Sorry for the lapse in posting yesterday; I was driving back to Indiana for a visit. Now that I’m here, the dust settled a bit and I can continue from the midwest.
In my preparations for the day, I ran across this post about technology in the classroom. Go ahead, take a minute to read it over and then we’ll talk. All right, so there’s something to this I think. First, the one thing that I can warm to is the expectation that technological bells and whistles, so to speak, can save a school. I may have mentioned this before, but the rule of thumb for me is whether or not the technology can do something that cannot be done with low-tech means. This may be an oversimplified rule, I get that, but adhering to it loosely might save people some time and money. For instance, a school in which I supervise student teachers is eligible for Title I funds, so they installed these Promethean interactive white boards, which might cost, oh, around $4K a pop, I’m just not sure of the exact model that they have. Now, maybe they received an educator’s volume discount as well. Nevertheless, every classroom has one.
Both the schools and my college go on about these things ad nauseam, about how wonderful they are and how great they look. Trainings are offered at the schools and at our college. They try to get us professors into them as well. With all these trainings, the extent of what I’ve seen, for all this money, are Powerpoint presentations and iterations of direct teaching, projective words, shapes, vocabulary, and the like on the board. Kids come up and write answers, but this is something I used to do on a regular white board with markers. I know everyone takes tremendous pride in the acquisition of these resources, and I do not begrudge anyone of that. But are we putting too much into these quick technological fixes? A visitor might come in, see these mechanical wonders tacked to the wall, and might have the knee jerk reaction that these kids have it all. Are these, however, the correct fixes? Is this the best way to spend limited funds? You know, direct teaching is direct teaching, no matter what kind of board or technology is used.
But while I agree with this tentative view of technology, I wonder how elitist it is to assume that the model should always be, and is most effective, when affluent populations get to test new methods or technologies out first. Let them experiment and leave the dregs to the low-income schools. Additionally, I do agree that perhaps “marginalized” groups are the last to adopt certain innovations, but the post and perhaps the source text in general make no indication as to why. It makes sense that as new technologies develop, they typically get cheaper, smaller, and more portable. People in low-income areas, or schools, do not have as much disposable income to waste on the latest gadget. I think it’s important to make this distinction clear because I think you could make some uncomfortable assumptions. There is also the point that new resources like broadband internet services are introduced first in “friendly” areas (read: upscale) and then they spread out from there. The author of this report seems like he approves of this method and questions why technology is being introduced in schools the other way around, from the bottom up. This point, and you’ll have to read it in context, makes me uncomfortable because so many assumptions about technology and social class are going unquestioned here.