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This is edtech's pedagogy of poverty.
"The Pedagogy of Poverty..."
Originally published in 1991, Professor Martin Haberman's article "The Pedagogy of Poverty Versus Good Teaching" identified fourteen characteristics of what he called "urban instruction" which, if they weren't happening in a low-income school, the teacher would be considered to not be teaching. Those fourteen "teaching acts" are:
- giving information
- asking questions
- giving directions
- making assignments
- monitoring seatwork
- reviewing assignments
- giving tests
- reviewing tests
- assigning homework
- reviewing homework
- settling disputes
- punishing noncompliance
- marking papers
- giving grades
In this form of pedagogy, students don't achieve "minimum life skills" or even "what they are capable of learning." It's essentially a ritual of control that students concede to in sometimes resentful, sometimes willing, compliance. And this problem is only made worse when a teacher's competence is linked to how compliant his/her students are. The system often incentivizes a controlled, sterile classroom over a passionate, messy one.
So what does this have to do with edtech?
I'm learning that in our rush to close the digital divide between "haves" and "have-nots," the question of "Do we have enough devices in the classroom?" is really the final question we need to ask. The first question should be "Into what pedagogical system are we inserting these devices that we have purchased?"
The fourteen factors listed above all have digital equivalents: "giving information" as a lecturer translates to "watching online video with no accountability" on a computer. Assignments, tests, grades: none of this changes when a Chromebook, iPad or laptop is put in a student's hands.
Teachers are far too often willing to accept the ability of technology to elicit compliance instead of using it to let students explore real issues, connect the classroom to what goes on outside the four walls, and possibly even get a little bit chaotic as students work on what's important to them. Technology may even make the teacher "lose control" (gasp!), which is the very opposite of the in-rows compliance expected by some building administrators.
"...versus Good Teaching"
How do we escape this? What does Haberman see as the opposite of diluted and damaging pedagogical practice? Here are his findings:
"It is likely that good teaching is going on whenever students are...
- ...involved with issues they regard as vital concerns.
- ...involved with explanations of human differences.
- ...being helped to see major concepts, big ideas, and general principles and are no merely engaged in the pursuit of isolated facts.
- ...involved in planning what they will be doing.
- ...involved with applying ideals such as fairness, equity, or justice to their world.
- ...actively involved.
- ...directly involved with life-experience.
- ...actively involved in heterogeneous groups.
- ...asked to think about an idea in a way that questions common sense or a widely accepted assumption.
- ...involved in redoing, polishing, or perfecting their own work.
- ...involved with the technology of information access.
- ...involved in reflecting on their own lives and how they have come to believe and feel as they do."
To have pervasive change, we must have a systems shift in how we view teacher competence and ability: will we continue to evaluate teachers well who hold students in a silent stupor and get them through an irrelevant assignment and then release them back into the world as they were before?
Or will we start viewing teachers as competent when they engage students in the second list of twelve practices, and intentionally use technology in the process?
Until we resolve to move from a "pedagogy of poverty" and shift quality technology integration and education away from "a matter of 'importance' to a matter of 'life and death,'" we've only shoved a wedge in the digital divide, prying it open a little bit more every time a student sits down at a computer without a fundamental change in the teacher's instructional practice.