The Enchanted Classroom…a cautionary tale

Once upon a time, in a land called Silicon Valley, there was a great and mighty school district that cast a powerful spell over the parents and teachers. With the wave of a wand, all the textbooks and all the lessons of all the teachers were magically placed inside a small, silver box. Each child received one of these magical boxes. Within its sleek and polished covers, “the Chromebook” as it was christened, contained everything students needed to learn for school. “Oh, how wondrous!” the children exclaimed, clapping their hands in delight. “I can learn at my own pace.” “I can take the quizzes as many times as I want!” “I don’t need to fear failure. I know I am just ‘not yet’ ready.”

Time passed and day after day as the children clicked through their personalized playlist of educational modules, a strange malaise came over them. “I didn’t understand my lesson, but my friend is two weeks ahead and she can’t help me.” “Sometimes the teacher lectures about things I finished a month ago.” “I miss talking about the stories.” “Why should I come to school if all I do is stare at a magical glowing screen?”

Then, one day, after seeing their children’s delight turn to dismay, the parents decided to challenge technology’s irresistible charm. They wanted a place where technology served the students and did not rule them. A place where children were not kept isolated and alone, clicking at flashing screens, but instead, shared what they learned with one another. A place where class size was kept small so that every child could speak and gain confidence in themselves and their ideas. Teachers would guide and direct students, focusing their attention on what was most important to learn. Tests would include written answers so that students could show they had understood and synthesized the material and not merely guessed correctly on a multiple choice exam.

Soon, reawakened, the children discovered that sharing and speaking about ideas is the first step to writing about ideas. They discovered that taking notes by hand helps them to remember more than taking a screenshot. They discovered that technology is very useful to find videos, facts and new words, but that critical thinking arises from reading followed by discussion followed by writing and rewriting. Most importantly, they discovered that the magic of learning comes not from a small, silver box, but from their own minds, the most magical technology of all.

The End.

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