that cared enough to get them to school every day and fed them some sort of breakfast it was likely that the kid would not be a total zero. all the technology in the classroom or being used by the kids didn’t matter. it boils down to parents actually giving a shit about their progeny and making sure that they follow through with getting the kids to do what needs to be done to “succeed”.

but the educational establishment worries more about funding and whether they have the right technology in the class and keeping out all the other technology the kids use instead of focusing on the basics… work with parents to make sure students are prepared to learn, teach meaningful and useful material, work to make it interesting…

screw ’em. other industries that failed to adapt, died. maybe we need an infusion of new blood that can adapt the use of tech to do a better job.

Anonymous Coward says:

Don't ban cell phones

I hate seeing “cell phones, PDAs, and technology help cheaters” whenever a teacher finds someone cheating on a test.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not really that easy to text an answer to a classmate during a test. (I’m a high school sophomore by the way).

To text an answer to someone, you have to do the following:

– Either send or receive a REQUEST for an answer from a classmate. (How else are your friends going to know to send you an answer)

– Type out the answer or wait for a reply.

Now, typing on cell phones are a general pain in the ass.

Now, in a testing situation it’s absolutely silent and there’s absolutely nothing on your desk besides a sheet of paper and a pencil.

Anyone looking around (as teachers should be doing anyway) will see you doing something with your cellphone and invalidate your test.

Trying to hide the cell phone under your desk while typing doesn’t work either. The teacher notices that you’re concentrated on something other than the test and have your hands under the desk.

If a teacher sees you doing this then they walk over to make sure you’re not looking off of a sheet of paper or something.

It also takes a huge amount of time to do this, and considering that most tests have a time limit or require almost the entire class period, you will loose points by text messaging someone simply because you won’t be able to finish the other questions.

If you stop to think about it, it is actually easier to pass a note to a classmate than it is to text message them. Odd thing is, I don’t hear any teachers complaining about how we should ban paper and pencils from classrooms.

It’s only because most students don’t pass notes to cheat anymore that teachers are looking for an excuse (cell phones) to become less observant.

Tony says:

Re: Don't ban cell phones

I agree, texting on cell phones is an ineffective way to pass answers. Simply take a picture of your answer sheet/test paper and send that. Everyone has their egocentric view of the world. Being a high school sophomore, I wonder how many 100 person classes you have? How many 500 seat lecture halls do you take classes in. Maybe you are slow and are one of a handful that require the entire time to take the test?

I guess his post makes the point. The education system is broken. Such concrete thinking will be the end of us. I see this same thinking and bias to long held beliefs in college juniors and seniors (traditional and non-traditional students alike).

Cell phones should be banned because people do not know how to operate them. Clearly, no one who knew how to turn off the ringer would be so rude as to leave their ringer of “Hells Bells” or “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” turned up to MAX volume in the classroom, right?

a befuddled cranky depressed educator says:

Worse than you think

Pressure on educators (at all levels) is to produce “objective” tests and measure to that. Look up “assessment” – its a hot topic these days. The way it is supposed to work is that at the beginning of a class you say “here is what you’ll learn” and then say how you’ll test everyone.

Sounds good. Fair. All that. But for many topics it is completely absurd. Imagine teaching programming (which I do sometimes) – can you write a test asking people to program something? Sure, but it will necessarily be short and easy. And should you let the students run the program? Both answers are wrong to some groups.

My (university department in computer science) now requires that all students pass a programming test at some point. The programming test basicly requires students to build a linked list. Guess what? In all the courses before that test, the only thing covered in detail is “how to build a linked list”. All other topics are now immaterial – only the exam counts.

But even if you can pass that exam, does it mean you can program? No. I can tell in a couple of minutes talking to a student if they will be able to program – but thats subjective and as such might be influenced by the looks of the student, the race, gender….. So instead (and for good reasons) we must do objecttive tests – but now all that can be measured is what is on the test – which is often relatively unimportant. Then too the only thing that can be taught is what is on the test. And students have a powerful incentive to cheat.

There is so much wrong with university education today that I can only scratch the surface. But one simple warning – don’t let anyone go to any university that has more buildings devoted to administration than to teaching.

