Another dot in the blogosphere?

How schools & teachers stay irrelevant

Posted on: November 5, 2014

I shake my head in disbelief sometimes when I think about how inflexible some schools or teachers can be.

I know of some schools who have more liberal mobile device policies. As part of a consulting gig, I visited a primary school whose policy was to allow all students, even the youngest ones, to bring smartphones to school as long as the devices were kept in lockers.

Other schools have Amish-like policies on smartphones. I am very familiar with one that disallows cassettes, CD players, walkmans, VCDs, and pagers amongst other devices (see portion of handbook below).


Even the Amish might remark that they do not use these devices not because they are against them but because they might have to rob a museum to get them!

The first type of school is more progressive in that it recognizes the modern demands of their stakeholders. Both parents are likely to be working and their child might have to find their own way home on arranged or public transport. Phones are critical for such daily updates.

That same school does not yet allow the use of the phones for lessons. However, they will have will not have to fight the battles of resistance among teachers, low buy-in among parents, or early “exploratory” use among students when the time comes for them to make that decision.

The second school will have a tougher time pulling itself out of the educational dark ages.

A rigid, backward, or disconnected policy also has a way of affecting the mindset of teachers. It can breed group think, inflexibility, and a fear of risk-taking.

My wife reminded me of something we experienced in the middle of the year. My son had answered a comprehension question on a passage about Elizabeth Choy being tortured during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore [1][2].

The correct answer to a question was that she was given “electric shocks”. My son did not get the full marks because he answered that she had been “electrocuted”. His teacher did not give him the full marks because he did not write down exactly what was in the passage.

This incensed my wife, an English teacher, who discussed it with my son’s teacher. My wife also asked her colleagues in school for their comments. Everyone except my son’s teacher agreed that getting an electric shock was the same as being electrocuted.

To be fair, there could have been more to the argument. Perhaps there was some comprehension skill that was tested that my son did not perform.

But perhaps the equivalent of copying and pasting was more important than interpretation and exercising vocabulary. Perhaps schooling was more important than education.

And perhaps these are examples of how teachers and schools risk losing relevance. The rest of the world sees the point of change and moves on, but teachers and schools do not.

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