Week 2 2014 Becker (2000b)

Becker, Henry Jay. (2000). Findings from the Teaching, Learning, and Computing Survey: Is Larry Cuban Right? Education Policy Analysis Archives, 8, np. Available from http://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/442

This paper draws upon the work of Larry Cuban, one of a number of prominent critics of computer use in schools. It is useful to read some of Cuban's work. Becker, at the end concedes Cuban's basic argument, albeit reluctantly. Becker's analysis is based upon the assumption of computing having to fit into the classroom and the conditions that appear to make that work best. It's an odd logic when one puts this project which often goes under the label of integration into the classroom alongside areas outside of school in which the deployment of computing and related technologies has fundamentally altered structures, processes and forms of organisation.

A significant issue, that of curriculum coverage is described as a pressure on teachers. We live in a petabyte age where the volume of information that is produced on a daily basis is mind numbingly large. It was not that much smaller in 2000, although little attention was drawn to it then. The consequence of humans having to deal with so much information is that the vast majority of the work will have to be done by computers. There is much to think about here. In Australia, it would be fair to suggest that the curriculum is organised around the pig principle, that is, more is better. There is at least one country which espouses the notion of more being less in education, Finland1.

Consideration of this issue does not appear much if at all in education debates2.

For me, the interesting characteristic of this and so many papers like it that are concerned about how best to make good use of computers in classrooms is that it is only one side of the negotiation, if you like, that has to adapt, be changed, or as I have argued elsewhere, domesticated, i.e. the computers. Here I find it useful to think about schools as a way of doing things, that is as a technology as some folk have argued. School, as a collection of people and things with a large set of ways of doing things that have been established for a long time and supported by things like a curriculum, a timetable, forms of accreditation, buildings, classrooms of particular shapes and sizes and so on, is, in terms of thinking about it as a technology, a very large and powerful3 one. Following this logic, it is relatively easy to predict that what will work in a school are computing-related practices which conform to the day-to-day routines and practices of the school and classroom. This is not to suggest that other patterns are impossible. Rather, it is to suggest that stuff that conforms less to the routines of the classroom is much more difficult to make happen and to sustain, i.e. a lot of work has to be done by the teacher.