There’s a bit of a recurring theme to the presentations so far that hovers around teacher training in particular, and training in general. It started with the Keynote (which I blogged about yesterday), its head was raised again in this morning’s keynote (about the “Net Generation”) and crops up here and there in various presentations. It seems there’s a devout belief from on high that training is simply not necessary, particularly not for anyone under the age of 23.
I’ve fought this beast a million times. First: there have been legitimate studies that indicate that access to a computer doesn’t make students any smarter, or get them better grades. I think I’ve already blogged a few of those studies. A computer alone doesn’t solve anything, and even if a student knows how to play WoW (World of Warcraft), it doesn’t mean she is a technogenius. In my experience, undergraduates are not only not “digital natives” in the way that people over 30 like to think of them; they have cell phones, they have IM, but they have no idea how to find information on the internet, are floored by a new web application, aren’t comfortable playing around with something like a wiki to see how it works, and no idea why it’s not a good idea to send email from their firstname.lastname@example.org account to the registrar’s office or two a potential employer. Technology literacy cannot be judged by a person’s gadgets; I often think these ideas are generated by people who are in awe of the toys available and find them difficult to use. Seeing that their 12 year old daughters aren’t intimidated by these gadgets, they decide that kids just Get It. It’s just natural for them, somehow.
I really wish the people who write these things would stop using their (genius!) 12 year old daughters as models and would instead ask the people who actually work with students on a regular basis. I did. I asked at UTM’s Computing Services what they thought about this idea of younger age == tech virtuosity. Their experience: just because a person is 19 years old doesn’t mean he knows how to set up his wireless, or knows how to do a windows update, or can work out how to configure his email account. Technology is a wide world of its own, and you can be extremely proficient at one part of it and be hopeless with another.
The result of this deep-seated belief that Kids are born with a USB plug in their mouths had a serious impact; my friend Minna Saulio from Finland reported in her research from South Africa that private corps provide money for computers, but no tech support; they have rooms full of computers they can’t use.
In sum: training is important!