When I was studying for my masters’ degree, a fellow student announced that, for her class project, she was going to undertake a study of whether or not teachers should allow the use of calculators in the classroom. (This was several years ago!)
She quickly found that she needed to find another topic. There was no question that calculators would – and should – be used in a widespread manner in the classroom, she said, and there was nothing more to study on that topic.
That pretty much sums up how I feel about technology in schools. During my time as a teacher and a school board member, nearly every new technological advance I have seen has proved to be innovative, invaluable and, ultimately, inevitable.
But technology also requires that we plan ahead so we can properly deploy it and use it to our students’ best advantage. Technology allows students astonishing access to information, helps teachers personalize learning and permits educators and students to connect and interact in remarkable ways. But these tools sit in the toolbox unless school districts are ready to use technology properly.
First, of course, is the question of how do local school boards pay for technology upgrades in their schools. In the era of the 2 percent tax levy cap, and less-than fully funded schools, that continues to be an obstacle.
But training educators to use the technology and to make the most of it is an equally vital task. If the staff is not properly trained to use the technology, it becomes an expensive dust collector.
Students, as we know, are well versed in technology as it is. But if we educators are going to engage them, and keep them interested and excited about education, we need to adapt our educational practices to use cutting-edge technology in the best possible ways.
Not long ago, I heard that a distinguished educator asked his staff, “What are you going to teach kids that they can’t find on Google?” In other words, students can look up facts on Google, but are they equipped to properly judge the trustworthiness of the information they find, to analyze it, and to make good use of that information in creative and innovative ways?
Every school district should be asking itself – and its administrators – questions about technology. Are we planning properly to upgrade our technology? Are we using the technology in the best possible ways? And are we teaching students things that they can’t learn simply by using Google?