Friday, February 27, 2009

'Technology' in School

While perusing the Economic Stimulus Package and Obama’s 2010 budget proposal I noted there were hundreds of millions of dollars allocated to ‘technology’ in schools. This caught my eye because back in the day when I was actively involved in education, I played a fairly significant role in educational technology. I wrote curriculum, taught students how to use ‘technology’ and trained teachers in the effective use of it. I put technology in quotes because very often what is really meant is ‘computers connected to the internet’. Of course there’s more to it than that, i.e. multi media, digital cameras, video, music, presentation software, packaged learning applications, Smart Boards and probably a whole lot more that’s happened in the 5 years since my departure! . So my question is what is really meant by ‘technology’ when shown in a budget? Very often it means stringing data lines all over the school and filling it up with state of the art boxes. Unfortunately, the part that often falls through the cracks is the training that goes with it. I think a core reason for this is that budget creators consult the wrong people. Who do they talk to? IT people-which is only natural because they’re the ones who know the ‘engineering’ requirements. But what do they know of education in general and students in particular-that is to say 'pedagogy'? Not a damn thing! You see, IT people tend to think of technology as an end in itself. But of course it’s actually a means to an end. Technology is a tool, much like a sophisticated calculator for the math student (in fact there’s another example of ‘technology’ not related to computers). So the challenge is to get educators on board to help guide the process of putting ‘technology’ in schools. In fact their involvement is crucial. Otherwise you have a whole lot of very expensive hardware sitting around collecting dust , or worse, kids using it just to play Kid Pix and do Google searches on their report topic. Any teacher will tell you this. Is anyone asking them? Is anyone listening?

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