Times are changing, but today’s schools struggle to keep up with the rapid pace of constantly-evolving technology. Many classrooms across the U.S. continue to have old desktop computers and rollable television sets stashed in dark corners of the room. Some have noticeable upgrades, with digital projectors and computer labs available for students to do research in. A few have gone so far as bringing in smart boards while trying to take the classroom online in an effort to engage students. All these resources are great and can provide wonderful benefits to students’ learning, but bringing new technology into classrooms is rarely done right.
Simply introducing new technology in our classrooms is not enough, as there are sustainability and practical issues which schools must face when a new trend creeps in. In 2013, LAUSD’s iPad program sought to provide children in low-income areas with technology that would otherwise be unattainable by providing every student in the district with an iPad of their own. However, poor planning and application to learning turned out to be a $1.3 billion dollar burn in the district’s pockets. The district successfully purchased around 43,000 tablets, using the money meant for construction and reparations of schools, and preloaded them with Pearson education software. Problems arose once the initiative was in action, as the district’s internet could not handle the influx of tech on its servers, and students figured out ways get through security blocks in order to use the devices recreationally. Teachers were inept at developing a curriculum on the iPads and preferred to not use them. Soon after the iPad rollout, then-Superintendent John Deasy stepped down from his position, and with that, the initiative went down in flames. Funding is key when considering the implementation of technology in the classroom, but before we worry about crunching numbers, we as educators need to find out ways to correctly use technology in our classrooms.
The problem lies not with technology and its natural tendency to become obsolete in mere months, but the administrators and educators trying to implement these devices in the classroom. Children nowadays are born classified as “digital natives,” meaning kids are born with fundamental understandings of technology. Toddlers now can be seen navigating an iPhone with ease. Meanwhile, the older generation, who are the teachers and principals of today, belong to the “digital immigrant” group. These are the people who have gone through schooling without the aid of technology or the internet. What they lack in tech savviness, they try to make up for in making classes “fun.” While there is no downside to making classwork and homework more engaging, educators often fail, as they are not clear on how to operate certain programs, which ultimately serves as a detriment to class time or causes confusion within the class. As the new wave of educators comes around, the process of introducing new devices in schools will become more feasible. But for now, we are stuck in a stagnant dilemma that sees our technology age faster than we do.
A solution that can help bridge the gap between the generational divide is instead of teachers training to use new technology, have learning be dependent upon application. The current generation of students are already aware of how to pick up a device and access the internet but the teacher could offer advice on where to get accurate information. When a student Google searches a topic, hundreds of sites will come up offering similar but perhaps slightly angled information. It should be the teacher’s duty to focus on clarifying where to obtain correct information for doing research and accessing different databases available to them. Technology should not be considered a fix for under-achieving schools, but rather an extension of a student’s knowledge. To achieve efficient learning and comprehension of new materials, students must learn how to apply knowledge and use that outside the classroom.
For now, having computer games in elementary schools teaching the basics of literacy and math is effective. In higher education, the idea of a collaborative classroom using Google’s arsenal of applications works wonders. It is important to set realistic limits on school districts before falling head over heels over a new technological craze. There certainly needs to be a combination of “learning by the books” and trying to have an interactive classroom, and studies have shown that this is where the most effective learning happens. Let us not compete to be the most “futuristic” school but master and control the divide between technology and education. The way our world is going, it will not be long until we see more and more devices in our schools. As society changes, this transition will come naturally.
Juan Gonzalez is a fourth-year education sciences and literary journalism double major. He can be reached at email@example.com.