Teachers! A Call to Arms!


“Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.”

GK Chesterton

We need to summon up the spirit of, the albeit fictional, Ned Ludd and Captain Swing. We need to smash up the 21st century equivalents of the threshing machines and power looms!

O Teachers! Click on this link! Can’t you see what is happening in front of your noses? In the name of progress and twenty-first century skills? A movement made darker by its motto: “Kids don’t need teachers in order to learn…” This movement wants to see the Death of the Teacher!!! No more chalk and talk, no more elbow patches on tweed… No more planting a seed in the mind of a child…. No! Let the child go wild on the screen they say…

“Minimally invasive education,” is the future they say! We should see this, teacher, as a call to arms!!! You have nothing to lose but your livelihoods! Adults and teachers, passing on knowledge is seen as old hat! Embrace the new, they say, and put all your trust in faceless, global, neoliberal, evil corporations that accrue capital, steal your identity, and then sell it and resell it to the highest bidder! They TRACK YOUR EVERY MOVE!!! And some want these people to become the arbiters of your child’s education?!

Smash the Self Organised Learning Environment – it is a trick to keep the poor in thrall to big business! “Knowledge is Obsolete!” They say, whilst saying the internet is all powerful because it holds all knowledge! These people contradict, obfuscate and hide behind wooly ideas about: creativity, critical thinking, and social communication… BUT HAVE YOU SEEN A ROOM FULL OF KIDS STARING AT SCREENS???? How much critique do you see? BRAINWASHED BELIEVERS in the power of APP!!!! How communicable???? Grunt and SCREAM when you take away their screen!!! Creative??? They can’t even make a revolution, they can just click a like button…

“If knowing becomes obsolete I think it’ll leave us with space for something that is perhaps more important, which is creating,” WHAT DO THEY KNOW?????!!!!!

If someone wants to make knowing OBSOLETE, we should oppose them! They are a danger to our children’s BRAINS!!!!



15 thoughts on “Teachers! A Call to Arms!

  1. Indeed – it seems the height of ignorance to suggest such a thing – which is what I suppose they are after. So much easier to control children, what and how to think (because the computer only offers you some explanations) and the ultimate idiocy of thinking that researching why dogs chase cats is the same as learning about Socrates.


      1. I disagree completely. Wasting children’s time, and taxpayers money, on teaching trivial knowledge in schools is not a road I think we should be going down. How dumbed down would you like the education system to be? All knowledge is not equal.


  2. Ooh I love an article with SOUL! 😉

    Seriously I think I’m half way between you and Mitra, Martin. He’s obviously being paid by TED to ‘push the frontier’ (regardless of the wisdom and reliability of his methods). And I do think SOLE experiments are interesting (heutagogy etc). Surely we can learn something about learning from them?

    However I believe the teacher should continue to have a key role in learning – not just as a ‘facilitator of learning technology’. First learning is fundamentally social (which is much more than a group gathered round computers). Second the best teachers are experts in their craft as well as subject experts. They are skilled in using a range of strategies, including developing critical thinking, collaboration etc. and they (should) know what they’re talking about!

    But there’s also this (from the Wired article) and it’s fundamental: “A big part of learning is developing knowledge structures, ways of thinking, and forms or representations of that knowledge. And those don’t come easy.” This is my particular area of interest – using technology (apps) to assist teachers and learners with the mapping and building of knowledge. If we forget this we might as well hand our brains over to the robots. And that would be spectacularly stupid.


  3. The internet isn’t a knowledge machine, it’s our connection machine. Everything about the internet has been created by a person or people together, because they care enough to share their art/knowledge/perspective with others. Our human art/knowledge/perspectives is from us, people. If using the latest technology to capture and share our human knowledge & understanding is sensible, isn’t it also sensible for student-age people to have some time/space/permission to explore the work others have created and made freely available on-line? The internet is only a tool that allows people to connect more freely and fluidly with each other and each other’s’ ideas than ever before. So, if a teacher is connecting with his students in a meaningful way (in person or via on-line) then, that teacher has nothing to fear.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Provocative as always, Martin. I’m one of those awkward, reasonable folk who think that saying that Google changes everything is just about as daft as saying that it changes nothing. The vast majority of people who promote a more effective adoption of technology in education do so from a very pragmatic stance, where technology supports the processes which we know work in teaching and learning rather than running counter to them.

    Education is essentially a social enterprise and, although Mitra overstates the obvious point that children can learn from one another or by themselves when access to the right resources is given (as can anyone), we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that children learn best when taught by someone who is an expert, not only in their subject specialism but also in teaching. As Arthur C Clarke aptly put it: Any teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be!

    From this perspective, using Mitra to discredit the use of all technology (as you appear to do later on in your piece – forgive me if I got the wrong end of the stick) is like attempting to discredit US conservatism by quoting Donald Trump. Just because they are provocative and overstate their case, doesn’t mean we need to as well. This often leads to situations in which debates quickly polarise and become circular in nature, leading nowhere but to our original positions. I think the use of technology (or 21st century skills, the pejorative shorthand for the use of technology in schools) is currently in that state of perpetual circumnavigation, in which the furthest we can hope to travel is back to where we set off.

    Finally, I find it curious to still detect in your pieces the kind of overt cultural bias that suggests that technology and communication are contradictory concepts; that screens and the acquisition of knowledge are somehow mutually incompatible; or that children who use a screen to read or learn are brain-washed zombies but those who use a printed textbook are not. Presumably you think that a child staring into a book is much more desirable than a child staring into a screen. What if they are reading the same text? What if “the screen” gives them access to a greater range of resources they can use to learn and acquire knowledge? Is this such an outlandish notion?


