Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Shocking development! Students can't find reliable online sources

I hope you sense the sarcasm in my title because this is one of those "We already knew that" kind of things. Take this for what it is, a simple online poll, but eSchoolNews just sent me their newsletter and reported the results to last week's online poll question, which was "Grade your students' ability to choose reliable sources for their online research." The results are not unexpected, but still depressing:

6 percent said "A."
13 percent said "B."
47 percent said "C."
29 percent said "D."
5 percent said "F."

Okay, now for my informal poll. Everybody who feels that the deluge of possible information sources is only going to grow drastically in the next few years, say "Ay!" I have been teaching my preservice students that the one of the most important things they could teach their future students is how to find good, reliable and HELPFUL information quickly, and how to discern between the good sources of info and the bad. We're not doing this in our schools, and we're still clinging too much to the "sage on the stage" mentality that students come to school to learn information from their teachers. I don't think they should; rather, I think students should go to school to be mentored in how to discern and find good sources of information, not necessarily to learn more facts and numbers. The internet is full of facts and numbers, dates and sources. What students need is a helping hand to navigate this mess!

Until teachers start to get this message, more and more children will be "left behind" in this digital age.


Anonymous said...


I loved your "sage on a stage" comment about traditional methods of teaching.

What are your views on the importance of "cognitive" resistance to change with respect to "emotional" resistance?

For example when the sage is on his or her stage, does this seem familiar to them psychologically? Perhaps reflecting the structure, in significant ways, of their own familial background? Especially with regard to authority?

Also, modern ideas (e.g. paulo freire and others)of education demands a great deal psychologicaly from educational facilitators, not least in the areas of emotional competency, personal relationships and - crucially - in attitudes towards children.

I do believe that resistance to modern educatiional ideas is, at root, psychological rather than cognitive.

Perhaps modern ideas of psychology should be integrated more thoroughly into theoretical frameworks of education?

In fact I consider new ways of education to be in conflict with major psychologial trauma, evident in the general population from whom educators are drawn.

Emotional resistance involves fear, anxiety, insecurity, psychologial disorientation etc.

All powerful reaons for resisting the lure of "debate"

Perhaps "teachers" can be psychologically screened and only those who qualify sufficiently in terms of psychological integration, personal relationships and who have resolved residual psychological trauma from childhood need apply?

The "Sage on a Stage" is performing a role within a particular psychologial framework congruent with the institutional needs of the educational resource embedded within the narrative of the wider society.

Rick said...

Yes, I think there is cognitive and psychological resistance in the way you have described. With the preservice teachers I have taught, there is both. Some agree, cognitively, that the way we teach must change and adapt to the times, but they aren't sure how to do it and suffer some of the psychological issues you mention.

Others can't be persuaded cognitively that the current system is failing! They can't understand any way of teaching besides "teacher dumping information stuff on student," although they wouldn't call it that.

However, I don't feel that an acknowledgment of some psychological issues should dissuade us from engaging in the cognitive debate about the proper way of teaching. Change is slow and painful, but the more people talking about a need for change will start the ball rolling.

Anonymous said...

Hi again Rick

Good comments.

I wonder if I can share with you an idea I have that is central to this debate for me?

Let's do a thought experiment:

Lets suppose that we discard popular notions of psychological trauma from childhood and insert some arbitary schema:

Let's say an objective report card of parental performance, where the metric under investigation is producing children without psychological trauma, returns the follwing results:

6 percent got an "A."
13 percent got an "B."
47 percent got an "C."
29 percent got an "D."
5 percent got an "F."

Let's assume that the optimal psychological profile for a teacher requires a persistent childhood experience with "A passes" according to this schema.

This would imply that teachers with the optimal psychological profile (suitable for modern education based on new relationships) are in a minority, perhaps a tiny minority.

If this arguement is followed, how would this impact on how we assess suitable canditates for teacher training?

I'd like to hear your views on this even if you don't agree with the premise.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, perhaps I should have made it clear that, for me, the above post was completely hypothetical. I'll stop posting here. My apologies.

Rick said...

Well, I hope my absence the last couple of days didn't appear to be a signal for you to sign off! I've just been busy the last couple of days and haven't had time to respond to you yet, sorry!

I am not experienced in the kinds of psychological hypotheses you put forth, so I don't know. But I have enjoyed reading your comments because it has forced me to consider another perspective. I tend to side with a form of psychology called "agent psychology" which studies the importance of the person as an agent, who can make decisions to change their situations. So in that sense, I agree that some teachers may come in with different psychological backgrounds, but I believe that if we can convince them cognitively that a different way of teaching is important, then they can be agents and choose to change the way they teach, even change the way they are, feel, and believe. So I believe the cognitive argument is valuable.

Thanks for your posts!