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技术在学校的困惑

发表于2001/7/10 14:02:00  1920人阅读

原著:Larry Cuban
翻译:cw123--Lostory of EarlyBird
邮件:cw123@china.com
网址:http://cw123.yeah.net

英文水平有限,仅供参考,自由转载,附英文原文。

教室中对计算机技术的应用对于其积极赞成者与持怀疑论调者都是一个令人困惑的问题。在美国教师中不足两成在教室中认真的使用计算机与其它信息技术(一周几次);三至四成偶尔使用(大约每月一次);至于其他人---四到五成的人---根本不碰那些机器。当统计教室中计算机应用方式时,人们发现这些功能强大的技术仅仅经常被用来打打字和一些低级应用。所有这一切都是在计算机普及,互联网应用以及软件购置迅速发展了十来年之后的结果。然而在其它社会组织中,如医院,大型公司,超级市场,计算机的应用却十分普遍。在学校情形则大不相同。

学校中计算机技术应用效能低下现象是怎样产生的呢?这个问题,对于专业人士无须多谈。答案简单明了,无不指向教师:他们在大学没有充分的学习,缺少具体实践培训,无暇学习新技术,教师年纪太大,患有“技术恐惧症”等等,理由繁多,莫衷一是。有一点值得肯定,上述一些漫无边际的解释对于理解为什么计算机越普及,利用率并未相应提高的这一矛盾是有其价值的。

然而,在这些堂而皇之的理由中缺少了一个为人所忽视的事实:同样是这些美国教师,大约七成在家中拥有电脑并用于备课,联系同事与朋友,查询网络资料,以及处理个人事务。简而言之,大多数教师在家要比在学校更多使用电脑。这里根本没有什么技术恐惧症患者。

正是这个事实导致了在技术革新潮流中的新技术在教室中未被充分应用的困惑。同时,也正是这个事实促使我探究这种不同差异的其它一些原因,这些原因极少被无论是积极赞成者,还是持怀疑论调者在媒体宣传中提及。我将从以下五个方面阐述这个困惑并展开讨论教师新技术应用的问题。

专家们提出自相矛盾的建议——在过去的二十年间,受聘于硬件制造商与高科技企业的专家们鼓动教师们,尤其是高中教师们在课堂上使用新技术。他们说,为了使学生们更多,更快,更好的学习知识为二十一世纪知识经济的时代做好准备,教师们必须使用新兴的,信息密集的计算机技术。但是这些自作聪明、一相情愿的专家们关于学校中计算机如何使用的问题又跟教师们说了点儿什么呢?

当上个世纪80年代早期桌面电脑在学校中出现的时候,计算机软硬件制造商们要求高中教师应使其学生能够“通晓计算机技术”。在当时,所谓“通晓计算机技术”是指掌握如何编写BASIC程序。专家们称学习编程会使学生们思维清晰并且就业容易。对计算机技术接受较快并自学了BASIC程序编写的教师投身于在新建计算机教室中教授这个程序语言的任务。

然而到上个世纪80年代后期,BASIC已经消失了。如今,原来众多精神饱满的专家们又积极敦促高中教师们教授计算机应用程序,例如,文字处理,电子制表,数据库应用,因为计算机是一个数据分析处理能力极强的工具,不仅如此,能够掌握这些应用程序可以得到更好的就业机会。社区不断投资兴建计算机教室,培训更多教师,而学生们则开始学习掌握那些日后工作中会用得到的键盘录入与软件应用所必须的课程。

等到了上个世纪90年代中期,专家们中间比较流行的“远见卓识”又已经转移了,所谓“通晓计算机技术”又有了新的含义。教师们又被要求通过在教室中摆放4-6台计算机将新技术整合到他们的日常课堂教学活动中,而不是把学生领到计算机教室中去上课。为了帮助学生们制作多媒体演示软件,教师们被要求掌握并传授编写超文本,即HTML语言。这些专家及其盟友们宣称“通晓计算机技术”的学生能够使用互联网进行探究性学习,通过E-mail相互联系,并且能够自己独立编写WWW页面。一套宣称“网络时代”的丛书极力鼓吹为使学生们每日每刻都作为现实世界的一部分而将学校联入互联网的重要性。

