Cross Post: Final #coetail Course 2 reflection – We don’t just enjoy, we participate #coetail


Not as close as we think…

A few years ago, I was looking for images to highlight how technology had changed our society. As I researching I wondered how the people of the past imagined how my life was today and I stumbled upon the image of the ‘Push button school of the future’ from a comic series called ‘Closer than we think.’

Image via Paleofthefuture

The school was a reaction to two trends, to address a labour shortage as the baby boomers made their way into the school system and the technological optimism of the 1950s. But all this technological change was still being used with a healthy dose of 1950s classroom management, there are cameras in the terminals for the purposes of surveillance.

“The Rise of the Computerized School,” illustrated by Shigeru Komatsuzaki conceptualises that robots will prowl the classrooms where students sits at individual terminals, striking students when they get something wrong or are off task.

Image via the pinktentacle

What I find interesting about the images are that the creators was on the money as far as technology goes. You’ve got the teacher up on the big screen disseminating knowledge. That’s not far from today’s reality of flipped learning.

The Komatsuzaki cartoon shoes how a student  can revise answers by writing on their screens based on teacher feedback.That’s differentiated instruction and Explain Everything.  Some schools have taken this trend to its –  logical conclusion replacing teachers with computers for traditional skill and drill activities.

What is really amazing in these images is that they imagine these amazing technological changes without stopping to think about the changes that technology brings to learning culture. And if you think we have moved on from the 1950s and 60s, then look closely at the advertisement I snapped last year at ISTE.


Photo by author


Supervision and control, differentiated instruction.

Maybe we aren’t as close we think.

A change in culture…

What is really amazing in these images is that they imagine these amazing technological changes without stopping to think about the changes that technology brings to culture in our classrooms. Our teachers are still all powerful and all knowing. Our students are still passive recipients of knowledge. The main use of technology is learning subjects out of context and without relevance to the students interests. Schools have a culture of surveillance and low trust. They punish those who step out of line.

Technology won’t fix problems of poor pedagogy and classroom management.

If the biggest selling points of the tech tools teachers are using in the classroom are compliance, surveillance and quizzes, then technology won’t solve the problem of learner engagement. Technology can’t and won’t fix problems of poor pedagogy and classroom management by teachers.  But it can replace teachers who haven’t grasped that the internet has changed who we are and how we function in this culture.

Which it actually brings up a terrifying proposition for teachers – we might be displaced.

It’s scary right?

machine.001When we talk about wanting our students to be more engaged and learn more that in fact it might be teachers sometimes are in the ones standing in the way.

Because that might mean we need to change, how we learn, how we engage how we get along in this digital culture.

We have seen the enemy and it is us.

School lunches will never be the same…

In 2012 a Scottish primary student called Martha set up a blog last year called Never Seconds that reviewed the school dinners. There was a photo of the dish, how many mouthfuls each dinner had and a quick review of the taste of the meal.

The blog hit the media and then the local authority in charge of this particular school did the worst thing you can possibly do to a 10 year-old blogging about school lunches.

They asked her to shut it down.

Martha was marched into the heads office and where they asked her to stop taking pictures of her school lunch the blog quickly went viral. This a screen shot I grabbed of references to Martha in Google news about a week after the story went viral.

Screen shot


All of a sudden a 10 year old was trending on Twitter. People were quite rightly outraged at the thought of censorship. Eventually the school relented. Martha has published a book and has used her new-found fame to raise funds for a charity supplying lunches in Malawai.

Popular culture isn’t just this one way street anymore people. Kids can publish, photograph and video their worlds to the world.

Are we going to like what they say?

Does it even matter?

Aren’t 60% of the pictures on Facebook just of people’s cats?

Well yes…

Kevin Allocca’s TED talk Why YouTube videos argues that unlike the one way participation of 20th century audience participation is an integral part of popular culture in the 21st century either by spreading it or doing something new with it.

image by author


Shirley style?

You would have had to be living in a cave or possibly in North Korea to not have been part of Gangnam style. The video has been viewed so many times it broke YouTube.  And millions of us participated in this trend through sharing and remixing.

This video was put up by a group of Shirley Boys High School protesting their school’s proposed merger with Christchurch Boys High. The students were using remix culture as vehicle for social expression gaining nearly 40,000 views and the merger was dead within a few months.

Our kids are now participating, not just in memes but using the internet as a way to influence their society we live in their own image. We need to move our educational paradigm from the analogue to the digital.

Educational paradigmA couple of years ago, my school-wide topic was citizenship and I asked my class if they would be interested in making a submission to a parliamentary select inquiry into e-learning.

There were questions. What’s a submission? What’s a select committee? Can kids do this? Will we get arrested?

But eventually the kids pulled together a submission. Each group wrote and then filmed a section of the report that they filmed on iPod touches. However it was important that the kids had a broad audience

as possible. So the video got uploaded to YouTube.

The question then was, well how do we make sure the committee members see the movie so the kids used the class twitter account and got in touch with Members of Parliament via twitter. The response was amazing, 2 hours later the chairwoman of the committee had responded to the kids on the class blog.

And a few months later this happened.

The kids were amazing but they had a lot of help along the way.

They Skyped a class in Auckland to talk about their 1:1 programme, they visited a new school to look at modern learning environments. I also put out a call for help on twitter and managed to get Wellingtons most prominent political lobbyists to sit with the kids for a session to help them prepare to speak in front of decision makers, media and their families.

For the kids to be a success, they needed to learn from people.

What is like in 1:1 classroom? What is a modern learning environment? What is like spending time in front of select committee?

I couldn’t tell them answer to those questions but I could put them in front of people who did know.

I also had a lot of trust in the kids to do the right thing.

As a teacher it was equally exhilarating and terrifying as a teacher to have your 12 year old students sitting in front of members of parliament, the media and packed select committee room telling their stories.

Because at any point in this journey things could have gone wrong and I’d be writing a very different story.

And my leaders also had to have trust in me, to make sure I was preparing the kids.

The more I think about it, the more I realise that even now many principals would have baulked at the idea of kids using social media to contact decision makers to influence change let alone doing it as part of a unit of learning. Or the submission, both verbal and virtual, could have been edited to the point where the kids lost all ownership over the project. The kids still needed to be them.

@carolynstuart my principal at the time, recognised that strong contexts and making connections beyond the classroom was valuable tool for learning. She did so because she recognised that difference between stress and empowerment was knowledge.

What makes the web so powerful?

The power of the internet isn’t that we can bring content into our classrooms or make connections just for the sake of making connections. The power of the internet in the classroom is that it makes the gap between real world and school a whole lot smaller.

Our kids don’t need to study dumbed down problems and get lectures on cybersafety. They can use the web as a powerful tool to make change whether it be lobbying MPs for modern learning or getting better lunches into schools.

What problems are there in your community that your students can help solve?

What issues can they speak up on?

The internet gives our students not just the ability to listen to others but also to speak up.

Image by Author

from Teaching the Teacher

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: