The Reflective Educator

Education ∪ Math ∪ Technology

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Day: June 21, 2010

I don’t know how to use a fax machine

Today I had to ask for help using technology.  I know, I’m supposed to be embarrassed, I am the expert at my school on using technology, but really there are things I don’t know how to do.  I don’t know how to use a fax machine.  They were never a technology I considered useful, and in today’s world of email, I consider them somewhat archaic.

In any case, I had to send a fax today because it was the only way I could send this particular piece of information to a government ministry, don’t get me started on that.  I went to the front office and asked our really wonderful administrative assistant if she could help me.  Her jaw dropped, and the jaw of a colleague who was standing nearby dropped as well.  "You don’t know how to use a fax machine? But you’re like Mr. Technology! You should know this!"

My colleague patiently showed me how to send a fax, a skill I’m sure I’ll promptly forget.  It looks pretty easy but given that I have to send about 1 fax every year, it’s not a skill I get to practice often and I’ll probably have to ask again next year.  When my colleague finished showing me how to use our school’s photocopier, which I discovered doubles as a fax machine, I was happy and thanked her.  She did a fist-pump, exclaimed, "Yes! I showed Mr. Wees something with technology," and then went on to give the administrative assistant a high-five.  They were both excited that they got to show me something.

Now keep in mind, these are grown adults, and their reaction might not be the same as your students’ reaction, but let me ask the question: How do you think your kids would react if they got to teach you something?  Do you think that they would remember that experience? Would it be worth not looking like the expert for a couple of minutes?

The Relationship Between Accountability and Creativity

Imagine this graph represents the possible relationships between accountability and creativity.

Accountability vs Creativity  graph

Where would you put the activities you do as a school?  Here are some examples of activities some school do, and where I think they lie on the accountability vs creativity scale.

Accountability vs Creativity with some ideas

What you may notice about this graph is that, for the most part, activities which hold schools and students highly accountability are not associated generally with creativity and that activities which are highly creative can fall short of being very accountable.  It’s not a perfect graph, and I think that some of the examples could be moved, but the idea I think is pretty clear: the more you increase accountability, the less flexible the activity, and hence the less ability for students to be creative while completing the activity.

Accountability in this sense means how the activity and the student’s performance of that activity, is shared with the student, the teachers, the school, and the wider community.  Standardized tests are considered a "highly accountability" activity simply because everyone has access to how well pretty much any school did, and educators within those schools generally have access to their individual marks, and of course students get feedback about how well they did.

Creative activities to me are generally areas where the student has a lot of choice on how the activity will be completed, and how they will complete the activity.  These are often the types of activities that I think students will actually be able to do once they finish their education, and according to Sir Ken Robinson, our schools fail to provide opportunities to students to do them.

There are a few activities which fall with higher accountability and decent ability for students to be creative, and we often find that these activities are not ones which are done by most schools.  Anyway, I’m sure the model I have up there is imperfect, so I invite you to follow this link to this collaborative Google drawing I’ve started, and we can add other activities to this chart.