“There’s a kind of notion that everyone’s opinion is equally valid. My arse! A bloke who’s been a professor of dentistry for 40 years doesn’t have a debate with some eejit who removes his teeth with string and a door!” – Dara O’Briain
I ran into this article from the TES this morning, which embodies many of the things that annoy me about how education and technology are presented in the media. What this piece illustrates so clearly is the balance fallacy, where two arguments are presented as having equal value even though they are clearly of different merit. The article starts off by referencing proper research:
Research published last year found that devices such as iPads could help students become more creative and independent learners.
But the rest of the article goes on to quote a teacher and a union leader who are calling for a ‘factsheet’ for educators outlining the problems of tablet use:
symptoms of tablet addiction include “withdrawal”, “loss of interest in or ‘crowding out’ other activities”, “lack of control”, “irritability” and even “deception and furtiveness”.
And further noting that, as devices are small, parents are often unaware that children stay up late at night playing on them.
So basically we’re supposed to see the arguments made by these teachers, which are based entirely on opinion and anecdote, as equivalent in merit to actual research (disclaimer: I haven’t actually read the study they linked to – it may be a crap study, but it’s the principle I’m on about here). I’d argue it’s even more biased than that, since the claims by teachers are given the bulk of the article, while research findings are simply referenced in a hyperlink which few readers will bother to actually click.
Luckily, it put me in mind of my favourite Dara O’Briain clip, which has happily mollified my rage.