These days, we use apps to learn intervals and the names of notes during the music lesson, and print books are published to educate teachers on how to teach with tablets.
I’ve produced a technology conference or two and I believe in learning.
But I don’t believe in technology in the classroom, and here’s why.
- We have it for the sake of having it.
Screens are distracting.
They take away from the student-mentor interaction, when staring downwards to set up that app, not to mention that it costs attention time. Is it really beneficial to spend twice the time setting up and teaching what pen-and-paper can do it perhaps half the time? Do you really want to replace real, tactile play, with fantasy graphics on a screen?
Edouard Gentaz, a professor at University of Geneva, adds that writing individual letters by hand significantly improves subsequent recall. I am a fan of his work if not only for the fact that he advocates for the feel of pen and paper.
When you teach and learn on paper, you have a record of your thoughts. It’s fast thinking. This is why most designers work on paper before drafting ideas on the computer – fail early and fail fast, to reach success sooner.
Pen and paper is tactile and there is value to writing.
What’s wrong with traditional one-on-one learning, without a screen in your hand and connectivity to the internet? Think about what that app is doing for you–does it improve the teaching process or is it just novel?
- We forget what we’re looking for.
At the train station in China, signs are written in simplified Chinese characters which take me a tad longer to digest than traditional characters. Zoe and I find each other in the crowd and walk the aged streets while she rattles off historical facts.
When it’s dark, Zoe drops me off at the bus station and I meet the retired couple hosting me in their traditional village home, a distant family friend I’m meeting for the first time; they lead me up their building’s crumbling concrete stairs.
“I should take my shoes off,” I say.
“As long as you’re comfortable,” the auntie says. “Oh, let me get you slippers.” She runs to the storage closet and grabs a pair of too-small slippers which don’t fit, then trades them for man slippers.
My room has a bed, a window, a desk. The auntie steps on the bed in her bare feet to set up the mosquito netting while I will her feet away from the pillow. She gives me a towel that’s a dishcloth from Ikea.
There is a shower stall with a hole in the ground for a toilet and I keep reminding myself to not drop anything in the hole but it happens anyways. I tell myself that I am an idiot and repeatedly ask what I’m doing here, and am so conscious of the hole, that I might as well flush myself down the darkness and be done with it. But I manage to not slip and rush out of the washroom.
The auntie and uncle are shouting at the flat-screen TV in the living room, watching some drama about a war. There are two traditional wooden benches, but what I really want is to charge my phone. They live contentedly, simply.
Their belongings are just enough to satisfy, with a routine that is just interesting enough to be repeated daily, just has been done for years before I came along and perhaps years after I am gone as well. This makes me think how little we truly need to be happy and productive, when chasing after frivolities and material belongings.
We don’t need an app to teach intervals during a piano lesson. We don’t need a note-naming game when the teacher is sitting right there. We need face-to-face connection between student and teacher. We need to be in the moment, not on the screen. We were fine before technology took over– why can’t we survive without it?
Perhaps the music in your studio will be the one reprieve from our buzzing world.
- We become afraid of asking for help
The next morning, the couple drops me off at the metro station to meet a cousin for the first time. I recognise her from the photo and try to decide whether to hug or wave or shake hands, but we do none of those things and bid the couple goodbye.
My cousin, her friend, and I explore gentrified buildings along an old neighbourhood. I couldn’t adjust to a lifestyle like this quickly. “I used to carry a 40 kg backpack and hike all night,” my cousin’s friend says.
“Why don’t you carry this?” I say, motioning to my backpack which is all my luggage for Guangzhou. “I’m sure it’s less than 40kg.”
“Really?” I say. He takes the backpack from me and I feel a million pounds lighter.
In the past, I avoided asking for the kind of help that didn’t involve Google, as the strongest people didn’t ask for help. The reality, though, is the strongest people get things done. And they get things done efficiently, whether it be through Google or asking someone to explain the process.
We’re in the cultural habit of asking Google for help, and there’s nothing wrong with looking up a quick definition. But when you’re learning theory, or stuck on a coding sequence, you are much better off asking a mentor, to save time and frustration.
Because how many times have you been stuck for hours, only to discover that it was a simple mistake?
At the end of the day, tech is one of many tools that can better teaching and learning, enhancing the connection between students and mentors. Having an app to sort out studio finances is great, but I haven’t yet seen an app that enhances the student-teacher connection in a studio.
In the past few months, I’ve seen the cutting-edge of tech and trendiness, and also how easily this tech can become a crutch. The tech scene is constantly evolving, so I’m not so quick to dismiss technology in the classroom altogether.
But for now, I will be focussing on what has worked in the past and what will keep working.
Thanks Nadia L for the cover photo.