Jeff Bliss, Luddites, and Graduation Credits

Just happened upon this editorial from Trinidad and Tobago (you know, that country with the TieDye hockey sweaters in D2: The Mighty Ducks) calling for a new Luddite movement, and I’m not quick to disagree.

Wait, what? 

What’s wrong?

This is a math and EDTECH blog. Why are you trying to champion the Luddites?

Do you KNOW about the Luddites, or do you only use the word synonymously for tech haters that make your job training and collaborating more difficult (depressing?)

Luddites were about quality. Is it in your life? Is it in your classroom?

All the championing of teacher-teller-offer Jeff Bliss this week has been largely about his passionate plea for impassioned teaching. I get it. The kids our one-size-fits most educational system hurts most are the ones who burned out once, realize they really want it for themselves, and then remember the whole reason they left in the first place. Sometimes school sucks.

Enter the machines to save the day! Flipped class! Online courses! Blogging! Differentiated objectives!

These are great strategies to turn the industrial system on its head – in the right hands. Online courses are wonderful for students who cannot participate in the time or space of the local traditional school. I love how the flipped class gives more time for peer discussion and productive struggle. Mastery systems that deliver differentiated objectives for individual students and groups lead students in goal setting, self pacing, and reward students who want to work ahead without punishing those that need more time.

None of these matter, however, if teachers and admin just go through the motions, gaming the new systems, getting kids through their new technology-enriched courses while patting themselves on the back with the credits they’re rewarding. The teenager in front of you is more than willing to get his credits (that word has me thinking about arcade tokens, which is all I feel like they’re worth sometimes) from “passing” that course. Are you REALLY helping them? I’m not sure.

Does Jeff Bliss just want to get through high school? I’m sure he wouldn’t hate it, but is that what he deserves? Jeff Bliss wants to star on the movie about his life where he made the choice to return to school and in return found teachers who shared an kind of passion with him.

I don’t think Jeff Bliss wants his math teacher to be his best friend, but I do think he wants to know his math teacher isn’t counting down the minutes until he’s out the door. It doesn’t matter how shiny and differentiated our systems are if the teachers (even in online courses) are bland robots going through the motions.

Technology is great, but remember, you’re also a craftsman.

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