Another dot in the blogosphere?

Be part of the solution instead of the problem

Posted on: September 23, 2014

Over about a decade of being a teacher educator, there is a question or challenge I most frequently face on the topic of ICT integration or ICT-enabled change.

I hear it from preservice teachers, inservice teachers, clients that consult me, and visitors local and overseas. It goes something like: I understand the rationale for (ICT/change/flipping/game-based learning/insert new idea here), but at the end of the day, our students must take pen-and-paper exams.

Sometimes they will add: How do I resolve this dilemma? or How do we remain accountable to parents (or some other stakeholders)?

I would often give a nice answer. Learning with, from, and as a result of technology can be meaningful and powerful to the learner. If handled well, students learn not just content but also thinking skills, values, and attitudes. How does this not help them with their exams? How does this not appeal to the good sense of your stakeholders?

Cue the proverbial crickets or the laugh track.

I am done with this nice answer. Now I tell them that by thinking and acting that way they are perpetuating the problem.

I have stopped trying to sympathize by saying I know that kids are not allowed to Google or collaborate or even type their answers during their tests or exams.

If teachers believe that one of the main purposes of school is to prepare students for life or work, why do we perpetuate a system that prevents Googling, collaborating, and expressing yourself with more than just text?

If teachers can see that teaching to the test and exams are not helping students in the long run, then they should do something positive about it.

The solution is not finding better or formulaic ways to deal with exams. Let tuition or test mills do that.

Teachers need to think about the longer term effect that they have on kids. They should stop being part of the problem by feeding the exam monster.

Instead, they could be part of the solution by critically examining their own practice and answering questions like:

  • How am I promoting creative and critical thought?
  • What do I do to nurture independent and self-directed problem solvers?
  • How am I modelling solid and progressive values so that my learners catch them?
  • What can I do to inspire confidence in my learners?
  • How do I reach my learners by making my lessons more real, relevant, and meaningful?

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