Wednesday, August 26, 2015

On Technology in the Classroom

Comments are enabled, but I won't be replying to them. When I say that this is all I want to say on the subject, I mean it. I just had to put this out there, since I'm in the class preparation season and that means I have to take a lot of splash damage from people who view this topic with a "professional detachment." This isn't just a belief for me. This post is why I still teach, and providing access is the only reason I still take this splash damage from people who are, essentially, declaring that students like me don't belong in the classroom, or else that we aren't really there in numbers.

I'm making one statement regarding the use of technology in the classroom, and then I'm done for the year, because I just can't any more. Every argument against my position that I've ever been presented with has reduced to "See, providing access means providing accommodations, not actually creating access." Here's why I view it that way:

I wind up morally disappointed in the people who keep insisting on needing to know everyone's reason for everything they need to do to operate out in the world before allowing them to do what is best for themselves. I don't do it in my classroom, I consider it a boundary violation to design a system that requires people to do extra work (i.e. formally request or discuss an accommodation) if the environment can be designed around that need. It creates unpaid labor for people and mandates disclosure. And that's under the best circumstances, when people know they need accommodation and know how to request it. Neurodivergent folk in the wild are simply left adrift.

Also, regarding Notetaking, with that venerated, capital N--

If having to discuss with a professor how and why I organized my private notes was part of a class, I did not participate. Asking a stranger for accommodations was inaccessible. So is handwriting. So is processing past the explanation about all the great ways that not being able to concentrate on the actual material because I have to learn someone else's notetaking process because they are sure it really will work for me, because SEE, STUDIES and PEDAGOGICAL HISTORY, to finally articulate the depth of my problem with this issue. And when there is no process to learn, just an insistence that hand writing my notes will be good for me, then I am left without an ability to do anything but listen and hope I remember. Because even though I do know several systems for hand writing notes well enough to teach them, I also can't do it, not unless the only purpose of managing those systems is to prove I can do it.

I can't use a way of organizing my information that requires using only my weakest talents to effectively learn material. So, if you don't provide me with a system, I can't use the ones I know any more than I could make myself try to use a drill as a wrench. And if you do provide me with the system, I'll learn your system at the cost of your subject matter.

I'm firmly convinced that the reason the studies on the effectiveness of technology in the classroom contradict each other is because neurodiversity means that whoever proposes the right way to learn is automatically wrong. There are right ways to teach. There are no right ways to learn, so cutting off a group of ways to learn is not productive unless you want to marginalize the students who rely on it. Like me. The one who could only have access in situations where I did not have to ask a stranger for it. Because that's how my situation works, and no, you don't get to ask what it is or litigate the reality of that need. I am where I am because of it, and because of the fact that the requirement that I litigate my necessities made a lot of decisions for me.