Joe Blow says:


Generally speaking most principals are old-school, and most teachers just follow suit (NOT ALL). Principals dont want anything “different” or “risky” going on, so they ban everything. Teachers are usually rule-followers who wont rock the boat. Therefore we end up with schools that are so out of touch with reality it is PATHETIC. I am now in college and its only a little better. I went to 3 high schools and one was supposed to be the big science and technology magnet and all it meant was we got to go into the computer lab 3 times a week instead of two. What did we do? We did computer tests all the time. A lot of us had a lot more going on than our teachers even cared about. I look back now and realize what a complete waste of time school was. I would have done better without the teachers I’m sad to say.

Joe Blow says:


W. Stahel – nah, we never had homework other than read the chapter, answer the questions. That took about as much creativity to assign as a corpse could generate. I could do it in my sleep, and most of us pretty much did. I didn’t complain at the time, because I thought that’s just what school was about – sticking kids in the “learning” factory. It’s only now that I’m out in the ‘real world’ that I see what a waste of time and salaries most public education is. Blow up the whole structure and start from scratch.

Tony says:

Re: Teachers

Joe Blow, learning is what YOU make of it. Learners need to take responsibility for THEIR learning. You got out of your education what you put into it.

You will be disappointed to know that research has solidified the finding that learning increases by “doing” things with the material. Answering questions about what you read is actually a very effective method for increasing learning. Of course, if you “half ass” your responses, then again, you get out of it what you put in; put in the bare minimum, that’s the MAXIMUM you can expect to get out of an education.

Tony says:

Why is this a problem?

Our society pushes the belief that “going to college” is the way to a job. An individual that adopts this perspective feels pressure to be a “success” in life; this results in an artificial dichotomy of a continuous variable; success is often defined solely by the size of the salary.

School/college is seen by many as a “hoop jumping” exercise rather than a learning endeavor. School becomes a necessary evil in their minds. Those who adopt this ideology do not have learning as a goal. In contrast, those who view school structured-learning environment will learn more; they are motivated to learn. The research is indisputable; motivation to learn increases learning.

Once one adopts the school as necessary evil perspective, the concept of academic integrity goes out the window. The issue here has little to nothing to do with academics fighting technology; rather, it has everything to do with a relaxing of ethics and integrity due directly to the perception of the purpose of school. If one wants to learn, there is no benefit to cheating or taking the shortcuts; if one just wants to get a piece of paper and a transcript, the value of schooling is minimized.

I recently received my course evaluations from college freshmen. For the most part, they are positively biased responses. However, there are always those who will say “I am a of learner, and this style didn’t suit me.” To this, I reflect…does this student really think that the WORLD is going to change to use the most effective methods for them? Sure I want them to learn and I want to maximize the number of students who develop their knowledge and critical thinking skills in my class, but you are not going to satisfy everyone. Sadly, they believe that THEY (the students) are experts in human learning because the “do” learning. In fact, the same students have difficulty understanding the basic concepts of classical and operant conditioning or scoff at memory enhancing techniques as being “silly” or “too much work.”

Honestly, I wonder why course evaluations have questions about the “effectiveness” of teacher methods. There are myriad confounding reasons why they didn’t get much out of the class (50 percent attendance? read the book to develop the structure for what we discuss in class?). I certainly wish we received information about the student along with the evaluations; while the concept of anonymity is intended to increase honesty, it comes at a cost; that is, I have no way of knowing if the student for whom I was “ineffective” even showed up for class… or whether they did the non-exam assignments (or put minimal effort into them).

Ultimately, the issue is one of integrity and ethics. A teacher should not have to re-design courses to curtail cheating, there are plenty of other reasons to re-design courses. Cheating is simply wrong; as a society we de-value people who cheat or people who gain things through illicit means (stealing, steroids, etc.) The view of education solely as a means of getting a job must change. The ethics of education transcend technology.

Clair Ching (user link) says:

I might be too idealistic here but I think that what educators could try is to impart to students the value of learning and the reasons why it makes sense to not cheat. I mean ,if you think something is worth your time, you will do it no matter what it takes. Somehow, I think that students who lose sight of these things are more prone to cheating. *shrugs*

Jo Blow says:


Well some final thoughts here. I never cheated once.

