School and Technology

I was always told that in order to get a good job, I needed to get good grades. In order to get good grades, I had to attend school.

It was always a means to an end for me. Not fun, not boring, just there. Just existing. I floated through life with a grayish listlessness, doing little and saying less. I read books because I was expected to. I memorized my times tables because I had to.

Did I want to?

Meh.

I don’t quite remember the day it happened. In amongst the ashy overlay, there was a light. It wasn’t very much, wasn’t very bright, since a little rectangle in the top right hand corner was turning red. In the sun, you couldn’t see that rectangle at all (had to increase the brightness). But despite it all, I was blinded.

It was incredible.

Years passed, and as I grew, my little technology rectangle grew with me. My home desktop became a personal laptop, and iPads and tablets began littering themselves around my home. But through it all, school was there, in its constant, grey, unchanging glory.


It was like a tsunami but I never saw it coming. Little by little, class by class, technology crept upon my world and took it by the hand. Khan Academy grew from a simple practice site to a trove of information. It was infinity, hope, and the faintest, growing echo of mad laughter. The feeling of having thousands of years of information, the collective sum of all the knowledge of our species, was intoxicating.

That summer, I spent hours a day on Khan Academy. There was this almost ravenous need for information. I use, and have used, technology to learn the things that school only touches on. Without it, I never would’ve learned about the types of bipolar disorder, nor the 12 battles of the isanzo river. As a result, it’s typical for me to enjoy classes that involve the use of technology.

It’s difficult to make a blanket statement, however. Maybe it’s just that I enjoy creative expression, and creative classes tend to involve technology (correlation, not causation). For instance, my all-time favorite subject is English and its videos, podcasts, and word processors. However, maybe that’s because I’m able to express myself using the written word. Meanwhile, I hold no love for geography despite our usage of ArcGIS, and the same goes for math and Desmos. Thus, it is likely that I enjoy those classes due to content, not technology use.

writing.jpg
Is the pen mightier than the laptop?

However, most occasions it is easier for me to learn the course content. Being a visual learner, Desmos has probably boosted my math mark by a couple percentages. Even though I don’t strictly speaking enjoy math/using Desmos, the combination of the two proves effective. It’s a similar situation with French and Reverso – using Reverso didn’t increase my love of the language, but it did help me learn in a way my French teachers couldn’t.

Ultimately, technology usage in school matters to me only if used effectively. If not, it becomes more of a hindrance and in doing so lessens learning (and increases annoyance). For instance, the addition of video creation in a subject like math is not only irritating, but I find it isn’t a productive use of my math-learning time. I would be better off using the 6 hours I spent filming/editing the video to just do practice problems.

From a purely curriculum standpoint, I am relatively pleased with what I’ve been taught. School has made me literate, taught me numeracy, and fostered my communication. Depending on the teacher, my knowledge in the sciences are fairly well-rounded, although lacking in the arts department. I feel that I’m academically prepared for university, but I don’t feel mentally prepared nor do I feel that I was educated in the best way possible.

As one improvement, I’d like to see more teachers take advantage of Khan Academy. Often, I find the videos on Khan Academy to be more comprehensive and engaging. Simply creating an account on the website encourages learning, due to the gamification. Personally, I’ve found Khan Academy to be, on occasion, a more effective tool than school teachers.

khan-academy
Or is the video mightier than the lecture?

I’m not suggesting the complete replacement of teachers – just supplementation. Subjects teachers don’t have time to cover can be if they just assign students to watch a video. The history videos especially provided me with a much more open mind, as Khan Academy covers events and cultures in pre-colonial America, South America, and Africa. I found it upsetting that we didn’t cover that in school, as our textbooks were extremely Eurocentric.

That fact is a symptom of a greater plague. The Canadian education system is riddled with flaws, which are underlined and bolded after in-depth studying of the Finnish version. We are taught to focus only on Canada and Europe even as globalization occurs around us. We are taught that excellence matters more than equity. We are taught that learning how to add vectors will enrich our lives more than learning how to learn. 

The system is brutal, and the system is unforgiving. It doesn’t allow students to make mistakes – one missed question on an exam and your entire future grows dimmer. Instead of being instructed on how to learn and grow and move past mistakes, we are told not to make them. When they inevitably happen, we are told it is our fault. We didn’t study enough, we didn’t work hard enough, we weren’t good enough. Never are we explicitly told that it’s okay to make mistakes. Never are we explicitly told that we should place our own health above a number printed on a page.

School does not teach resiliency. It does not teach adaptability. It does not teach creativity, or compassion, or open-mindedness.

So no, I don’t believe that school is preparing me for my future outside of academics. Almost everything I’ve learned that will be of value in that department has been despite school, not because of it. And in my opinion, that is unacceptable.

 

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