因此,在上个世纪最后二十年间,专家们不断提供一些非一成不变的忠告要求教师:教授BASIC,教授HTML,教授互联网应用技巧,E-mail,以及制作多媒体应用程序,教授一些不断变化的与未来工作要求相关的计算机应用程序。

现在,让我们设想一下在硅谷中心地区的一群普通高中教师们的所经历情形,这些年来他们一直追随着变幻莫测的专家建议并且渴望能够帮助学生们不断学习。他们参加并掌握了使用当地所提供的软件应用程序的培训。他们购置了计算机并且在家中普遍使用计算机备课,记分,以及在互联网上收集那些他们在课堂上可能用到的教学资料。他们十分热衷于和学生一起使用计算机,同时对专家们也言听计从,但是,因为专家建议朝令夕改,所以他们大多数时候也是如堕云雾之中。更令他们无所适从的不是专家们的自相矛盾而是其它一些因素。

繁忙劳碌的工作环境——虽然信息技术给许多大公司大企业的工作环境带来了巨大变化,但是我们教师的日常安排和工作条件与从前几乎没什么两样。他们一天五次课,每次50到55分钟。这五次课至少包含三种不同科目;也就是,以数学教师为例,包含两节初等代数,两节几何,和一节微积分。在这五次课中,这名数学教师一天给140名学生上课。其它社区的教师同行们,依据该区财力与学校董事会及领导魄力不同,每天大约会给125到175名学生上课不等。

再以我们当中的一位语文(美国即英语)教师为例,他需要给三节9年级的作文课布置作业以及给两个高年级班级的学生设计五个关于《哈姆雷特》的问题。他还将要面对迅速批改完130名学生的习题的任务。与所有其他高中教师一样,每天他都要抽出一定时间准备教案,找学生谈话,批改练习,与家长或者监护人(Vendors--?)电话沟通,浏览查阅录像资料,维护录像机或其它教学设备,还有使用学校复印机为学生们印制材料。所以他与上述那位数学教师,与其它地方多数教育同行一样,每天为了完成日常教学工作任务而忙得团团转。

其它方面对教师的苛求——高中教师需要通晓本专业学科知识;他们需要维持课堂教学秩序;他们需要发现处理学生各种不良行为习惯,防患于未然;他们需要对待每个学生既和蔼可亲又要严格要求;而且,按照上级行政命令培养学生达到高等院校入学要求以及让学生能够完成毕业考试,教师们必须敦促学生完成练习与其它作业并且要对学生考试成绩好坏负有直接责任。所以,作为高中教师,除了需要具备通晓本专业学科知识并且传授给学生的教学能力之外,还需要具备长跑运动员的坚韧耐力,打满15回合拳击手的充沛体力,魔术师的善变灵通,街头赌徒的机敏狡黠。

技术天生就令人难以琢磨——得心应手地综合运用计算机技术,教师需要极大的耐心。去问问最擅长计算机应用的教师们这些关于机器本身以及软件方面的问题。大多数学校无法承担昂贵上门技术支持服务。即便这些学校中却有计算机维护人员与一些热心的学生帮助解决麻烦,维修机器,到处依旧能够见到软件崩溃与服务器当机,一次又一次地耽误原定授课计划。于是新软件以及各种升级包不断消耗着这些本来已经有限的机器内存与速度。随即就是更多的系统瘫痪;更多的焦头烂额。这些十分热衷于新技术的教师们不断扪心自问:“自己过去的所作所为值得吗?”

管理层决策者们无视教师技术应用真实感受——教师们很少参与商讨对他们而言何种技术更适合与学生一起使用,何种软硬件在教室中既合适又可靠。实际情况恰恰相反,能够合理发挥功效的教室消失了,而配备了捐赠或购置的各种设备的计算机教室随后出现。计算机也出现在教师的办公桌上。管理层劝诫教师们接受当地社区刚刚提供最新计算机技术的课程培训。

很少为人所提出却显而易见的问题是:在教师不得不面对日常繁重的工作环境、自身或外界要求教师不断消耗时间与精力、不可靠的计算机软硬件设施、切身感受为人所置之不理的情况下,为什么整天忙于与学生一起全力完成教学任务的教师们还要听从专家们频频变换的技术忠告呢?

