School Technology: Show Me the Money!
When I read a recent article entitled Can Technology Fix Education, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I could tell from the article that the authors never set foot in a school and had no idea of the current context in which schools operate.
The following are key points made by the authors and my comments:
- Why not harness the "power and popularity" to boost student achievement? School leaders would love to provide each student with his or her own computing device. However, we don't have the money and we have not had the money in the last twenty-five years to do so.
- Schools are currently restricting the use of (personally owned) devices because they are considered to be a distraction. Until we go one-to-one, we are merely playing or dabbling around the edges of technology integration. And don't give me the line about giving every student an iPod. iPods and iPhones are band-aids and a poor man's replacement for real learning technology. Sure, I use my iPad and iPhone to send emails, but neither is my primary device and neither is it the primary computing device for the authors. Can you imagine going to work for a company and being shown your desk and given nothing but a phone?
- Educators are viewed as restricting what is perhaps the "best way to reach and teach our kids." Today's students are not impressed by textbooks, whiteboards, or projection screens. Today's teachers are making do with what they have. Many are feeling fortunate just to have a job. Many have not had a raise in years. It is clear that the authors have not been in schools to view firsthand the negative impact long-running budget cuts are having on school facilities and equipment.
- "Technology has succeeded in reshaping other industries, including banking and travel. Technology can transform education as well." Technology has reshaped the administrative processes not the training of and development of employees. Schools are not banks. Technology has not replaced the doctor in a hospital and it will not replace the teacher in a classroom. Technology does not make the doctor a better doctor, but technology does help the doctor provide better care. Technology will not make the teacher a better teacher, but technology will help the teacher provide enhanced instruction.
- "But it (technology) can’t be used willy-nilly. If we want to realize technology’s full potential it needs to be used in a “closed-loop” system that uses technology at every level to provide continuous improvement in instruction and outcomes, with real-time feedback, and one-on-one intervention, where necessary." I agree wholeheartedly. We cannot fairly evaluate something that we have never fully implemented. We can't say that a diet didn't work if we never tried it. Until every student has his or her own device, we have not fully implemented technology. We are still dabbling around the edges of technology integration.
Why has the technology revolution bypassed education?
- Investment is at too low of a level. Schools spend about 1.6% of total spending on technology, while comparable industries spend 4-6%. Correct. We have not and do not have the funds to fully implement technology in our schools, period.
- Schools use technology to automate and support administrative tasks and not to support learning. "The chief opportunity for innovation in education doesn’t center on automating the status quo, but redesigning the process." The reason why technology has been used primarily to automate and support schools is because the business side of education must interface with other business, who also use technology. In addition, technology saves money by replacing support staff.
- The "sheer number of companies now in the education IT business, will most likely encourage school systems to take advantage of reduced costs. Virtual schools and classrooms will also further encourage the acquisition and use of technology. If we were in a strong economy, schools would be investing heavily in technology for the reasons stated. There is a perfect convergence of declining unit cost and rising computing power. Less expensive devices can finally begin to do what teachers need them to do, but we don't have the money.
And what about social media "Of course, we can’t let technology become the distraction many educators fear. We don’t want kids texting or engaging with friends on Facebook when they’re supposed to be studying. There need to be guardrails." Sure, let's enter the "modern era," but let's ban social media. The authors tip their naive hats on this issue.
"There’s no legitimate reason education can’t adapt to the modern era. When it does we’ll see students who are more engaged, more proficient, and more likely to graduate and succeed as adults." Correct, there is no "legitimate reason" except, of course, money. After all, it's only money.