I love when they do on the street interviews on Jimmy Kimmel Live. They have a set of questions on a topic and they go outside the studio and ask people on the street a series of questions. One of my favorites was a survey they did on the improvements of the iPhone 5 over the iPhone 4. They handed an iPhone to each person surveyed and asked them how they liked the improvements of this iPhone 5 over the earlier model the iPhone 4. Each respondent went into great detail on the vast improvements of the phone that they held in their hand over the older iPhone 4. What the respondents failed to recognize was that they were actually holding an iPhone 4.
Another interview asked people’s reaction to the Grammy awards televised the night before. The questioner even asked about specific artists and incidents that occurred. Each respondent had something to say about each of the questions and some were passionate about their answers. Of course the joke was that the Grammy’s were scheduled to air the following week and had not yet happened. So much for passionate answers. Yes, I do know that many other interviews were probably edited out, but the point made here is that people will answer questions whether or not they have a real knowledge of the subject, or in some cases ANY knowledge of the subject.
Now, I go to consider what is often done in education, surveys. Let’s consider a tech survey. Do we qualify the people taking the survey or do we ask everything of everyone? Do we define terms? Technically, overhead projectors, email, and PowerPoint are all technologies. If a teacher uses all of these technologies, is he or she a technology-savvy educator? Is the use of a PowerPoint presentation the incorporation of technology into a lesson?
When we ask if a teacher is using technology in lessons, do we assume that technology is being used properly? Many, many schools have purchased IWB’s, Interactive White Boards. Not as many schools have purchased proper training for their teachers in the correct use of those whiteboards. Consequently, we have a great many Interactive Whiteboards being used as blackboards and video projectors. Any computer used as a hat rack is hardly an effective use of technology. How does that fit in our tech use survey? The same is true of the tablets and 1 to 1 use of laptops. Naming a program and providing tools does not insure proper use unless adequate training and support are included. Teachers having access to the tools and not the training are still part of these Tech surveys and their opinions might very well skew whatever results are obtained. In a world of data based decision-making how does faulty research affect important decisions? It brings to mind that old tech expression: Garbage in, Garbage out.
Let us consider what we do when someone throws out a survey on a school or district wide level. Let’s make sure we are asking the right questions of the right people, who have a full understanding of the questions. Getting even passionate answers from individuals who have no real knowledge of the topic can only lead to poorly made decisions. Of course the best solution to all of this is to make sure all teachers are trained well enough to be relevant and have a working knowledge of all that is needed to teach in a technology-driven society. We should do a survey on that!