Journal of Technology Education

Journal of Technology Education

Current Editor: Chris Merrill, cpmerri@ilstu.edu
Previous Editors: Mark Sanders 1989-1997; James LaPorte: 1997-2010

As an open access journal, the JTE does not charge fees for authors to publish or readers to access.


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Volume 1, Number 2
Spring 1990

              Tubal Cain and All That
               
                                     Peter Wilkinson(1)
               
                             A new journal arrives in the mail and,
                        I'm sorry to say, gets the same treatment as
                        most of the others.  That is to say, I
                        quickly skim read for things which might be
                        useful to me, and then finding nothing, file
                        it with the others.  ("Useful" at 3:30 p.m.
                        on a Tuesday means something I can incorpo-
                        rate into my lesson tomorrow which will help
                        a kid learn better).  On this occasion I find
                        myself more disappointed and irritated with
                        this state of affairs than usual.  Mainly
                        this is because it reinforces an impression
                        gathered when I attended my first ITEA Con-
                        ference in Dallas.  At that time I circulated
                        madly and spoke to everyone I could pin into
                        a corner, searching for ideas to bring a new
                        relevancy and value to my own program and
                        philosophy.  Until the third day it was vir-
                        tually impossible to find a teacher, a front-
                        line-trenches genuine school teacher.  Almost
                        everyone was a "Teacher Educator" and almost
                        all of them were advocating a similar philos-
                        ophy -- get out of "projects" and into "prob-
                        lem solving" and "technology," as though both
                        of these were new ideas and had not been
                        taught before.  "High-tech" was the new wave,
                        with advanced computer hardware and software,
                        CAD systems and robotics, etc. -- things gen-
                        erally far beyond the budget in my school.  I
                        heard comments about "turning your paint room
                        into a clean room" and other strange things.
                        I found it altogether very disappointing and
                        somewhat frustrating.  Where were the people
                        like me at this ITEA conference?  The answer
                        came a day later, when real-life teachers ar-
                        rived (you could tell them by the lack of
                        blue pinstriped suits and the generally dif-
                        ferent air about them as they strolled
                        through the foyer in groups supporting one
                        another -- I knew the feeling well!).
                             When I met and talked to these people I
                        found a very different reality.  Many were
                        still in the old "unit shops," had either an
                        old Apple or no computers at all, and almost
                        no budget.  In short they were either worse
                        off or in the same state as me.  I asked
                        about the "new" technology and they all
                        laughed wryly, bitterly, and sometimes loud
                        and long.  The situation in most areas seems
                        to be that there are a few schools in major
                        centers, generally close to universities,
                        where funds for "high tech" have been made
                        available.  But, they themselves were still
                        managing with largely the same old equipment
                        and the same minimal budgets as always, be-
                        cause there had simply been no injection of
                        new funds to make changes and purchase new
                        equipment.  However I found that the failure
                        to change to the newer ideas was invariably
                        presumed to be the reluctance of teachers to
                        "get out of the old comfortable rut."  Some-
                        how we have a reality gap, and politicians
                        are being given a perfect cop-out.
                             It also seems to me that we have somehow
                        lost the bridge between academic research,
                        philosophical theorizing and the actual real-
                        ities of the practice of teaching.  Faculties
                        of education used to be that bridge.  They
                        took the academic research and theory and
                        operationalized it; they translated the the-
                        ory into simple terms.  They made it under-
                        standable and useable for the practitioner.
                        Today I find the jargon almost unintelligible
                        even with some 11 years of university educa-
                        tion.  I have no quarrel with jargon and am
                        fully aware of its value both for a de-
                        scription and identification, but it seems
                        that unless one is actively involved with a
                        university, much of the research literature
                        is almost totally incomprehensible.  For most
                        teachers the task of keeping totally abreast
                        of current writing and research is almost im-
                        possible.  Distance and workloads are just
                        two of the factors involved.  Am I right in
                        thinking that "education" in universities has
                        now truly become just one of the other "sci-
                        ences" and so no longer needs a practical end
                        goal -- research is done for the sake of pure
                        research?  This is obviously a legitimate
                        philosophy, but someone had better form a new
                        university department to do what faculties of
                        education used to do -- bridge that gap.
                        Thankfully there were also a few speakers at
                        Dallas, the quartz-halogen highlights of
                        those few days, who renewed me in my own
                        search for excellence and spurred me on.  I
                        thank them with all my heart.  I wish we
                        could clone them.
                             This all came to my mind as I read your
                        instructions for the submission of articles.
                        To be frank I have no access to a system us-
                        ing either IBM, Macintosh or WordPerfect, I
                        also can't give you anything in ASCII format.
                        I have an old Apple of 10 year vintage -- and
                        consider myself fortunate in that respect.
                        It is in use most of the hours the school is
                        open.  Your writers, I'm afraid, will all
                        have to be from universities or the richer
                        (and urban?) school divisions - and what that
                        will do to the whole cause of technology edu-
                        cation in North America I leave to your imag-
                        ination.  If change is indeed necessary, and
                        I believe we really can do better, the change
                        will come about by field teachers being chal-
                        lenged and educated and inspired to do bet-
                        ter.  "Teacher educators" will have to do
                        much more than write obscure journal articles
                        to produce that inspiration -- however bril-
                        liant the research or quality of thought.
                        They have to teach on the same planet as I --
                        to 32 grade eight students at 9:00 a.m. Mon-
                        day morning.
                             I do know why I teach what I teach.  I
                        am fortunate in that we have been in a total
                        multiple activity environment in Alberta
                        since the 1960's.  The curricular freedom
                        built into that system has produced many in-
                        novative programs in this province, each
                        bearing the individual stamp of the multitude
                        of personalities and experiences involved.  I
                        have yet to see a better system for allowing
                        teachers, professionals in their own right,
                        to teach what they know and to inspire learn-
                        ing in their students.
                             In short, I teach children, taking indi-
                        viduals from where they are into new discov-
                        eries about themselves and the world.  I use
                        simulations and projects (so often decried in
                        "scholarly" writings) and I usually find they
                        work for me if I put enough effort and plan-
                        ning into them.  I do hope that someone
                        understands this plea - like all rural teach-
                        ers I spend most of my teaching year without
                        others in my specialization to "rap" with.
                        It can get lonely and frustrating and I won-
                        der what will happen if/when my own store of
                        innovation dries up.
                             I am also very afraid that the profes-
                        sion once again is being "set-up" by politi-
                        cians.  It could be that I am growing too
                        cynical but this is exactly what happened in
                        the days of "Sputnik," remember?  The reason
                        given for the west being behind the USSR was
                        that educators weren't doing what they should
                        have been and education had to be fixed.
                        Well now North America is "behind" Japan and
                        WE are again expected to correct that situ-
                        ation by changing what WE do -- and without
                        any extra funding this time you will notice.
                        The task may well be forever outside of our
                        control.  Beware the revenge if we accept
                        this precept, climb high on the bandwagon of
                        "high tech" and yet, in the end, fail to re-
                        store the forever lost advantage.
                             Please find room in your journal to
                        highlight some of the innovative real pro-
                        grams which are out there.  We all have ac-
                        cess to scholarly papers, and they certainly
                        do have their crucial part to play, but I
                        have yet to find a source describing new
                        practical ideas actually working and the phi-
                        losophies and personalities behind them.  I
                        want to be able to write and interact with
                        those leaders in the classroom so that we can
                        all build upon a shared experience and not
                        continue to work alone, hunting and pecking
                        in isolation.
               
