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Innovation

Who Cares What Kids Want in School?

At the risk of sounding like George Ou, it really doesn't matter what kids want in school. The 3 R's remain what they need.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor on

I just finished reading the post "What do kids want in school?" and I have to ask, who cares?  When I went to high school in Seattle, we wanted daily espresso drinks and most students wanted an Amsterdam-style coffeeshop, but that doesn't mean that either would have enhanced our education. At the risk of sounding like George Ou, it really doesn't matter what kids want in school.  The 3 R's remain what they need.

Over and over I have used this blog as a forum asking teachers and administrators to embrace new technology as a way to reach out to students who communicate in radically different ways than we did even 5-10 years ago (let alone 20-30).  However, the article above only highlights the problems with technology in the classroom and the value of high-priced toys for students rather than genuine learning tools.

Students in particular want to be able to use instant messaging in schools.  Although I can see the value of being able to IM a teacher or tutor after school hours (and many teachers and/or homework help lines do use this technology), the only value of IM during school hours is for students to talk to each other.  This is no different than passing notes in class, but student note throughput is far greater than via the folded notes of yore.  In addition, networkworld.com provides us with a nice summary of the security risks associated with IM in this article.

I'm a big fan of Dell computers.  They're super cheap, super-customizable, and super-speedy.  However, when a study sponsored by Dell finds that what students want more than anything is their very own laptop, I have to wonder a bit about motivation and bias.  Marc Wagner very clearly pointed out the problems with providing students laptops in his post "A laptop in every pot."

Maybe even more interesting is that:

"more than 40 percent of this group said a modern classroom should include cell phones, interactive whiteboards, televisions, digital cameras, video cameras, scanners, and CD/DVD burners."

Why? To burn pirated music to CDs and create videos to post on MySpace?  Why would we need a cell phone in a modern classroom? To order pizza? To call friends? Sure, all of these things could conceivably (with the possible exception of cell phones) have some educational value.  But how much better would a couple of reliable, well-equipped, lifecycle-funded computer labs serve students as educational and research tools?  Even a mobile lab (again, with appropriate lifecycle funding) would be a great tool for teaching.  Laptops, webcams, and cell phones all around? On the taxpayers' tab?  I think not. 

Bottom line: Use the tools, lose the toys.  To quote the Stones:

"You can't always get what you want...

But if you try sometimes

You just might find

You get what you need." 

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