Tuesday

Extending the Conversation--Examining a Comment






A recent conversation-- in reaction to the following statements:






"Is Technology Producing A Decline In Critical Thinking And Analysis?

As technology has played a bigger role in our lives, our skills in critical thinking and analysis have declined, while our visual skills have improved, according to research by Patricia Greenfield, UCLA distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Children's Digital Media Center, Los Angeles.

Learners have changed as a result of their exposure to technology, says Greenfield, who analyzed more than 50 studies on learning and technology, including research on multi-tasking and the use of computers, the Internet and video games."


One comment from many (I've highlighted certain elements in blue for emphasis):

Clay,
I’ve been sitting on my hands for a few days wondering how and whether I should respond to this post. I have watched increasing promotion of it on Twitter and through blogs and felt a strong desire to come here and respond in the comments. I’ve read through your post and the comments many times in an attempt to compose my thoughts in a reasonable manner. I admire your enthusiasm and commitment to making a difference in the world, through hands-on engagement with learners. You have a strong following and a well-recognized voice in the field. Some of my dearest friends and people I admire most are promoting this post and so I spent considerable time thinking of an appropriate response.

You obviously feel passionately about your post and hope to generate discussion and action. I was surprised to see you mention in the very first paragraph that you had not even read the study. To me, this is a huge issue and one that would lead me to instantly be cautious of a rebuttal. Yet, I find the readers accepting and promoting your post as something of high importance. Not only did you admit to not reading the study, you claim to have read a summary of an article about the journal article about the study. I tend to be extremely cautious with evaluations so far removed from the original source. I’ve gone back to read the 4-page sciencemag.org report on the study, and the article you reference has greatly misconstrued the original intent and language of the study.

The second thing that bothers me is that for educators advocating for inquiry learning, the headline, “Is Technology Producing A Decline In Critical Thinking And Analysis?” ought to be an exciting stimulus to valuable educational discourse. When I read that heading, I automatically think of opportunity, not “Code Red.” What a great article to bring straight to students to let them locate original sources, context and discussion and discover their own meaning.

Thirdly, I found your rebuttal surprising, in that it is essentially the foundational “ed-tech manifesto,” with language that has been used in this debate for at least a decade. Your arguments include the same content of a million ed tech blog posts. You’ve not introduced anything new, nor encouraged critical thinking. Both sides know there are good and bad examples of technology use. Debating their examples of improper use with your examples of successful adoption neglects to address the real issues of inadequate administration and teachers, and technology adoption that does not take into consideration the individual circumstances in every classroom, school or other learning environment.

My fourth concern is that you mention, “All sorts of ed sites are giving totally unquestioning air time,” yet you don’t provide any links to these sites. If you truly feel the desire to spur action on the part of your readers, it might be nice to guide them to conversations where they can engage with those on the other side. Bringing a passionate stance to those who already follow and agree with you will not lead to education transformation. If this study has the chance of making the impact you foresee, isn’t this a huge opportunity to introduce your philosophies to those who are unfamiliar with your work?

I want to know what we can do to bring these sides together to discuss opportunities for real educational research, sharing of resources and data and collection of success stories linked to data that will help educators determine the best technology opportunities for learning with their individual populations. I applaud your enthusiasm and passion, but I do question your approach to this topic and wonder if there may be a better way to spread your message to those who have not heard it and adopted some of your successful strategies. I do think there is merit in questioning the current state of educational research, as well as the quality and accuracy of the online reviews of studies. I think that part of your message is valid, but also makes it even more surprising that you are debating an article so far removed from the research. The original article features 56 references, so readers have ample opportunity to do more research and debate. I would encourage others to read it before heading out to the blogosphere to debate articles five times removed.

Posted by Jennifer Jones on 02/04/2009 @ 02:02PM PST
What elements in this comment extend the conversation and deepen learning?


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