Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Swim suit controversy offers perspective to education

It is hard to believe that I am sitting here in my office at school today. The realization that we are on the downhill side of summer already is shocking. I came in to work on the calendar but could not help reflecting on all the thoughts that have been running through my head since BLC '09. I then came across an article about my other passion - swimming - and the controversy surrounding the new suit technology and it's impact on the sport. It gave me some perspective on the battle we have in our schools to integrate technology into our classrooms.

What I found interesting in this article was Leonard's use of the words 'maximized' and 'enhance'. Here is an exerpt from the article that demonstrates...

"Swimsuits, up until approximately the year 2000, and certainly until early 2008, were designed to maximize the opportunity of the athletes to go fast. The manufacturers designed suits to "get out of the way of the water". Less suit, less friction with the water, less drag, tighter fit, and better materials MAXIMIZED the ability of the athlete to perform to their highest earned level. Beginning in 2008, manufacturers took advantage (and must be applauded for doing so, within the existing rules, which were close to non-existent) of the idea of designing suits to ENHANCE the ability of the athlete to swim faster. A line had been crossed. Designed suits incorporated plastics, rubberized material and new design criteria, to enhance the ability of the athlete to be buoyant in the suits (riding higher makes you faster), wrapped more tightly (compressing the "jiggly parts" makes you MUCH faster) and shed water from the plastics and rubber materials much more effectively, thereby reducing the drag of the suits remarkably."

The connection that I see to our plight as educators is with these two words. I believe that when educators think of technology and the impact it will/does have on our classrooms they are viewing it as an 'enhancement'. Using the swim suit article as a reference for meaning, it would mean that a student or teacher that has access to technology has an unfair advantage over one who does not and that their education will be better. We know this is not the case as students have been learning to read and write, think critically and problem solve for years with or without technology. I bring this up because I believe that many educators (teachers for the most part) are reluctant to try and introduce technology into their classrooms because they see it as this monumental shift away from what they feel they are good at or comfortable with.

If educators could take a more subtle approach to the introduction of technology into their day to day practice I believe we would make more gains in a shorter period of time. We need educators to realize that technology will help students to 'maximize' their learning potential, but not in the absence of a work ethic or a desire to participate in the learning process.

As I said in a previous post 'good teaching is good teaching' regardless of the level of technology. However, technology in the hands of students will allow teachers to maximize the learning opportunities by being more creative, more current, and allowing students to network and learn from each other in an environment that they are already comfortable in.

Anyone feel like going for a swim...?


  1. I'm still shocked the the swimming community is so anti-technology. What is next, bikers that have to use the old penny wheels, hockey players without helmets, and speedskaters without clickers?

  2. Hey Mike, interesting connection you make ... as always it is dealing with the 'naysayers' on your staff interms of utilizing technology and embracing it ... I imagine they are the ones wearing the good 'ole fashioned swimming trunks with big pockets ...

    Maybe as administrators we needs to give those teachers a kind of 'pull-buoy' to give them a lift??


  3. Hey Mike,
    I can't help but question if what you say about technology 'not' giving an advantage over what we have done for years is true?
    It is true that teachers have been great at teaching students to read, write and think critically for years, but not in the present day world, and not with a group of students that are connected to each other in ways that they were in the past.
    Giving students an authentic audience on a blog or a wiki, and having them critically challenge each other's work publicly creates a learning environment not possilbe in the classroom even 5 years ago.
    I consider this one (of many) huge advantages that make having a technology embedded classroom a clearly unfair advantage over the classrooms of old.