Critical Reflection #8
Spender, D. (1995). Education (Chapter 5, pp. 99-120) Nattering on the Net. North Melbourne, Australia: Spinifex Press.
November 13, 1997

Mary, I am having a difficult time responding to this article by Spender. I would like to know more about his qualifications, experience, and reputation since I do not understand how his hyperbolized diatribe made it into print. My initial reaction was to pick apart, one by one, the fallacies in his portrayal of the present education system. His generalizations are conjecture and do not appear to be supported by research. I have strayed from the normal course for these papers, I know. However, due to the incredible shock that I have after reading and re-reading this article since the weekend, I would appreciate a place to "sound off" instead of reflect. I will start with the points that I like, then move on to the points I dislike. Sorry it is so long....

Points I Like:

#1. Pg.111: "Having a personal computer, organised the way you want it, is very different than having a school computer that is programmed for use by everybody."
Very well said. I believe that all teachers should have negotiated into their contracts a new laptop every two years. I also believe that all students should receive a personal computer from the school every two years. Don't ask me how it would be financially feasible! I am dealing in theory here :-)

#2. Pg.114: "Future generations of teachers... will need no convincing of the new world that electronic information opens up."
This brings us back to our class discussion of a few weeks ago on what to do to bring education forward, quicker.

Points I Do Not Like:

#1. Bottom paragraph, page 99.
Spender paints a general portrait of  school as a place where kids sit in rows and are forced to copy notes from a blackboard, be quiet, and read.  This description fits schools from a generation ago, but it is not a true reflection of the learning that happens in classrooms today.  Improved professional development has empowered teachers today with methods that actively engage students in cooperative, outcome-based activities that challenge them to work cooperatively on relevant projects and assignments.

#2. Top paragraph, page 100.
Spender portrays university courses as "deadening" and "stuffy". This course disproves that in spades!

#3. Bottom paragraph, page 100.
I would disagree with Spender's suggestion that the "teacher as transmitter" model is the norm in today's classrooms. Outcome-based education and assessment is gaining more and more support, fuelled by elementary teachers with supporting research. Slowly, OBE is making its way into the secondary system.

#4. Pgs. 101-102.
The weight of credibility that is placed on one publisher's reaction to students' use of their product in an electronic format is transparent. Where are the other, supporting, studies confirming it as the norm? Where was the study examining how students worked with the actual textbook?

#5.  Pg.102: "Students are supposed to sit there passively in serried rows and take this all in."
Was this really written only two years ago? Spender actually believes that a premise of learning in today's educational system is that teachers are those who channel their knowledge into students' minds? Absurd! For at least seven years (as long as I have been teaching) this has been debunked.

#6. Pg.104: "This is another version of the school not wanting parents to teach their kids to read."
An atrocious comment! I challenge this writer to come up with ONE example of a teacher in any part of this country who does not encourage parents to read with their children. (My comment beside this paragraph reads, "this paper is offensive!")

#7. Pg.104:"The teaching/learning model which currently predominates is one in which learning is held to take place when students have memorised, stored, and kept in their heads, the knowledge that their teachers have taught them."
This is not the predominate learning model. Kids learn by doing, by inquiring, by making meaningful relationships and connections between new results and prior knowledge.

#8. Pg.107: " are intellectually demanding; they make you think, assess, react, decide, and act, in a way that is rarely the case in an educational institution."
My criticism for the above passage is this: replace the words "educational institution" with "real life." To even suggest that most games that kids choose to play on computers are educational is unbelievable!! I play these games!! I am being entertained - I am not being educated. I may be memorizing the maps and creatures and levels that I have to progress through to go farther, but it is hardly educational or relevant to life. Just as memorizing facts from a textbook is not a rich learning experience, neither is mindlessly memorizing the way to solve a computer game.