               
                        EDITOR'S NOTE:  THE JTE DOES IN FACT ACCEPT
                        MANUSCRIPTS THAT ARE NOT ON FLOPPY DISK (AS
                        WE DID THIS ONE).  SINCE MOST PEOPLE NOW USE
                        WORD PROCESSORS FOR THEIR WORK, IT MAKES
                        SENSE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE "ELECTRONIC"
                        VERSION OF THE MANUSCRIPT, RATHER THAN REKEY-
                        ING IT.  SO FAR, THIS APPROACH IS WORKING
                        VERY WELL... AND EXCEPTIONS WILL BE MADE
                        WHERE NECESSARY.
                             A NUMBER OF EXCELLENT SOURCES FOR NEW
                        IDEAS DIRECTED TOWARD SECONDARY LEVEL CLASS-
                        ROOM TEACHERS ARE LISTED AND DESCRIBED IN
                        LITOWITZ'S ARTICLE, "WRITING FOR TECHNOLOGY
                        EDUCATION PUBLICATIONS," PUBLISHED ELSEWHERE
                        IN THIS ISSUE.  THE JTE IS ADMITTEDLY (AND
                        INTENTIONALLY) DIRECTED MORE TOWARD TECHNOL-
                        OGY TEACHER EDUCATORS THAN TOWARD SECONDARY
                        TECHNOLOGY EDUCATORS. 
               
               
               
                        ----------------
                        1   Peter Wilkinson is Instructor, Department of 
                            Industrial Education, Olds Junior/Senior High 
                            School, Alberta, Canada.
               
                        Permission is given to copy any
                        article or graphic provided credit is given and
                        the copies are not intended for sale.
               
              Journal of Technology Education   Volume 1, Number 2       Spring 1990