Alexandria Online

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Don't Shoot the Piano Player!

Larry Cuban wrote in Education Week in 2006 that you could put a piano in every classroom and still not create a music culture: "the music is in the teacher, not the piano." His article, a commentary entitled, "The Laptop Revolution Has No Clothes," (October 17, 2006) is a wonderfully cranky and knowledgable screed against one-to-one laptop programs.

Larry Cuban has been around the block a few times and seen a lot happen in education. And now he is seeing the same old pattern he has seen before: a lot of enthusiasm over something very shiny, expensive and promising, without a lot of thought given to methods and purposes. Is he really seeing the same old pattern again, or is he conditioned by his depth of experience to see only the same patterns even when something new is emerging?

There is a lot of research now on the 1:1 experience and it has been done in all sorts of different schools. From what I can discern, this is not a transformative technological change; it may just be the next thing we all do because it makes sense, given the weight of backpacks, the price of e-books, the changes in publishing, the ubiquity of wireless, etc. Evolution, not revolution.

In the Fall of 1983, my first year teaching, the faculty room at my school had a "spirit duplicator", or "ditto machine". In the middle of the school year it was replaced by a Xerox photocopier, and boy did things change. It wasn't visionary or transformative, but it was the next step.

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