Tag Archives: cultural scripts

Help! My parent and my teacher are both apps

People outside of the education profession look at Khan Academy and they see brilliance because Khan conforms closely to American cultural scripts of teaching. Teaching is telling and Khan tells in a friendly, seemingly competent way (which is actually incompetent in some important and non-obvious ways, but more on that in the coming weeks).

This is the drill: Tell students some stuff; ask them some questions to see whether they remember what you told them. See those first two headings on the Khan Academy landing page?

With thanks to Michael Pershan (@mpershan) for noticing this on Khan Academy.

Watch and practice.

People outside of the education profession look at iPad apps and online schools and see efficiency because these-again-closely follow the script of teaching and learning in this country.

So powerful is this cultural script that minor tweaks are seen as revolutionary. (Rewind the video to hear the same explanation again! As many times as you like!) So powerful is this script that our roles as parents can be misconstrued as preparing our children to be this type of student. From the comments on this blog last month:

Around 6-7, I think it is important for children to first internalize basic arithmetic equations as memorized, right-brain pattern recall. Once they do this, their minds are free to think about other aspects of the math problem in front of them. Once basic one-digit equations have been internalized, the next pattern needed is the simple process of stepping through more complex problems.

This was in response to my description of something I had done that had gotten my five-year old daughter to think, rather to respond in a rote way.

A parent talking with his child about mathematics gets redirected to a fact-drilling app.

I’ll make the analogy to literacy again. The equivalent would be a parent writing about how turned on his kid was by a story, and how his kid applied the ideas of that story to thinking about her lived experience. And then got pushback about the importance of phonics instruction to prepare a child for reading in first grade.

But we know that a lifelong love of reading is fostered by reading aloud with parents. (Of course, there are exceptions, blah blah blah.) And if you love reading—barring disability—you’ll learn to read as long as you are provided competent reading instruction.

We need to similarly foster a lifelong love of numeracy. And that does not start with math-drilling apps (Of course, there are exceptions, blah blah blah.) It starts as all things do, through play, conversation and wonder.

Let’s keep the focus, shall we?

Further reading:

Alfie Kohn (of course) on summer learning loss.

Will Richardson on online learning and apps.

The importance of the imagery of teaching

Breedeen Murray writes about the importance of having an image of the kind of teaching we are striving to be:

[…]I had seen video of this problem being taught at PCMI the summer before. And this was a HUGE thing for me. I had a template for how this lesson should be taught. I didn’t have to imagine how to transform it from the book to something better all on my own. I didn’t have to create something from scratch. I just did what the teacher did in the video. Which is exactly what I did with the exception that I had a document camera, so I had students come up and put their work under it, instead of writing on an overhead. And this too was amazing. I had students who had been giving me grief all year long produce such beautiful explanations that it hurt my heart. How could I have waited so long to let them be this awesome?

The models of teaching we carry around in our heads are so very, very powerful. Here are some resources for independent study:

  1. Connecting Mathematical Ideas by Jo Boaler and Cathy Humphreys (which I suspect was the source of the video she writes about)
  2. TIMSS videos, available online with free registration. If you dig into these, you really should pick up…
  3. The Teaching Gap by Jim Stigler and Jim Hiebert.