If you have about five hours with nothing to do, head on over to Slashdot and check out this thread on the value of computers in the classroom. It stems from a review of Todd Oppenheimer’s The Flickering Mind, which, from everything I’ve heard, deals a stinging blow to the whole technology in the classroom model. The stories of success and failure go back and forth, and the debate is as passionate as they come. But one theme that seems to run through most is that teachers are just not prepared to make good use of the technology they have. Now, that is not an indictment of teachers as much as it is one of the system that trains them. Personally, obviously, I think technology plays a crucial role in the classroom but only when the teachers using it have attained a fluency that allows them to be creative with its implementation.
And the great thing about Weblogs and wikis and the rest is that fluency is relatively easy. You don’t need hours and hours of training to see the potential of this. I know we have a long way to go with multimedia and handhelds and the like, but provided they have the access, this is something we can do now. And I think if more people could engage their children and their teachers via the transparency that the technology provides, maybe people will be able to recognize the benefits more easily.
Bruce Fulton says
Good points. I think the question is not really whether technology informs education, but rather how do we best assure that it does. In the real world, science, math, finance, international relations, and virtually all other disciplines embed technology intrinsically. Sometimes we forget that technology is more than general computing devices (pc’s) on the desktop. It is technology appliances, dedicated systems, assistive devices, scientific apparatus, communications infrastructures – all the range of 21st century tools.
In the real world, these shape the disciplines. Today, simple bookkeeping is not only computer-enabled but computer driven, and technology has changed fundamentally how accounting is done and what its impact on decision making systems really is. It is not so important that students learn a spreadsheet program, for example, as it is crucial that students achieve financial literacy. The spreadsheet program will happen if students are taught financial skills in a relevant and current context.
ICT literate teachers are an important part of the equation, but not the only solution. We need curriculum standards that incorporate knowledge of applications and tools within core subjects, not just within separate technology strands. We need policy decisions and leadership that value not just IT knowledge but an understanding of the contextual application of technology to solve real problems. And we need a unified vision that information and communication are the 21st century cornerstones of democracy – necessary for an individual to be informed and knowledgeable in the global village.