Quick Fixes, Fads, and Shortcuts

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A new report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation looks at privacy issues surrounding school-issued electronic devices. Here’s a link to a PDF of the report.

The conclusion is that, “While schools are eagerly embracing digital devices and services in the classroom—and ed tech vendors are racing to meet the demand—student privacy is not receiving the attention it deserves.”

Of course it’s not.

That’s because the education profession has a long history of rushing into technological and other fads without examining their educational value or long term impact.

As someone about to give my Grandbaby a tablet, the privacy issue has been on my mind lately, but what has me more concerned is how readily our educational system embraces things like classroom tech without much reflection or understanding. We often look for quick fixes–fad ideas, Bright Shiny Objects, and shortcuts when we should turn to what we now works–child led play and learning.

Like I said before, this has been going on for a long time. I remember back in my high school days when the school district rushed into the fad of desktop computers before they even had instructors who understood how to use the things. They tossed together a lab with a few first generation Macintosh computers and some other odds and ends, pushed a teacher in front of us, and called it a computing class. It was painful. Mostly because the teachers were so intimidated by the machines–and they were so expensive–that we were barely allowed to touch the things. They could have at least trusted in the innate curiosity of young learners and said, as they stepped to the corner of the room, “These are computers, here’s the manuals, figure them out!” But, instead, we got lectures, illustrated with overhead projector transparencies, because that was within the comfort zone of the instructors.

This rushing in without understanding happens all the time. The Mozart Effect Myth is one that stands out to me. Twenty years ago playing Mozart for babies was supposed to make them geniuses. It didn’t work. Listening to Mozart will not harm your baby, but it turns out there’s not any solid research showing that grooving to  A Little Night Music will make the tyke a genius. Yet, there was a time when the State of Georgia sent Mozart CDs to all the State’s newborns (read more here and here.) Like all such fads, it was, of course, a big waste of time and money.

Quick fixes, fads, and shortcuts are not the best choices for our educationally system, but we seem to be stuck in a never ending flood of them.

The educational system is broken and I don’t see much hope for it’s repair, but maybe as individuals we could start pausing before embracing quick fixes, fads, and shortcuts.

Maybe we could step back and ask things like:

  • “Should we train up the teacher on how to use these computers before we offer a computing class?”
  • “This Mozart thing is interesting, how solid is the research?”
  • “Before we hand out iPads to all the 12 year olds, can we look into how their privacy will be protected?”
  • “A Smart Board in kindergarten? Neat idea, but chalk has worked great for the last 100 years and it’s a lot cheaper, isn’t it?”
  • “Is there any evidence to support pushing reading skills on these three-year-olds who are not interested in reading?”

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section…

Content Creator and Curator at

Jeff is an early learning speaker, toymaker, podcaster, content creator, author, and founder of Playvolution HQ who is really bad at getting his picture taken.

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