Martin Robinson @Trivium21c on technology —A distraction from proper learning?

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Pupils write and research with screens, their eyes flit between one link and another, and they never arrive at an in depth reading of anything. Sure, pupils can cut and paste, and look for superficial links, as long as wikipedia or an algorithm or two leads them that way. But they can’t concentrate.

— Martin Robinson

I can’t claim to know Martin very well, but I have had the privilege to have had a drink or two with him on a couple of occasions. Martin is well-read, erudite and possesses the kind of cultured charm that makes a conversation with him a treat any day of the year.

I have a great deal of sympathy and time for his views on character education, his suspicions of evidence-based practice and, above all, curriculum design — in fact, I’d go as far as to say that his book Trivium 21C is a must-read for anyone who has any interest in the subject.

But I do honestly think he is often wrong on the subject of technology. Especially technology in schools.

But for all our cumulative wisdom this is also an age of foolishness and our biggest folly is found in the technological distractions in our classrooms.

— Martin Robinson

Martin views technology through a dystopian lense. To him technology destroys tradition and distracts children from proper learning. Children can’t possibly derive anything good from its use and teachers are fools for believing technology can support teaching and learning. In the same breath Martin cites Dewey, Huxley, Freire, Marx and Engels and tries to convince you that he is right. Why? Because they were right, stupid. Like the serpent around the proverbial apple tree, Martin winds his prejudices and preconceptions around established truths of pedigreed provenance, tempting you to swallow the whole lot down without you noticing. Unthinking. Unquestioning.

We need to replace the age of distraction with the age of conversation and for this to occur teachers need to cease worshipping at the altar of technology.

— Martin Robinson

Distraction! Like many other polemicists, Martin latches on to any example of poor practice and stacks arguments made of straw around it, which he then proceeds to blow down with ease, aplomb and self-regarding satisfaction. If only it were true. When challenged about why he thinks technology must always be such a distraction and presented with evidence to the contrary, Martin responds with questions, not answers, masking his lack of knowledge in this area with the socratic equivalent of smoke and mirrors. Martin views technology use and poor practice as one and the same. His antithesis to this thesis is that the avoidance of technology will engender good practice. Never for one moment does Martin consider that the antithesis to poor practice is actually good practice, with or without technology.

You see, Martin sustains that Aristotle would have abhorred iPads; that da Vinci would have eschewed 3D printers; and that Pithagoras would have refused computers and opted instead to complete his calculations by ploughing tiny furrows in the sand with a fine stick. “That, my man, is true science, true art, true human achievement” he would say, forgetting that what makes da Vinci one of the greatest artists of all time is not the technology that he used or did not use, but his genius. “Who needs XXI century skills when you can have XV skills?” he would quip, contrasting Michelangelo’s David with a computer generated effigy out of a Grand Theft Auto screen grab. Art is dead, you see? And technology killed it. He huffed, and he puffed, and he blew the house down.

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