Ever since I started writing my blog, I wondered when I would reach the end of my road and run out of things to rant about. It seems that every time I approach that point, something pops up to get me started again. As luck would have it, two such events occurred today. One incident happened early today and the second came later in the day. Of course, for dramatic effect I will begin with the later.
Late in the afternoon I had an appointment with my dentist for a cleaning. It’s one of the many ways my dentist has arranged for me to pay his rent. I see my dentist quite often. When I arrived at the waiting room, the receptionist greeted me with a big smile and three pages of blank forms. She apologized for inconveniencing me, but THE LAW required her to have me fill out the forms. I immediately looked at her desk and asked what catastrophe had befallen her computer? She was puzzled. I told her that all of the blank spaces on three pages of forms were requiring me to complete information already in the computer. She agreed, but again said THE LAW requires us to have you fill out these forms. Again I said, “You already have all of this information and more in your data bank. Why am I being required to handwrite out on three forms information that already exists on your computer?” She quickly left the waiting room in search of a supervisor. I must admit, I might have been strongly influenced by the Occupy Wallstreet demonstrations that I had been following all day. They were also being shown on the TV in the waiting room. Was this my stand against THE LAW for the 99 percenters?
Emerging from the dental-technology-filled rooms in the back, the supervisor approached me. The first two words from her mouth were THE LAW, and then continued; require that you provide this information on these forms. Again, I said, “you have that information already.” She reluctantly wrote a line at the top of the top form” nothing has changed” and placed a check next to it. I signed the form.
The other incident, earlier in the day, was more education oriented, but just as vexing. As a matter of fact it was probably more egregious, because educators should know better in 2011, almost 2012. I observed one of my pre-service teachers today. She has a student teaching assignment in a high school English position. She delivered a great collaboration lesson and we were debriefing the lesson after the class. I asked about the next lesson planned for the class. She looked at me with a reluctant look on her face. I sensed that she was about to tell me something, that she knew, I was not going to be in favor of. She qualified her answer with the fact that she was obligated to do as her cooperating teacher directed her. I agreed, and again asked what was next, since she referred to an upcoming essay in her lesson. She came clean. The class is to handwrite an essay in class before we go to the computer lab so they can type the essay on the computer.
My students know that word processing enables kids to write at a higher level, and they are more likely to make corrections and rewrites when using a word processor. A word processor is not a typewriter. We write in a word-processing world and our students should learn in the same way. My students also know that this is my strong belief. However, I could not fault my student, since it is not her choice for the students, but that of their teacher. I have been burned in the past when I approached cooperating teachers on some ill-conceived methods used in class. I have learned to smile, say thanks, leave, and then have a long talk with my students in the safety of my own classroom.
If we, as educators, do not understand the reasoning and potential of technology, we will not use it effectively and then blame that inefficiency on the technology. It is too easy to use technology without understanding and find fault with it not fulfilling the implied promise. We assume everyone understands that computers collect, manipulate, and communicate data in any form needed. We assume everyone understands the power of computers in regard to writing, publishing, and communicating the written word. Unfortunately, I have come to believe that we cannot make these assumptions. We need to educate or educators if we are to have any hope to educate or children.