by Martin Cothran
Q: Our school is a classical school. We just received a few thousand dollars of grant money for technology. What can we do with it while trying to remain classical?
A: Buy a Promethean Board.
Q: But what about iPads?
A: Don’t do it.
Q: Why? I mean, if a Promethean Board is good, then why are iPads bad?
A: Because you are talking about two very different kinds of educational technology that have two very different educational purposes. A Promethean Board will assist you in teaching your students. Properly used, its purpose is to help focus them on what you are trying to teach. It contributes directly to one of the chief purposes of education which is to know more.
Q: Isn’t that what an iPad does?
A: No. An iPad does not necessarily focus a student’s mind on what it needs to be focused on. In fact, in many, perhaps most cases it distracts students. It is a way to outsource teaching to a machine, which is almost always a bad idea. This is why modern progressive educators like iPads: because it is one more way to divest themselves of the responsibility to teach students. Modern progressive education is “child-centered.” Its goal is to get the teacher out from in front of the classroom and make learning as non-directive as possible. This is the idea behind progressive classroom fixtures such as “learning centers.” With learning centers the idea is to give children the maximum level of choice in what they learn. But a student is not the best person to make the choice of what he or she is to learn. Students are not in school to make decisions. They are in school in order to learn how to make decisions they are not yet ready to make by people who know how to make decisions and can teach that ability to students. This is why there are teachers and students: Because the former knows more than the latter and it is their responsibility to pass that on and the former cannot do that if you take authority away from him. The goal of classical education is not to develop a child; it is to form an adult. That involves the guidance of a teacher who knows more and is wiser than the students he or she is teaching. A Promethean Board empowers the teacher. An iPad disempowers the teacher, making it harder to form the student in the way the teacher knows he or she should be formed.
Q: That’s a lot to think about!
A: Yes it is, but if you want the short version, then think of it this way: A Promethean Board is classical; an iPad is progressive.
Q: Thank you.
A: You’re welcome.