Bye-Bye Ronald McTechdonald!

Are you or do you know of a ‘Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE)’ ? I am sure they are all very nice people. Their job is to: “…advocate and share their thoughts on effective use of technology in education with peers… They provide insight for Microsoft on new products and tools for education, and they exchange best practices as they work together to promote innovation in teaching and learning.” You too can apply to: “Build educator capacity in your community (school, district or at training events) by training and coaching colleagues and inviting them to join the online Microsoft Educator Community…” Over at Apple you can become an: “Apple Distinguished Educator… (ADE)” and be part of a: “…global community of education leaders recognised for doing amazing things with Apple technology in and out of the classroom. … explore new ideas, seek new paths and embrace new opportunities. That includes working with each other — and with Apple — to bring the freshest, most innovative ideas to students everywhere.”

The innovative tech educator’s job is not to be a good teacher, though they might be, their job is to be a double agent, a quasi sales-person as well as a technology developer. This is ‘soft commercial power’ writ large but is it also an insidious breech of trust? If school teachers had a Hypocratic Oath would ‘representing outside commercial interests, possibly to the detriment (or not) to the teaching of children’ be something that might fall foul of its moralistic timbre?

Ronald McDonald grooms children while they are young and vulnerable enough to fall for the soft sell of fast food, sweet drink, and can dream of a future under the golden arches whilst adults instead of dragging kids away kicking and screaming, encourage them in for ‘parties’. In schools Apple, Microsoft et al have Ronald McTechdonalds, fifth-tech-columnists, who try to get kids hooked on ‘devices’ – and in full view they groom kids, who are spending much of their time outside of school happily grooming themselves on the self same devices (only a bit more up to date).

According to the Sunday Times Apple is cutting production of the iPhone 6S and 6S plus by 30% and App sales are slowing. Apple shares and also Samsung earnings are falling so is the tech sector in the doldrums? If a slump continues will classrooms up and down the country be flooded with cut-price technology as firms try to keep profit-margins respectable? If the market is becoming tech tired then itz da kidz wot need to drive the market in the future. Already fat on fast food and fizzy drinks can they get more hooked on devices and apps, is there anything new for our youngsters to be shackled to? Tell the Google Teacher Academy graduate that’ Google glasses ain’t cool enough…’ Perhaps the Ronald McTechdonald could get back to their mentors and suggest the following: Google contact lenses, would be great for cheating in exams… and instead of BORING self drive cars think of the possibilities of kids hitching themselves up to a Google drone and delivering themselves to school, or some flash mob  – or their mate’s house… or their enemy’s…

Over at the Telegraph we learn that little boxes can be attached to desks to create: ‘automated workspace utilisation analysis’, think how Ronald McTechdonald could get this to work in a school! Who is at their desk, where is snotty faced girl? Quick nail her down! With a few tweaks we could work out how quickly she writes or, even better, types! Perhaps the fastest children could be attached to an energy efficient electric generator so the whole school could become self sufficient energy wise. Kids who write quickly could be encouraged to do so through a merit system, maybe they could get an extra GCSE in ‘working quickly’ – maybe it could be added to the ebacc.

According to Mark Williams, the emeritius professor of clinical psychology at Oxford: “Every generation thinks it is more stressed than the last. It’s usually not true but this time it looks as if it is. That’s because this is the first generation that is constantly flitting between the actual, real world, and the virtual world of the internet. It’s not multi-tasking, it’s multi-switching and there are switching costs, mainly distraction, exhaustion, irritability and mood swings.” This is quite a challenge for the Ronald McTechdonalds but I betcha they’ll come up with:

THESE MOOD SWINGS ARE A TWENTY FIRST CENTURY SKILL THAT MUST BE LEARNED AT SCHOOL! Kids must learn to be distracted, sorry, engaged by ALL things that compete to catch their interest! If the kids have VIOLENT mood swings the technology could detect it and play soothing music in their headphones or give them drugs to calm them down, perhaps the tech could be attached to a drip, giving suitable dosage of drugs to each kid to counteract their attention deficit disorder. Or amphetamines could be pumped through their veins if they fail to have the pre-requisite number of required mood-swings. It is a 21st century skill to over react when people tweet something, blog something, with which you disagree so HOUND THEM DOWN! BE EFFING RUDE!!! CYBER-CRY-BABY-BULLY-HATE-MOB-WITCH-HUNT!!! Kids need to learn how to over-react and where better than at school?

School kids need tech they say! It will make them learn better! But learn what better and to what ends? Look how smart this device is they say! Just look what it can do for you! It will make parts of your brain that you never knew existed light up under our technically wonderful brain scanner which will prove that tech recognises the need for tech! Just look what tech can do for you! In the interests of the singularity tech is proving how good tech is. Isn’t this a conflict of interests? Should we trust technology that recommends technology?

Now they are wanting you to wear headsets that make the virtual world 3D! Every kid should have a headset that makes their world three dimensional – it will bring Ancient Rome to life and for homework you can have an affair with Cleopatra then watch it later on a huge screen that hugs you better than Caesar!

