Photo Friday: Boyer’s Thoughts on Technology

 Ernest L. and Kay Boyer opening a gift at a "Dinner with the Deputies" event in Washington, DC. - BCA

Ernest L. and Kay Boyer opening a gift at a “Dinner with the Deputies” event in Washington, DC. – BCA

Today’s Photo Friday post shows Ernie Boyer and his wife Kay opening a gift at a “Dinner with the Deputies” event in Washington D.C in 1979. If you look closely at the photo, you may notice that the gift Ernie is opening is an “automatic telephone answerer”. Thus, this photo exemplifies the integration of technology into the modern day household and its influence on everyday life, including education.

Yet, how did Boyer feel about the rapid expansion of technology in the world of education? In 1983, Boyer gave a speech at Maricopa Community Colleges in which he elaborates on his opinion. He states:

Looking ahead- teacher anxiety not withstanding- it is my own conviction that this time this new technology revolution will not go away. The plain fact is that technology will teach and if we fail to use it teaching will still go on. What then is the place of technology in formal education? How can it be constructive- not corrosive? First, all students and all teachers should learn about the information revolution. In a general education report students should be taught the impact of mass communication. They should begin to see the extent to which the microchip now controls transition and discover the implications of a global communication network that makes it possible for messages instantaneously to span the globe. Second, I suggest that all students should be able to learn with technology….

The challenge of the future is not to fight technology nor is it to convert the school into a video game factory, competing with the local shopping center. Rather, the challenge is to build a partnership between traditional and non-traditional education, letting the technology, teachers, and the classroom do what they do best.

Viewing this issue of technology from today’s perspective, Boyer was absolutely right. Certainly we see from our smartphones, tablets, and laptops that, since Boyer gave his speech, technology has not gone away and in fact it has made drastic gains with its integration into everyday life. It was because Boyer had this foresight that he argued for, what seems to be, a distinction between learning from technology and learning with technology. To learn from technology is to learn of its uses and implications, while learning with technology is to guide the use of technology for learning and bettering one’s self. It is necessary to make this distinction in order to recognize the need for a balance of technology in the classroom, something which teachers today are told to strive for.

Today, I’m often told that I should upgrade my electronic devices (phone, laptop, etc.) every couple of years. However, it has been over thirty years since Boyer gave his speech on technology and his argument for balance still imparts a vital message. How is it that these words withstood the rapidly advancing technology we rely on? In Boyer’s words, “Television, calculators and computers cannot and will not make discriminatory judgments. They cannot and will not teach the students wisdom. This is the mission of the classroom and the teacher.”

To read the rest of Boyer’s speech, click here.


Photo Friday: The Task is Never Done

Ernest L. Boyer with Robert Clark and an unnamed man at the 1973 Aspen Education Seminar. - BCA

Ernest L. Boyer with Robert Clark and an unnamed man at the 1973 Aspen Education Seminar. – BCA

Today’s Photo Friday post shows Ernie Boyer conversing with two educators at the 1973 seminar for the Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit organization focused on educational and policy studies. Every summer for 12 years Boyer chaired this seminar.

Even during the summer months, Boyer worked diligently to improve education as it relates to both the welfare of the individual student and the nation as a whole. Such continuous work was not only a touchstone of Boyer’s career but also a recurring theme in his writing and speaking. Boyer argued in a speech at the 40th anniversary of the Aspen Institute seminar that the factors that affect student learning are continuous, even during the summer when there is no school. He stated that:

A recent Harvard report on hunger in America unequivocally concluded that a child who is nutritionally deprived will have a lower IQ, shorter attention span, and get lower grades in school. And yet- isn’t it ironic that at the very time there is an ‘urgent push’ for better schooling in this country, the federal child nutrition programs are shockingly underfunded… If the nation wants better schools, we simply must become more compassionate and more caring about our children, especially the least advantaged. This brings me to priority number 2. To have better schooling the country must give more dignity and more status to our teachers. If this nation would give as much status to first grade teachers as we give to full professors that one act alone would revitalize the nation’s schools.

Today, even though the school year is winding down, students’ daily experiences- including activities as simple as eating- still affect their ability to learn. There is no off switch when it comes to learning. For this reason, all people have a responsibility to guide students and to be compassionate towards them. Later in his speech, Boyer states that we can do this simply by giving “notice” or recognition to each student. If we desire to be a nation with a strong educational system, we must actually support the students who are a part of that system. By doing so, we can accomplish what Boyer hoped for. We can empathize with teachers and understand the important roles they play in our society- that they shape those individuals who will shape the future by being educators, facilitators, role models, assessors, planners, and much more.

Today’s post not only demonstrates the relevance of Boyer’s words; it is also a way of saying thank you to the many teachers across the country for their hard work this year. Lastly, it is a call for those who read this post to invest in the lives of our youth, as the task of teaching is never done- even during the summer.

To read the rest of Boyer’s speech, click here.


Quote of the Day

It is my urgent hope that by the next century this nation will give more recognition and more status to the teacher. . . .

Excellence in Education means Excellence in Teaching. And . . . if the future of this nation is to be made secure, our top priority must be to give more status and more recognition to the teacher.

— Ernest L. Boyer, “Education in the Year 2000,” delivered at the University of Wisconsin system’s conference on teacher education, December 15, 1988.

Read the full speech here.

Miss Rice

Page from Dr. Boyer's school scrapbook.

Think back to all the teachers you’ve ever had.  There may be a couple you are more than happy to forget about, but I’m sure there are a chosen few that rise to the top of the list.  If we’re really lucky almost everyone has at least one teacher they could never forget.  For me personally, I know I’ll never forget my very first teacher – Mrs. Bentz.  Thanks to her, I have very vivid memories of my experience in preschool. Mrs. Bentz ensured that each preschooler felt supported and loved and worthy of her attention. I can still recall the extremely specific feeling of joy after receiving praise from her.  I’d say she did her job right if I still have such fond memories of her after all these years, and I think Dr. Boyer would agree.

In fact, Dr. Boyer himself did not shy away from reminiscing about his former teachers. In a number of speaking engagements he recalled a night when he couldn’t fall asleep and instead of counting sheep, decided to count his past teachers.  Like most of us, one name in particular towered above them all – Miss Rice, his first grade teacher.

Here’s what Dr. Boyer had to say about his recollections of her:

On the first day of school she said, “Good morning class, today we learn to read.'” Those were the first words I ever heard in school. We spent all day on four words – “I go to school.”  We traced them, we sang them, we even prayed them.  I ran home that night ten-feet tall, and, announced proudly to my mother, “Today I learned to read.”  I doubt I had mastered decoding but I had been taught something much more fundamental.  Miss Rice had taught me that language is the centerpiece of learning.  Fifty years later, when I got around to trying to write a book called High School, I had a chapter right up front entitled “Literacy: The Essential Tool.”  And in our book on College, we have a chapter on the essentialness of language.  I say that to pay tribute to an unremembered first-grade teacher – Fairview Avenue Elementary School, Dayton, Ohio, 1930 – who said something of the foundations of formal learning and shakes my thinking to this day.  Great teachers live forever.

Miss Rice had no way of knowing that her presence in young Ernie Boyer’s life would be so monumental.  Nor could Mrs. Bentz say with certainty that her preschool students would remember her fondly as adults. These two women were simply doing their jobs and being great teachers.

To read more about Dr. Boyer’s experience as a first grader and his thoughts on acknowledging teachers read, “A Celebration of Teaching.”