The post-modernist always rings the changes

17th November 1995 at 00:00
The traditional stand-and-deliver style of teaching will no longer capture the attention of a generation raised on a diet of television and video images, according to new research.

"The problem is that modernist teachers are trying to teach post-modern kids," said Erica McWilliam, a senior lecturer in cultural and political studies at the Queensland University of Technology, and editor of a collection of papers for a forthcoming book on the effects of technology in the classroom, Pedagogy, Technology and the Body.

"For example, a modernist engagement with technology means grabbing the remote control, looking for what we want to watch on TV and deciding on a programme. For a post-modern youngster, that clicking of the remote control is not necessarily about settling on one programme. The collage becomes the programme," she said.

The idea that a lesson is a programme, and has a one-way flow from beginning to end, is now under question. This is because of the way young people process information. Teachers who resist the impact of technology are likely to hold back children's learning, she said.

After analysing the effect of the global information explosion on schools, Dr McWilliam warned that schools are in danger of becoming "the dead heart of education".

"My fear is that children who do not get the opportunity to explore technology at school will be running home each day to get on the world-wide web and take in what they see uncritically."

The challenge for teachers is to use information technology to develop critical thinking in their students. They cannot afford to be "techno- paranoid", said Dr McWilliam, but neither can they simply give three cheers for technology.

Dr McWilliam said teachers were being asked to reinvent themselves. "We cannot compete as information deliverers in the classroom. We have lost that game, so we have to do what technology cannot do and show kids how knowledge is produced.

"The sorts of literacy that children need - computer literacy, media literacy and concept literacy - can only be achieved through social engagement. They cannot be delivered through technology. That is really exciting work."

Pedagogy, Technology and the Body, Peter Lang Publications, New York.

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