My Take on "What Most Schools Don't Teach"




Most schools don't teach students to think critically about their technology choices. They rarely think about the social, political or environmental implications of a globalized, technology-driven society. Yes, coding matters, but so does the ability to see the context behind the code. Most kids are missing that in the midst of the technotopia.

Most schools don't teach kids about the "borrowing" of code by Gates and Zuckerberg followed by the rush to extend proprietary laws in a platform that was once open. Students rarely learn that the true innovators in coding often worked collaboratively (not in isolation as the video suggests), democratically and within the open source movement.

Most schools don't teach kids to ask questions about how the Gates Foundation pushes to redefine public policy toward standardized testing and merit pay - the very policies that undermine the creativity required to pursue computer coding in schools. Few students will ever recognize that we can't "make the space as awesome as possible" because of the privatization policies pushed by the plutocrats who have bought their influence in education.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for learning coding. It's a great skill (along with learning how to read, write and think better). But I'm bothered by how quickly bloggers in the educational technology community have embraced the "expertise" of those who are so quick to take the public out of public education.
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John Spencer

John Spencer is a teacher, author, speaker, and incessant doodler. He is the co-author of Wendell the World's Worst Wizard and the co-founder of Write About. He is passionate about helping students develop into better writers and deeper thinkers.

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13 comments:

  1. I was trying to make a slightly different point - that the ideas presented in this video are hardly new or revolutionary.

    I totally agree though, when they started talking about how cool it is to work as a programmer because of the cool offices I wanted to vomit.

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    1. Yep. It's not a new thing and it's not as sexy as it looks in the video.

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  2. Hey Pal,

    Just a quick not to let you know that this is a brilliant post. Thanks for pointing out the flaws in the thinking of the likes of Zuckerberg or Gates who simultaneously advocate for policies that prevent the very change that they define as essential.

    In the words of @mrscienceteach, they're #savvyidiots

    That might be a hashtag worth trying to trend.

    Hope you're well!
    Bill

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    1. Thanks, Bill. The contradiction can be so glaringly obvious and yet the media never calls them out on it.

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  3. Good insights again, John. We need to think more about connections. I often hear teachers complain about many of the current ed reforms, while teaching from a textbook they chose to adopt whose parent company has lobbyists for the same reforms.

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    1. True. The hypocrisy goes both ways, with many teachers being just as hypocritical in what they say and do.

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  4. Then too, there are many programming languages. And there are more coming on stream. And some are very different from others. What happened to Basic, Fortran, Cobol, APL? (To name just a few that I recall from youth). So teaching them to code, may not be so useful. Because you would have to teach them to code in the language that will be in use when they are working. So grade school and high school may be too soon. Best they wait till college, and have a really really good academic adviser.... And even then.

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    1. I think there is value in learning code, just in terms of thinking and logic. But the same skills are often learned in math or in logic or debate. I'm not sure coding has to be a great big new initiative that we push.

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  5. I think one of the points that the TV spot misses, is that places such as FB, Microsoft, or any other digital tech company is going to want students out of school to be willing to learn to do things THEIR way.

    I watched a presentation by some guys at Weta Workshop, who were asked by a teenager, "What's the best course to get into Weta?". They replied - "There's not really a course, we want people who can learn, and are willing, and can figure things out."

    Ignoring the fact that a lot of code houses, and digital production facilities are psuedo-sweatshops for creative work.. all of those are important competencies that schools can encourage and provide for, and of which formal instruction in coding can assist with.

    The video misses a lot of points about context that can't be included in soundbites and has a horrible title. But hey, Chris Bosh, and cool open plan offices and yeah.

    Do we need more students to think critically and logically? Yes.
    Do we need more CS and coders? Yes.

    Do we need Bill Gates and others to make subtle digs at schools? Sure, why the hell not - it's been going on for ages anyway.

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    1. I love your response. People miss the fact that coding isn't always this pathway to a great future. Sure, a few creative people make it. But that's true of artists, writers, etc. Not everyone becomes a Bill Gates.

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  6. I also think about some other things that we don't teach in most schools ... ethics and character. I loved learning code (taught myself HTML and SQL back in the day), but I'm also really glad that I learned how to be nice to other kids in school. That included not stealing their stuff.

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    1. Yup - that about says it all. We're trying to teach ethics and character where I am, and trying to stress that the digital world is another place to apply those skills. Wish I'd learned code, though - and will work on teaching basic coding skills to my kids, along with critical thinking skills.

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Please leave a comment. I enjoy the conversation.