    1. I’m broadly in agreement with you Jose. But I do share Martin’s reservations (if that’s an accurate term) about ‘screens’ vs. books. I’m an educational apps designer so I should be all for digital technologies in learning right? Not so. I think they often raise as many problems as they solve. The obvious issue is attention/distraction. Yes, (taking tablets as an example) they’re great as a stimulus and resource. But they need to be very carefully supervised (in formal settings) and integrated if they’re to facilitate learning. But used independently the problem is worse of course. It’s just so tempting to jump off into other apps (multi-tasking madness) or wander wildly off task on Google/social media. Books on the other hand make limited demands. You just have to read and think about what’s on the page in front of you. There’s a lot to be said for simplicity..


      1. Thanks for taking the time to respond. I think you misunderstand me. It’s not about being “all for digital technologies”, it’s about being all for whatever gets the job done best without falling victim fallacious thinking that perpetuates the myth that digital technology and academic rigour are somehow in opposition. Digital technology does the job best sometimes, other times pen and paper rules. That is as it should be. You may design apps, but I work in a school where everyone uses tablets as part of their kit and lo-behold zombies don’t roam our corridors! 🙂

        As to the technology being a distraction in the classroom, I deal with that in greater depth in this piece I wrote for the TES. When it comes to whether can be a distraction outside the classroom, all I can say is that this doesn’t happen (to any worrying degree) in my experience. I don’t have parents emailing me complaining their child is distracted on her school tablet. I do get emails when the tablet is not working for one reason or the other and the child is not able to access resources or do the homework. So, I suppose it’s probably much like when Henry Ford (probably) said, “whether you think can or can’t, you are right.”


  5. I can’t seem to post a threaded reply to ‘teachwell’ so it will have to go down here. I’m afraid you’re in danger of sounding elitist.. Are you saying science/biology is less important than classics/history? I’d actually argue for ‘ecoliteracy’ (yes, another ‘literacy’) to be at the core of the curriculum – the study of ecosystems being fundamental if we’re to develop a truly sustainable society. I also think (the ‘dumbing down’ point) you’re perhaps taking the ‘dog chases cat’ topic a bit literally. As I hinted, that’s the lead. Taking what appears to be a simple, everyday scenario in the animal world and investigating the underlying biology could be really interesting – done right this is discovery learning at its best. Of course in a wider sense knowledge isn’t ‘equal’. The curriculum is a political/ideological battleground however much some educationalists argue otherwise. Hence Martin’s strenuous attempts to argue for the ‘canon’. But every book you put in leaves another one out right? And we all know how the literary (as well as other arts like film) canon changes to reflect new perspectives and judgments. The notion of a timeless canon is a contradiction in terms in my book even if to argue against Shakespeare and Socrates would deservedly draw a lot of critical fire.


  6. One of the things that puzzles me most in education and in ed-tech (though much less these days) is the search for the silver bullet, or the messianic figure who can lead us into a promised land filled with children who have ‘reached mastery’ or ‘become independent learners’ or ‘got 5A* C including maths and English’. Evangelists for one sort of learning or method of teaching over another are missing the point – our knowledge of how education works and what might improve it is generally pretty iterative, and the arguments often circular. Whilst we can say with some certainty that rubbing your tummy and patting your head before a maths class is going to do bugger all for your cognitive function, even when effective approaches are identified its hard to work out what aspects of those approaches were the ones that actually had the effect. Even then reproducing the effect requires us to understand the approach, and the context in which it worked so that we can make it more likely to work in our own context. Claiming that IT based discovery learning and creativity are the great leaps forward that we’ve all been waiting for is just as silly as saying “all we need is one good textbook”, or that all TAs are bad for learning.


    1. I disagree. Rubbing your tummy and patting your head will oxygenate your brain 😉 Is Mitra really make these big pedagogical claims? He’s obviously good at courting publicity.. But the nitty-gritty here is the extent to which children can solve problems/build knowledge using computers and unaided by adults. I say the ‘extent’ because that’s why this research should be of particular interest – how far can/should we go down this road? And perhaps we’ve made too many assumptions about the limited capacity of children to learn for themselves? I’m not expecting a magic bullet to emerge from this study. But I do think it has the potential to open up new ways of thinking about learning with technology/heutagogy and that has to be a good thing. Let’s not pre-judge.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I just finished Neil Postman’s Technopoly, so “Yes.” As he says, we owe it to our students and the next generation to be “loving resistance fighters.”


  8. Technology is here to stay and is to be used to make grunt work easier – and self learning has always been with us since the year dot. Teachers are essentially facilitators to show rather than to tell.


  9. Brilliant! Not sure if you have seen this, but it perfectly illustrates what kind of “learning” happens in a knowledge-is-obsolete environment. The writer explains how students in a SOLE investigated the question “Can you kill a goat by looking at it?” Here were their conclusions: “Disturbingly, in their post-activity reflections, the children all drew highly credulous conclusions that supported paranormal claims – conclusions such as “mind over matter”, “if you believe something, you can make it happen” and “the mind can fix problems without aid”. Another concluded that the facts are relative to one’s beliefs: “I have learnt that there was no answer to the question, it was what people believed in. ”https://philosophyfoundation.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/michelle-sowey/

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