抨击教师课堂教学过程中不能充分利用计算机技术使我们仅仅看到问题一个肤浅侧面。这样会导致忽视体察影响教师日常工作学习更深层次更直接原因。仅仅谙熟计算机这种新兴媒体的各大公司吹鼓手们,管理层决策者们,以及软硬件供应商们所忽视的东西恰恰是教师们的呼声,教师们繁重的日常工作环境,计算机技术自身缺陷和专家们变幻莫测的忠告。

上述理由因其反映学校的真实情况而被忽视,解决的代价高昂,并且还很少在计算机软硬件供应商的技术手册中被提及。虽然如此,这些理由也要比时下流行的观点在解决家中可以广泛应用计算机技术而学校课堂上却十分有限且效能低下的困惑方面更有说服力。
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附录:英文原文

The Technology Puzzle
By Larry Cuban

Here's a puzzle for both cheerleaders and skeptics of using new technologies in the classroom. Out of every 10 teachers in this country, fewer than two are serious users of computers and other information technologies in their classrooms (several times a week); three to four are occasional users (about once a month); and the rest--four to five teachers out of every 10--never use the machines at all. When the type of classroom use is examined, we find that these powerful technologies end up being used most often for word processing and low-end applications. And this is after a decade of increases in access to computers, Internet capability, and purchases of software. In other organizations (think hospitals, major corporations, supermarkets), computer use is ubiquitous. Not so in schools.

How can this phenomenon of infrequent, low-end use of technology be occurring in our schools? For experts, there is no puzzle to be solved. The answers are straightforward and all point to teachers: their insufficient preparation in universities, their lack of specific training, too little time to learn, too many older teachers, "technophobia," and so on, ad infinitum. Surely, some of these scattershot explanations have merit in attempting to understand the paradox of increasing access and infrequent use.

What is missing from these neatly packaged reasons, however, is one overlooked fact: Of those same 10 American teachers, about seven have computers at home and use them to prepare lessons, communicate with colleagues and friends, search the Internet, and conduct personal business. In short, most teachers use computers at home more than at school. No technophobes here.

It is this fact that creates the puzzle of limited classroom use of new machines amid a river of technology money. It is this fact, too, that drives me to examine other reasons for the disparity, reasons seldom voiced in the media by either promoters or skeptics. The five areas that follow may offer explanations of the puzzle and broaden the debate over teachers' use of new technologies:

Contradictory advice from experts. For almost two decades, experts hired by corporate vendors and entrepreneurial academics have exhorted teachers, particularly those in high schools, to use new technologies in their classrooms. Teachers must use the new, information-rich machines, they say, so that students will learn more, faster, and better to be prepared for the 21st century's knowledge-based workplace. But exactly what have these self-appointed experts told teachers about how computers should be used in schools?

When desktop computers began to appear in schools in the early 1980s, corporate leaders urged high school teachers to get their students "computer literate." The phrase then meant learning how to write BASIC programs. Experts said that learning to program would prepare students to think clearly and get jobs. Computer-savvy teachers who had learned BASIC on their own plunged into the task of teaching the language in newly established computer labs.

By the late 1980s, however, BASIC had disappeared. Now, freshly minted experts prodded high school teachers to teach computer applications (for example, word processing, spreadsheets, use of databases) because computers were analytic tools and, in the work world, knowing these applications paid off. Districts invested in more labs, more teachers were trained, and students began taking required courses in keyboarding and learning software applications that were used in the workplace.

By the mid-1990s, the prevailing wisdom among experts had shifted, and computer literacy took on new meanings. Teachers were now asked to integrate the new technologies into their daily classroom routines by placing four to six new machines in each teacher's classroom, rather than sending students to computer labs. Teachers were urged to learn and teach hypertext programming, or HTML, to help their students create multimedia products for an audience. Experts and their allies now said that students who were computer literate knew how to do research on the Internet, communicate via e-mail, and create their own World Wide Web pages. A series of so-called 'Net Days advertised the importance of wiring schools for the Internet, so that students could become part of the real world each and every day.

So, for the last two decades, experts have urged upon teachers an ever-shifting menu of advice: Teach BASIC. Teach HTML. Teach skills of using the Internet, e-mail, and producing multimedia projects. Teach applications relevant to the constantly changing workplace.

