I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

26 December 2012

Character by Computer

So as far as I can tell, when it comes to actual pedagogy*, there are two reformer threads:

1.  Teach character traits.
2.  Teach online. (h/t EduShyster.)

Since I teach Kindergarten, I have no objection to teaching character traits.  This is generally what Kindergarten teachers are doing when they lock the door, draw the blinds, and pull out the dress-up clothes: teaching about resilience, creativity, and having enthusiasm.

I do have serious objections to grading these qualities, particularly when they are extracted from the non-school elements that impact them and divorced from the reality that the expression of character traits is not universal but cultural.**  (I also wonder if what we're now calling character was what we used to call boot-strapping; these concerns (and others) are beautifully expressed here.)

But what I don't get is how we can teach those character traits in the classroom of the future, even if we assume that the simple existence of tablet computers makes for engagement and enthusiasm.  I don't think a computer-based instruction model can teach grit and resilience and self-control (unless the technology is really balky and crashes a lot, I guess - but even then, who would grade the student response?).

If you have the Classroom of the Future - sixty eager learners, sixty one tablets, and a minimum-wage worker overseeing the room - who's going to grade the character traits?  The tablets?

Because there's only one way that can go:

Look Student, I can see you're really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.  Before it goes on your report card.*** 

Since I'll be administering computer-based assessments to my Kindergartners in two short years (and boy, do I have a lot to say about that), I do hope that these two strains of ed reform can sort out their differences before Smarter Balanced comes to the classroom (also that the District provide adequate technology to administer it before the day testing is due, so that I can teach the kids how to use whatever system they buy and thereby attempt to get reasonably accurate results).

*as opposed to things like increased class size, value-added evaluations, concealed-carry permits and whatnot
**A family of WASPs may demonstrate self-control by taking turns in a conversation with pauses; that same demonstration in a family of Italian Americans is seriously lacking in grit and resilience.  I'm using examples drawn solely from white American English  linguistic pragmatics to point out that these differences are everywhere,  Can you really trust a white, upper-middle class first year teacher to grade the character of a student of color accurately, or will that teacher actually be grading the child's compliance with white discourse norms?
***As someone with ADHD, I find this movie almost impossible to sit through and root for HAL to end Dave too.  But I wouldn't want HAL grading me.

No comments: