Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ditto Master

I still have a few video tapes on a closet shelf. The chances I'll ever watch one again are slim. It's still possible, but hardly worth the effort. Yet, some of the films or bits and pieces of news stories about Apartheid in South Africa or many of the videos I used in my introductory psychology class are just too important to be tossed away. At least it seems that way to me. Today, most of the video material in classrooms comes from You Tube. I haven't seen a tape or even a DVD used in a classroom in the last half a dozen years. Everything is available on line. And that's a good thing. It opens up so many possibilities. Too bad so much energy has to be expended resisting standardized tests and all the waste that comes with that before some engaging multi-media curriculum can inspire and motivate more reluctant learners. I've been thinking about all the media changes in the last 30-40 years. Not only do they make a teacher's job easier, they open up worlds. This is not going to be a rant about the good old anything. Yes, kids today have never seen video tape in a classroom let alone a movie projector. Yes, laptops are replacing books. Yes, most writing is done at the keyboard. That is as it should be. The tragedy comes when many teachers can't focus on how to best use these wonderful resources because of the pressure related to "achievement" and "performance" and of course test scores.
Sometimes I like to recall a typical day in the life of a teacher from say 1975 as opposed to 2013. That's a neat 38 years. Copies today are usually made on a Xerox machine of some kind as opposed to the ditto masters of old. No more typing, correcting errors with a razor blade. Gone are the ink (fluid) stains on hands and clothing. No more wet, faded copies. I always had a problem with the fact that some kids would get the dregs- unreadable copies. No need for movie projectors, broken films (patched with a bit of Scotch tape) No waiting to get the video material on the exact date you need it by. No more "I already saw this film..." And most importantly, no limit to what you bring into the classroom. Well, you know what I mean. Case in point: I'll never forget the first time I used video tape of a news event in my International Relations class. Something happens in Europe or China and you've got instant footage. It was huge. Imagine trying to teach a current affairs class and depending on a few dated films. It's often lovely to be in the middle of a revolution and realize it. My classroom video library grew in a few years to hundreds of documentaries, pieces of news footage, interviews with major players, and geography lessons as the map changed. Of course this challenged teachers to use these materials in new and effective ways. Most excellent teachers use video material in small segments with much student interaction.
The computer came into the classroom roughly around 1994. Schools were wired shortly thereafter and everything from grade books to traditional research changed. Again, I believe for the good. Returning to the typical day from then to now will yield other insights about the impact of technology on the public school classroom. That will follow in these pages. I suspect it will reveal some incisive and unexpected consequences about human behavior and the world to come.

No comments: