Caged in or locked out?

Bill Clinton famously claimed that trying to control the internet in China would be like nailing jell-o to a wall. Thirteen years on the truth of that claim, like so many others about the internet and technology in general, has proved as hard to pin down as the jell-o itself. A special report on China and the Internet (“A Giant Cage“) in the Economist shows how well the Chinese authorities have managed to keep the internet caged and censored. It is a constant battle but so far the government seems to be winning. Maybe if you employ enough nails the jello-o can be kept largely on the wall.

Empty-CageOn a similar theme, but referring to education, Jeremy Harmer recently asked on his blog if technology was killing education. In many ways I think he is wondering if we are allowing technology to cage us in and pin us to the wall as we are pressurised by publishers etc to use technology even though it may not be the most suitable means of teaching or conveying our teaching. He also ponders the opposite end of the scale when it can be claimed that kids no longer need schools: technology will teach them / they will learn themselves through technology. The most famous example of this is Sugata Mitra’s Hole in the Wall project in a Delhi slum: left alone with a computer the kids seemed to learn how to use it all by themselves and thus gained instant access to the outside world and the knowledge that it provides. His post is a fine reflection on the debate and how that arguments involve us teachers.

I have observed several classes recently, listened to colleagues’ experiences and have seen many examples of technology been seemlessly and effectively incorporated into teaching. The question of course, of whether technology is better than, or only as good as, the teacher using IT has been around for years. Bill Clinton got it wrong in China so I don’t want to be rash and call a shot on this one! Having said that, Clinton may still be right: all too often with technology it is the timescale that sucks accuracy from predictions. If Orwell was correct … it didn’t happen in 1984 … but we may be closer than ever before …

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