While visiting other blogging sites, I spent some time on http://assortedstuff.com. The author of this blog talked about a gathering of educators to discuss “why schools have remained isolated islands of status quo over the past twenty years, while the rest of the world has been fundamentally altered by computers, networks, and communications tools”. He will be a speaker at this conference where he will talk about his “growing frustration with American education and the two-faced embrace of techie tools while at the same time rejecting the transformative possibilities they offer.” He continues to contend the following:
“Schools in the US have spent billions of dollars in just the past decade to buy laptops and software, install networks, connect classrooms to internet, and train teachers. However, walk down the halls of your average American school, especially high schools, and you’re likely to see a teacher-directed, lecture-demo formatted lesson, with little or no technology use by either teacher or students. Over the past few years, the most visible example of technology use in the classrooms of our overly-large school district has been interactive whiteboards, devices which chain teaching to standards of the previous century. Talk all you want about ‘student engagement’ and ‘interactivity’, these boards are little more than expensive electronic extensions of blackboards and chalk, controlled by the teacher, and locking the learning focus on them, not the students.”
First, I use a smart board daily in my classroom, and I do allow it to direct my instruction by either introducing or reinforcing subject matter which is to be covered in an interactive way. And with more professional development, I am sure I could utilize it even more effectively. But therein lays the problem with incorporating technology into the classroom to its full extent. How many schools in this crippled economy have the financial resources to purchase the technology needed and provide the professional training required to truly bring classrooms into the 21st century? Our school still doesn’t even have smart boards in each classroom, and those we do have are hooked up to antiquated computers which are living on borrowed time. Our district has been unable to pass a levy, which is true of many districts in this troubled economy, so we are looking at significant cuts in order to survive. We have already been told that the budget for replacing computers is non-existent, as is money for professional development. Now that is about as bare-bones as it gets.
How can we provide 21st century classrooms without the significant amount of money it requires to do so? It is expensive to purchase the technology, and even more expensive to train teachers to use it adequately. So often, software is purchased, but teachers are not thoroughly trained in how to use it. And if they aren’t comfortable with it, they will not use it. It is that simple. And the cost to purchase software licenses is often a deterrent for school systems that are pinching pennies.
So here is the bottom line. You cannot expect significant changes in the use of technology, which I totally agree is necessary to better prepare our students for the future, without the resources that it takes to implement them successfully. Where is that money coming from? Because, sure as shooting, it isn’t coming from our overwhelmed school systems or already-taxed tax payers.