Idiot with the Drill

I must be a “schooler” because the parable at the beginning of Papert’s chapter is ridiculous.

I think even worse how pretentiously he presents that there’s pushback against the idea that teachers shouldn’t be able to recognize the future classroom. Of course there is. Talking about the surgical theater brings up visions of a plethora of electronics all used to monitor different vital signs. We don’t need a pulse oximeter in the classroom to ensure that we are safe. Most people don’t need an oxygen mask. No one needs to be under constant supervision because they have been sedated with a drug the potentially could stop their heart. The comparison intentionally leads people in the wrong direction and then tries to use their obvious confusion at why the classroom would ever need to look like a surgical theater to make a clarion call for megachange.

This chapter was written in 1992, why would the classroom need to change so radically that teachers from 100 years before wouldn’t understand what was going on? Video games can be a great teaching tool, but are they necessary to create most of the change he was talking about? We talked in class two weeks ago, about a group of students that were taken outside and asked to walk around barefoot in order to facilitate a more student directed learning while emphasizing critical thinking skills. Is he expecting the classroom to look more like the matrix where we can plug in and experience new things we otherwise never could?  How much of a role does technology need to play in changing the philosophy of the education system?

Again, maybe my schooler mentality is obstructing my ability to see the future of the machine.

More to the point, however, why is making bad comparison something we should avoid? Example: me. I’m writing this blog post. We had two really good readings about finding your teaching self, and I’m stuck on this terrible parable. I’m not even talking about the rest of the chapter the bad parable came from.

Maybe it’s a flaw of mine, I should be able to look past the parable to see the bigger picture, right? Perhaps, but story telling is a powerful teaching tool. If you haven’t read some of the research on how well humans learn through story telling it’s pretty interesting. The basic gist of it is that stories help us experience things, not just hear and process. Stories stick with us longer. They incorporate more parts of our brain than when receiving facts. They have been a part of human existence probably from its beginning. Keep in mind the earliest cave paintings are more than 40,000 years old. We are hardwired to listen and relate to stories. I’m sure this is why storytelling was listed as something lectures are good for a few weeks back.

Back to Papert though. If the megachange needs to occur in the mindset of educators and the basic philosophies of the education system. The focus of the parable shouldn’t be on technological tools. Because that’s all they are… tools. And tools are only as proficient and creative as the craftsman that holds them. If the craftsman has new tools, but their mindset, philosophy, and creativity hasn’t evolved with the tool then the tool won’t be used to its full potential anyway.

Let’s end with a story about a man provided with the technology that could change they way he does his job. It’s called. Idiot with the Drill.


5 Replies to “Idiot with the Drill”

  1. Some good Personal Narrative stuff there. Your paragraph on stories reminded me exactly of the TEDtalk I had my students watch and write a dialogic response to for homework over the weekend.

    “The Storytelling Animal”

  2. I completely agree that the tools at our disposal may be useless if we don’t know how to use them. Even the best teaching tools in the world may be useless if the teacher uses teaching to tick a box.

  3. With his surgeon parable Papert just wanted to demonstrate the discrepancy between medicine and education in how they have adapted to and embraced technology in their respective modern practice. I agree that these technological tools should not be embraced blindly, but do you really doubt the capacity of modern educators to adopt technologies in a thoughtful, productive way? I think in many ways that is what we are trying to accomplish in this class. The key is to not forget the traditional tools like storytelling that have been so successful through the centuries but rather to weave them into a more modern narrative.

    1. Do I doubt the modern educators capacity to adopt new technologies in the class room? No. Many do it very well and with wonderful results. Does the class room need to change so drastically that it is unrecognizable to a time traveler? No.
      I also don’t think the parable was just a demonstration. He used the parable to create a dichotomy of schoolers and yearners. My point is, if the chapter is about changing the philosophy of the education system, the parable need not put such emphasis on technology, creating a false dichotomy, then making the “schoolers” seem out of touch for nor immediately embracing technology, and the “yearners” out to be some enlightened educated group.

  4. “Back to Papert though. If the megachange needs to occur in the mindset of educators and the basic philosophies of the education system. The focus of the parable shouldn’t be on technological tools. Because that’s all they are… tools.”

    I completely agree with this. We’ve done so much reading on the importance of technology and embracing the new in the classroom. The lack of deep analysis or scrutiny of what technology is, the forces behind its development and adoption in the classroom, and whether we can theorize new mindsets about education beyond the framework of technology and the digital is a little bit alarming. Papert also implies a lot of false binaries, such as that between schoolers and yearners, that probably do moe harm than good.

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