I just finished reading Time for teachers to tune in to iPods and the very last paragraph reiterated what I have been saying for weeks:
"So what's stopping educators from incorporating iPods into everyday classroom lessons? One key reason: Many schools are notoriously slow incorporating new technology, and it is often due to a lack of a firm commitment from school leaders and having the funds and instructional staff to implement programs."
In fact, you can replace the word "iPods" in the quote above with your favorite information technology without changing the meaning in any way. The article refers to a Tech News World report and the controversy over the presence of iPods in schools. (While some schools are embracing the technology, others ban it.)
The thrust of the article offers a "Can't beat 'em? Join 'em!" approach but it also points out examples of how the creative educator can leverage popular technology in order to engage his/her students more effectively.
Some of the feedback I and my colleagues have received reflects the frustration of many who read about grand giveaway schemes (mostly state initiatives to give away laptops to high-school students) and see just one more example of funds wasted on technology when too many of our schools are in disrepair -- or worse -- are graduating students who are functionally illiterate and can barely do four-function (+ - * /) arithmetic.
In some sense they may be right (After all, we learned "the three Rs" without all of this fancy technology. Right?), but then again ...
Is teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic our only goal? I don't think so. Nor do I think that the tools we used to pick up these basic skills when we were in school necessarily met the needs of as many of our peers as we might like to believe.
There is much confusion too about what we would do with the technology we would bring into the classroom if we had the available funds. But there need not be any confusion here either.
Obviously, before high school, every child should be functionally literate and have a good grasp of arithmetic. But, by the time our children leave high school, they need a great deal more than that. They need a solid grasp of how to use the tools they will encounter as they move out into the world. The will need to know how to think critically so they can assess the the value of the information available to them -- whether they acquire their information from the Internet or the newspapers, from late-night TV or from their neighbors.
In the end, our schools should not have to choose between new computers and a pay raise for their teachers. Nor should should they have to choose between fixing the roof or providing their students with a quality education.
All technology is the result of human invention -- intended to make our lives better. Let us use all of the technology available to us to make our children's futures better -- not by giving them every new thing that comes along but by leveraging the tools that they have and by providing them access to the tools they don't have but need to compete in today's world.