Tony, I agree to a certain extent. I do have a love of education in general and I am very passionate about learning. “Learners need to take responsibility for THEIR learning. You got out of your education what you put into it.” Haha, I love that. Does that mean then that it’s okay for the teachers to just teach the test, assign worksheets, only do “special” stuff when the principal is going to come evaluate? That’s pretty lame. I do take responsibility for my own learning, but that’s a skilll that I think is encouraged and fostered by schools. It ain’t happenin’ – we certainly can’t blame teachers for the ills of public education, but they sure in the heck can’t be spared from it either.

I also think you are way stretching your defense of low-level/easy/lazy homework assignments. I’m actually glad to know that “learning increases by “doing” things with the material.” But, you have got to be kidding me if you’re using THAT to defend “go home, read the chapter, and answer the questions.” That’s not “doing things with the material.” “Doing things” would be interacting with math in a way that is like the real world – solving problems, working on goal-oriented projects, etc. Science would be discovery, exploration, teamwork.

I won’t go on because I have learned a lot in this thread. It’s been helpful to me. I hope you will take something away from it also, and be open to changing classrooms, not just exonerating yourself from teaching in the now. I want to finish college, and do some exploring of my own for a while then hopefully come back and teach. I hope that I will come back and be one of those teachers that does inspire in my kids that same love of learning.

Tony says:

Too much black and white

What I see in student responses and posts here is propagation of dichotmous world. I would be happy to provide you with a stack of research that supports the very thing you seem to scoff at. Provide support that asking a student to read a book and respond to questions does not work. “Doing things” with the material is MORE than simply making things fun. And why can’t some of those questions that you scoff at be solving “real problems?” The world isn’t filled with fun, so why should we indoctrinate young adults with the belief that the world will flex for them; that is faulty education if students leave with that perspective.

I teach a hands-on course in conducting research. What is the number 1 complaint/behavior) that I see from college juniors and seniors? Complaining that the course is “too much work” (or the behavior of not doing the work.) Doing scientific research IS a lot of work; doing it well is not “easy.” They want easy. They want to jump through hoops and if they destry the hoop jumping through it, that’s fine… as long as they get credit for that hoop. Honestly, that is what I hear.

If one does not want to learn one will not learn. I can only do so much to “inspire. ” Trust me, I didn’t get into this career for the paycheck, but there is a limit to what one should be asked to do to “inspire” people to learn. The reason I chose to pursue a career teaching at a university was the (clearly misguided) idea that students who go to college are there 1) because they want to be and 2) because they want to learn. Both of these are more often false than they are true.

Don’t expect your teachers, professors, or bosses to make the world the way you want it. This sense of entitlement and accommodation has harmed the education process; sure there are “bad teachers,” but the salience of the “bad teacher” simply makes it appear that the problem is bigger than it is; and blame your government for teachers teaching to the test.

Jo Blow says:


Who said anything about making the material FUN? I said real world. Tell me how many jobs involve sitting in rows answering worksheets over and over, or taking material back home, reading it, and regurgitating answers back? I can’t think of any. All I’m suggesting is that the world outside education has changed DRASTICALLY in the last 50 years – has public education? Not much overall. Visit classrooms and, other than the clothes, they apparently look just like they did 50 years ago. Visit nearly any job and it’s nothing like it was 50 years ago. If we were still preparing kids to work in factories, then we’re on the right track. If not, there’s a huge disconnect between what I (and 99% of my friends/peers/cousins) experienced in recent high school years, and what’s going on in the real world.

I never expected my classrooms to be built on ‘fun’ (and I never said that either). I also never in a million years expect the world to flex for me. I do expect there to be some sense of reality in curriculum, and a connection between classrooms and the entire rest of the functioning universe. It would be a horrific situation if classrooms were all about fun. It’s equally horrific if they’re so rigid, ancient, and out of touch with reality that they’re not preparing students for 21st century living.

