My family joined my youngest son's Kindergarten teacher at an American Cancer Society Relay for Life this weekend. We only walked with her for an hour, but, having survived cancer a couple years ago, she asked her class to walk with her this year. Unfortunately, it was brutally hot, so, while a few kids walked with her the night before, my little guy was the only one from her class to walk with her on Saturday.
As the heat index hit 98 degrees, he walked for two and half miles at her side. He ran ahead to get squirted by the relay coordinators occasionally or by the big misters blowing on either side of the track, but he never once stopped. He didn't even question it. Mrs. Deacon asked him to go and help her raise money for people who were sick, so he did.
We can talk about all the gadgets and gizmos, 1:1 computing initiatives, and just how to use technology to implement Response to Intervention and improve our standardized scores. However, when it comes down to it, all the technology in the world, from the best-funded districts in wealthy communities to impoverished communities that just might catch Nick Negroponte's eye can't replace one outstanding teacher.
I will never be one to advocate against the use of technology where it can make a teacher's job easier or help a student achieve in ways that he might not have before. My littlest guy can't wait to use the Lexia reading program at home over the summer; he's thrilled that he gets to keep working up through the levels as he waits for first grade. Technology is good stuff and it can, without a doubt, enhance education. As I rush to purchase the latest gadget or evaluate some new piece of software, though, I have to ask myself: How would Mrs. Deacon use it? Would it make her job easier or help her to work better with her overcrowded class of Kindergarteners? If it would, then I should write out that purchase order ASAP. If it's just one more bit of tech, though, I should think again.
Herein, of course, lies my greatest problem with the OLPC. Kids are great and flexible and intuitive. They need well-trained, dedicated teachers, though, to make little laptops or slick programs or graphing calculators genuinely useful tools.
Happy graduation, folks, whether you're headed for first grade or med school. Hopefully you had your share of Mrs. Deacons.