Over the course of my career, I have watched the implementation of ever-more sophisticated technology in schools, and can appreciate how technology can help students learn.
Like many people who will read this, I carry around a tablet (in my case, an iPad). It’s a powerful tool. It provides easy access to my email, the ability to contact anyone in my address book with a few touches to the screen, a camera at my fingertips, and more. It also – via the Internet connection available – enables me to successfully search for answers to questions almost anywhere and anytime.
Along with my cellphone, it keeps me informed and in touch, and I appreciate that. But it’s equally important to remember what my iPad can’t tell me. It can’t tell me what the right decision is in a situation or how to weigh evidence in making a choice. It can only serve as a repository for the evidence. It can’t tell me when the information it is giving me is wrong – and we all know that websites are full of misinformation. And it can’t analyze situations, create original thoughts, invent something, or, by itself, teach.
Only the ability to think critically and to seek out differing opinions and facts, the capacity for self-expression and creativity, and an ability to work in a caring, collaborative manner with others can do those things. So while my technological devices may serve as tools in those processes, they are just that – tools.
The best boards of education and superintendents and administrators know that.
While purchasing technological equipment is critical for school districts, it is just as important to make sure that teachers and students know how to properly use these tools. Professional development and continuous learning are key to this process – for teachers and board members alike.
This issue of School Leader has a special section on educational technology. It includes information on free resources that Microsoft makes available to districts, a discussion on using technology to properly safeguard the privacy of student records and school district information, and an article on the technology requirements of PARCC testing. But our technology training isn’t limited to School Leader.
Over the past year or so, NJSBA has developed an ambitious slate of training programs for board members on technology topics.
In February, we held our first NJSBA Technology Conference for board members. We received excellent feedback from attendees and look forward to doing another such conference next winter.
We have also presented technology programs at county school boards association meetings, in webinars, and of course, at Workshop. This year we are planning a full menu of technology training sessions at our October conference, including a repeat of the successful programming in the “21st Century Classroom.”
In addition, NJSBA is in discussions about developing an alliance that will help districts procure educational technology at lower prices. We will keep you updated.
So as we work toward providing our students with the latest educational technology, let’s keep this thought in mind: Technology is a great tool, but let’s remember – it’s not a learning outcome.