Joy Kirr is a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. Her 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of their learning experiences... Want to have her speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is Joy's PORTFOLIO.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Who are Luddites Failing?

My husband is a history buff. It’s a good thing – it means I learn something every now and then! He recently read an article in BBC History Magazine (Vol. 13, No. 5 - May, 2012) titled, “Luddites.” Here’s some of what Charlotte Hodgman had to say (p78):


Luddism, a protest movement that arose from the textile trade in Britain 200 years ago, first emerged during 1811, in the Midlands, as a reaction to the replacement of skilled craftsmen with new labour-saving technology. A pattern of public petitioning quickly emerged, which was followed by machine breaking and violence across Britain’s main textile areas…

Richard Jones, a research student in economic and financial history at the University of Cambridge, says: “The Word Luddite has now entered everyday usage to describe those who dislike technology, oppose innovation or who are generally resistant to change…”

I read this, and I knew I was a Luddite not long ago. I remember when our new principal at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, asked us about BYOT, I was not excited. I just KNEW the kids would be texting each other, cheating by looking things up, and playing games.

Then I was the chosen one in the district to pilot the iPad writing program for four weeks. The white hairs came with this pilot, but I completed it the way I was asked. In this time, I noticed that my one student who is always playing with a pencil or a toy was now playing with the iPad – moving apps around! As our class had discussions, he busied himself moving the apps around. I saw it, and I thought – Doodler. That’s okay. I can handle doodling. It helps the brain think! (See this TED Talk about doodlers – you’ll be passing out paper and pencils! Doodlers Unite www.ted.com/talks/sunni_brown.html ) But students having their phones in class? For what purpose? Google? Not good enough for me.

Then I read the next line…

(More from Richard Jones…) “In my opinion, however, this is a misreading of the original Luddite motivation… Luddites were motivated by a desire to protect the status quo of their established skilled trades and their positions within those trades… When machinery displaced them, they naturally reacted very strongly.”

Well, then. I was NOT a Luddite, after all… right? I KNEW that technology would not displace me. I had tenure! I was set! I was in like Flynn! I could pass it all up and still teach. No issues. I would not protest the BYOT, I just wouldn’t buy into it.

But then I thought… If I were an administrator, I would not be looking for new teachers that didn’t know how to use technology. And the more I learned from my PLN on Twitter, the more I knew I would be changing the way I taught sooner, rather than later. And you know what else? Go ahead and let students search Google on their phones. What will they find? Not the answers to my tests. No. My tests (what tests??) were not going to have answers on it you COULD Google. They would feature critical thinking. They would have students applying what they knew, not just giving the ages of Ponyboy’s brothers. (Oh, I always despised that question!!)

I was in on the hiring process this June, for we were seeking two new LA/LIT positions at our middle school. I was not looking for the teacher who had students in silent lines in the hallways, sitting in rows facing front, memorizing the school rules. I was looking for someone who could engage students as readers and writers. Technology or not, I was not looking for the “old-school” version of a school teacher.

Hodgman also states (p79),
The Luddites were always destined to fail.

I think Luddites may be destined to fail, but I think what’s most important is that we’ll fail students if we do not change with the times, and grab hold of what we can to enhance student learning. Technology will continue to grow leaps and bounds, just as it’s done in the past. I need to use the technology to help my students develop their creativity, their critical thinking, their collaboration…

Here’s someone I’ve quoted many times, C.F. Kettering…
            Nothing is constant but change.

Let’s be positive role models, and teach our students that we can change along with the times. Let’s help them with the technology as well. Knowing full well they’ll have digital footprint, let’s help them make it a positive one.

6 comments:

  1. Nice post Joy. I especially liked your point about failing our students if we do not change with the times. We need to be more relevant and use the tools that they use to learn.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Another relevant post by you, Joy. Well-written and so true...if we fail students by not changing then we're not doing our jobs and just like in business - should be booted out the door. For so long it appeared that teachers were exempt from being fired, but it's a little better in Iowa than it was. I can't stand inadequacy and then complaining because the administrators have been in your classroom a lot lately. Anyway, on a positive note, it's so refreshing to be connected to enthusiastic teachers who want to do what's best for kids.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Joy, I love the line, "If I were an administrator, I would not be looking for new teachers that didn’t know how to use technology." I wonderful point, and something the technology-resistant need to take note of.

    If you wouldn't hire a new teacher who didn't trust his or her students with tech, then for how much longer can that possibly be an acceptable position for established teachers to hold? Not much longer, I hope!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Joy,

    Excellent post. Besides what others have noted here, I also like how you bring it to a most important point: "Knowing full well they’ll have digital footprint, let’s help them make it a positive one."

    ReplyDelete
  5. Another fabulous blog post, Joy :)
    I love reading your blog and always learn something new (in fact, while reading this I had to open two more tabs on my computer for further reading afterwards)!

    ~Gallit

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh, Joy, what a joy you are! I love the personality and thinking that comes out in your blog posts. My favorite:

    "And you know what else? Go ahead and let students search Google on their phones. What will they find? Not the answers to my tests. No. My tests (what tests??) were not going to have answers on it you COULD Google." PRICELESS!

    Thanks for sharing! I do not want to be a Luddite!

    Denise

    P.S. Thank your husband for us!

    ReplyDelete