Steve Wozniak is a household name today because of his status as a co-founder of Apple. This means when he says something, the tech world takes his opinion pretty seriously. Wozniak says that the machines won 200 years ago and kids aren’t smarter because they have access to technology.
“A lot of our schools slow students down,” he said. “We put computers in schools and the kids don’t come out thinking any better.”
With all due respect to Wozniak, it isn’t the technology that’s the problem. It isn’t the teachers either. In the United States, it’s the fact that we have fundamentally changed how we teach kids the basic skills and knowledge they need for success.
You can’t sit a kid in front of a computer, ignore them, and expect them to succeed.
Yet this is exactly what we’ve created. Teachers are almost forced to teach to standardized testing because their own livelihoods are at stake in many districts. Instead of fostering creativity, we are teaching compliance. Sit down, Johnny. Don’t run around. Start your online reading lesson and I’ll check back on you in an hour.
It’s true that technology requires discipline. As I’m writing this, I have six browser tabs active. I’m running Spotify, there is Sling TV on in the background, and the neighbors outside are clunking around with their lawn mowers.
Wozniak says that computers can’t make up for class sizes that are too large. I don’t know that I agree with this. Growing up, my class size was near 30. Locally it’s now about 16 kids. I don’t disagree that more individualized attention improves the experience, but this comes back to the core problem: teachers aren’t allowed to really teach.
Technology is only as good as we allow it to be.
My 6 year old son yells at the television when he thinks a show is getting scientific facts or theories wrong and 95% of the time he’s right about it. The other day, he was yelling at Doctor Who because of how string theory was being presented on the show. His school curriculum involves knowing 4+4, tying his shoes, and that trees have roots because that’s what the tests need him to know.
Technology is a tool that has helped a 6 year old understand the concepts of string theory. Neil deGrasse Tyson has helped to foster that through technology which makes my son feel like he is being spoken to personally through the computer.
Computers don’t hold kids back. We do.
The machines haven’t won, but we are losing because of our own choices that we’re making. To foster in the next generation of innovation and creativity, we need to give our kids tools to help make that happen. Smartphones, laptops, tablets, learning games, and all of that good stuff are tools to help make that happen.
So is fostering creativity. Art, music, or acknowledging the fact that sometimes our kids learn more by jumping up and down instead of sitting and being compliant can help to make this happen.
Talking to a watch might be pretty cool. Math Blaster was pretty cool when it came out too. Our problem is that the world is changing once again and we’re still stuck in 1994.
How do you feel about technology? Have we let the machines dominate us?