Now, let's imagine a couple of average high school teachers in the heart of Silicon Valley who have been around for these years of shifting advice and are eager to help their students learn. They have taken courses on using software applications that their district offers. They bought computers and use them at home extensively to prepare lessons, record grades, and search the Internet for lessons they could use in their classes. They are enthusiastic about using computers with their students. They have listened to the experts; but, since the advice keeps changing, they have largely ignored the wisdom of the moment. What gives them pause is not the experts' contradictions but other factors.

Intractable working conditions. Although information technologies have transformed most corporate workplaces, our teachers' schedules and working conditions have changed very little. They teach five classes a day, each 50 to 55 minutes long. Their five classes contain at least three different preparations; that is, for the math teacher among our five, there are two classes of introductory algebra, two of geometry, and one calculus class. In those five classes, she sees 140 students a day. Colleagues in other districts, depending on how affluent the district is and how determined the school board and superintendent are to keep class size down, may see 125 to 175 students a day.

Or take the English teacher in our group, who assigns an essay in three of his 9th grade composition classes and for his two senior classes asks the students to answer five questions on "Hamlet." He will face the prospect of reading and correcting 130 papers for students who expect their homework to be returned earlier rather than later. Like all high school teachers, he has at least one period a day set aside for planning lessons, seeing students, marking papers, making phone calls to parents or vendors, previewing videos, securing a VCR or other equipment, and using the school's copy machines for producing student materials. So he and the math teacher, like most of their colleagues elsewhere, remain people for whom rollerblades would be in order to meet the day's obligations.

Demands from others. High school teachers are expected to know their subjects inside and out; they are expected to maintain order in their classrooms; they are expected to report instances of abuse and spot signs of behavioral problems; they are expected to be both friendly and demanding of each and every student; and, with district and state mandates for students to meet higher academic standards and take tests that can spell the difference between graduating or staying in school longer, teachers are expected to prod students on homework and other assignments and to be personally accountable for how well the students do on tests.
So teaching high school, in addition to knowing one's subject matter thoroughly and being able to convey it to others, requires the grit of a long-distance runner, the stamina of a boxer going 15 rounds, the temperament of a juggler, and the street smarts of a three-card monte dealer.

The inherent unreliability of the technology. Add serious technology use to the mix, and a teacher needs infinite patience. Ask even the most dedicated teacher-users about the reliability of these machines and their software. Most schools can't afford on-site technical support. When they do have coordinators and eager students who troubleshoot problems and do the repairs, there are still software glitches and servers that crash, torpedoing lessons again and again. Then new software packages and upgraded ones require more memory and speed from machines that are sorely limited in their capacity. More breakdowns; more pulled hair. These caring and techno-enthusiastic teachers ask, "What did I do to deserve this?"

Policymakers' disrespect for teachers' opinions. Teachers seldom are consulted on which technologies make the most sense for them to use with their students, what machines and software are both sensible and reliable for their classrooms. Instead, their classrooms disappear in the equation. Fully stocked labs with donated or purchased equipment appear. Machines pop up on teachers' desks. Administrators exhort teachers to take brand-new courses on technology that the district just made available.

The obvious question that seldom gets asked is this: Why should very busy teachers who are genuinely committed to doing a good job with their students listen to experts' changing advice on technologies when they have to face daily, unyielding working conditions; internal and external demands on their time and stamina; unreliable machines and software; and disrespect for their opinions?

Bashing teachers for not doing more with technology in their classrooms may give us cute media one-liners. What the one-liners miss, however, are the deeper, more consequential reasons for what teachers do every day. What corporate cheerleaders, policymakers, and vendors who have far more access to the media ignore are teachers' voices, the enduring workplace conditions within which teachers teach, inherent flaws in the technologies, and ever-changing advice of their own experts.

Such reasons are ignored because they go to the heart of what happens in schools, are very expensive to remedy, and reflect poorly on corporate know-how in producing machines. Nonetheless, these reasons may have more explanatory power for solving the puzzle of extensive home use of computers and limited, low-end classroom use than do the currently fashionable ones.

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Larry Cuban is a professor of education at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., and the author of How Scholars Trumped Teachers: Change Without Reform in University Cirriculum, Teaching, and Research, 1890-1990 (Teachers College Press).
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