I would be happy to provide you with a stack of research that clearly proves that students retain more, and are able to function in more complex situations by being exposed to real-world-based educational experiences, as opposed to an over emphasis on ‘traditional’ teaching.

Tony says:

Re: Huh?

I didn’t address one point you made about

“Tell me how many jobs involve sitting in rows answering worksheets over and over, or taking material back home, reading it, and regurgitating answers back?’

Nearly every job requires the underlying abilities that are involved in what you denigrate. Let me answer a question with questions for thought.

How many jobs involve people sitting in cubicles? Why would rows be any different?

How many jobs involve paperwork? To name a few: police officer, store manager, stockbroker, accountant, doctor, secretary, lawyer… need I go on? I guess the “worksheet” can involve more cognitive energy than the paperwork involved in these jobs that requires you to “regurgitate” your name, your address, the names of your employees, the names of seminal cases in law.

How many business owners and professionals DON”T work at home? I can name a career where plenty of work is done at home with information given at work: PROFESSOR.

The pejorative “regurgitate” should probably be replaced by retrieval. How many jobs do you know of that do not require you to retrieve information and facts? This process is so automatic, and for experts, occurs with little effort such that they are not even aware of the stacks of information they retrieve on a daily basis.

School is a sandbox. School is a place to learn facts, processes, refine thinking skills, develop and foster social relationships, learn to be cognitively flexible. It is this last point that I raised earlier; students leave with the impression that the world will present information in THE form that THEY want. This simply will not happen.

Tony says:

I see you missed the part where research nor science “proves” anything. If your research claims to “prove” anything, I will pass.

Perhaps you view college as job training. Sorry, I don’t. Go to technical school and get a degree in small engine repair; college is looking for people who are motivated to learn; willing to create their own learning.. ever hear of constructivist theory?

As for fun, I teach. I hear what students say. Do you teach? I clearly get a more representative idea of what STUDENTS want than your perspective of what one student (you) wants. You would be amazed at the diversity of abilities in the classroom; a range from indifference about being in college (its my “right” now give me an A for showing up) to (I want to learn more, I will look at the resources you put online for me to be able to explore these topics further.); a range from people who regularly confuse “there” and “their”; to, too, and two; affect and effect… and my favorite “dose” in “This dose not make sense.”

I agree that a combination of activities are most beneficial for learning, but the perspective demonstrated in these posts and other threads on the same topic is that somehow reading the book and answering questions about what you have read is ineffective for learning; this is simply fallacy.

You say that YOU never expected the world to flex for you; don’t get so defensive. Your response reflects what I mentioned previously; you see the world from the perspective of ONE student across an entire curriculum (and perhaps the opinions of some of your friends, who may or may not be telling you the truth… an entirely different topic, for another day). I work directly with 100 students each semester and indirectly with another 25 or 30 majors that I interact with regularly through extra curricular activities. I am going with the basic tenet of research that a larger group will yield a more representative sample than a small group, namely a group of one.

My responses really are not about you; they are generalizations from comments that I have read here (including your comments), elsewhere, and feedback from students. I have been called everything from a “gifted instructor” who makes things clear and uses alternatives to promote understanding to “boring” and “couldn’t teach his way out of a paper bag” (to this day I still wonder how one teaches his or her way out of a paper bag… call me ignorant!). If I were to focus on the negatives, I would modify my classes to the detriment of those students that thrive on the methods that I use.

I make every effort to maximize understanding, thinking, and knowledge. If I told you that I assign college seniors to outline every chapter assinged in the text and to generate two questions/answers for each reading, I bet you would call that a worthless assignment; amazingly, most of the students said they “didn’t like it” but it helped them to understand the material and it led to them making more sense of what we talked about in class. Students don’t read the book; that is fact. Further, students don’t read test instructions either; how amazing is that! For one exam with college freshmen, I instructed them (written only) to write a word on their answer sheet; less than 10 percent of them did it. I even gave “extra credit” for doing it, something they clamor for…

In closing, I realize there are bad teachers out there that rely ONLY on reading the text or ONLY on straight lecture with no discussion; but reading and processing the information (through answering questions) is indeed AN effective means of learning.

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