What potential benefits can technology offer students? How should it be used? How should it NOT be used?
Technology offers some tempting opportunities.
Individualized Instruction. We are all struggling to find a means to provide more individualized instruction that provides lessons at the frontier of each student's knowledge and skills. Technology could really help with that by allowing each student to work at his or her own pace on skill-building exercises.
Dispensing Information. In a Google era, the role of the teacher as a dispenser of information is outdated. The teacher needs to focus on other roles. If we accept the truth that electronic media is better as an on-demand source of raw data, and if we delegate that duty to it, then teacher time would be freed. That time could then be used for the roles that the teacher does better than the machine: motivating, providing context, engaging higher order cognitive skills, teaching collaboration skills, and more.
Electronic Media. Let's face it, the dominant medium of our time has shifted. It is now electronic. Preparing students for the future requires preparing them to be conversant as both consumers and producers of electronic media. Printed text and Standard English are not dead - you're reading this and it is little more than an electronic version of printed text written in Standard English. But this blog does have an untapped potential for mixed multi-media. I could insert an image, a sound file, a video file or a data file if I thought it would help me achieve my goal as the creator of the document. Observe how these various media styles are integrated into the Stranger Slog. There are skills to be learned there and we would do our children a dis-service to fail to train them in these skills just as it would be a dis-service to fail to train them in the creation and interpretation of the dominant media of the past (drawing, text, photography, telegraph, radio, television).
Student Data Management. I'm hesitant to include this in the list of benefits. So far, it is only a potential benefit. The problem here isn't the tool but the poor use being made of it. There is a possibility of some elegant uses of student data to suggest needs for teachers and administrators to address. Unfortunately, the current data set and the current administration chooses instead to misuse the tool primarily as a management tool for teacher supervision. This tool is a microscope and they are using it as a hammer.
Potential Cost Savings. This is something of a lie. If you review the best uses of technology in education you will see that they are primarily new efforts, not more efficient versions of existing efforts. Consequently, technology won't save any money, it will just allow us to do additional things more cheaply than we could do them without technology. But it is no more a savings than buying a luxury car on sale when you could have bought an economy car instead.
Technology also has over-reached and, as described above, been mis-applied. There area number of times when people have looked to technology to do more than it can do well. And technology comes with costs.
I'm not surprised that the Education Reform movement has supported expanded uses of technology in the classroom. There are a number of themes within that movement and technology resonates with all of them. They include:
- Spending money on stuff sold by the private sector instead of salaries in the public sector
- Individualized instruction
- Higher worker productivity through technology
- Privatization of public education
- Standardization of public education
- Training children to sit at computers for extended periods
- Measuring complex educational outcomes with simple metrics
- The de-professionalization of teaching