Has no-one realised you don’t need a curved TV or 3D anything – the real world is in 3D and is full of lovely curves. But just like fast food or over sugared drinks our ability to appreciate the world for what it is might be destroyed as our taste is distorted by experiencing virtual life so often and so early on. Over sugared drinks change our desire for different, less sweet, drinks and our diet alters… slowly…

Williams recommends that we “…need to practise single-tasking. Since we can’t un-invent tech, new intelligent, subtle tech may help us to do so.” Yes, you get it, in order to use tech less we need more tech. Maybe he is a Ronald McTechdonald! More is less!

In schools, however, instead of waiting for more tech to stop us using more tech how about the teacher just says: “Bye-bye Ronald McTechdonald!” And gets on with teaching in the real world.


6 thoughts on “Bye-Bye Ronald McTechdonald!

  1. One of my favoured technologies is the interactive whiteboard and pen. When I say interactive I don’t mean the electronic kind I mean the shiny manual kind. I put stuff on the whiteboard and then kiddies come to the front with coloured pens and write/draw things.

    Sometimes they annotate an existing presentation of information and sometimes they create a display for themselves. I also have a variety of coloured strings with magnets which stick to the board and can be used for interactive diagrams, graphs etc.

    I also use interactive pdf documents in class and to give learners to work on at home to build upon work done in class or prepare learners for a coming class.

    I use flash a fair bit and have developed a good many interactive lessons and quizzes that give me lots of feedback on the understanding of an individual learner.

    I use google / internet every day of the year to learn. I don’t try to rembebr every piece of information I come across. I try to leverage links to detailed information to enable me to have and encyclopedia of information at my dispoasl at the click of a button. Why would I deny this to the learners in my care.

    Another of my favourites is the textbook. This fiendish piece of technology allows students to do all of the above in their own time and under their own control. I do not expect learners to remember every word of every textbook they read, I hope that when they come across a problem that is outside their competence to answer immediately, they will be able to remember which of the many books they have read will contain knowledge that will lead to a solution of the problem. This is the way it has been since the printing press was invented and before.(see “cave painting” links on the net).

    Clearly learners need to be able to know how and when to use technology effectively, but to dismiss technology out of hand seems to me to be a bit daft.

    We all use technology to learn effectively every day, one needs to get over it. Just because Socrates didn’t have an ipad, doesn’t mean that it is not a valuable learning resource.

    Using technology for the sake of it is a big mistake however.

    Great topic. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great post & comment. This is why critical digital pedagogy is essential if one is adopting computer or app-based technology (Hybrid Pedagogy for examle). All tools that are used should be intentional & based on learning. Another great example is a silent conversation with pens & butcher paper!

      Having recently attended a google education conference, I am less than impressed with the depth of thinking behind the keynotes. Digital learning spaces, if used, need to be well-contructed & adopted with a clear purpose. I will always remember an HOD in my training was teaching a class & was angry at a student who did not know how to use the technology for the task. They did not know how to either. You know what technological tool can be used effectively as a reflection journal? That’s right, a reflection journal!

      I am a fan of technology if is it is used well: Socrative for quizes or exit cards (& the students can just whip out their phones & do it quickly) or Slack for internal group conversations for project management. I’m still a fan of those crusty old dusty things (books not ebooks): reading to find things not CTRL F!


  2. Really liked that! There sure is a limit – and real world relations beat any cyber such any time, even in this century.
    I tried to figure out how many I know who work in this brave new world of 21 C technology and in my children’s generation actually quite a few, one of my sons for example. He works at a firm selling solutions for dealing with clients and customers, but even they have limits. A few years back they were contacted by a municipality administration (not in Sweden) which needed help. Although substantial efforts this client never seemed to be fully satisfied with what they offered and in the end someone had to go there and find out what the problem was. It turned out that they wanted to eliminate all direct contact with citizens what so ever and especially phone calls. Which is were my son’s firm called off the deal and rather took the loss of development costs.
    Let’s hope education never ends up there …


  3. It’s easy to bash tech and zealous users of tech. There are times when technology really does transform and aid the “real world” – take nursing and palliative care for instance – the best solutions are always a blend of social and good infrastructure / implementation and wise practitioners.

    Trying to introduce solutions at scale never works but an enlightened infrastructural use locally by someone with the right expertise can help towards what works best as can an awareness of how tech can be used in different contexts – this is something out there in the ‘real world’ but god help us if it intrudes into the hallowed inner sanctum of a school, and, of course, it gets people into all sorts of trouble. What is more important is making judgement calls on how and when technology works best for your practice. As for the “Real World” do I really have to tell you that that is also mediated by our judgement – is that a thing(in-itself) too ;)?

    The rise of data systems to track attendance etc is fairly ubiquitous in all schools. Up to now they’ve been fairly efficient at delivering stats for SLT but those systems are now being turned over to help with behaviour modification and tracking all sorts of things for which they were never intended. This growing panoptic approach I would regard as more worrying.

    At this time of year I cover a lot of what is happening at BETT and I often ask the question about research and efficacy. But there are certain products out there I won’t mention, that are popular with a lot of teachers. Often these have been from small firms working very closely with teachers in a highly iterative way at grass roots level. They tend to listen to and implement what people want rather than produce a product at scale.

    In the field of computing and computational thinking you don’t even need a computer and certainly several lessons can be taught without one but they are of use in those specific areas. You cannot build out the ‘real world’ so why not co-opt it, when relevant, to your own needs.


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