Save Our Schools

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending EdCamp: Grand Rapids hosted by the extraordinary Ron Houtman. About 100 educators from all over Michigan (and a couple from Indiana) came together to talk about current education practice, major shifts in policy, and pretty much anything else under the sun.

At the conference I had the chance to listen to Ira Socol lead a discussion on his views of technology in schools today. While Ira and I don’t agree very much on some ideas about technology, we both agree that technology should not be implemented in blanket fashion across the board.

I tweeted this during the session:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/bennettscience/status/132804061748662273″]

I rarely include my own tweets in my blog posts, but I’ve really been thinking about this a lot since Saturday.

Ira is 100% correct in the fact that schools should not be spending thousands of dollars on blanket technology integration plans if there is no meaningful technology training plan that comes with it. School leaders are investing in technology to save their schools rather than investing in a competent, professional, highly-supported and highly-trained staff to implement the use technology effectively. I think the most egregious example of this is the rise [and fall] of interactive white boards. With tablet availability and handheld power in each of our learner’s hands, what is happening with these boards that are supposed to revolutionize our teaching? Nothing. They hang on the wall as the world’s most expensive piece of whitespace.

The problem isn’t with the technology. Technology is a thing…it can’t help or save a school. For that matter, it can’t make a school fail. What it can do is give teachers a chance to do something better than they used to. But, in order for that to happen, the leaders in our school systems have to recognize that meaningful and innovative use of technology only comes with the proper professional development and investment in staff learning resources.

I am not the first person to write about this, nor will I be the last. But, as we move into a more technological society and a more polarized society over education, we as teachers and administrators must recognize that an investment in technology only has supplemental value. The innovation that technology is so often heralded for for is already in the building, waiting for its investment.

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You can read more of Ira’s thoughts and research on his blog, SpeEd Change

  • Kim

    This is so true – I have a lot of technology resources available at my school. I have a class set of CPS student response clickers, a Mobi interactive pad, an Interwrite board, two classroom computers, a document camera, just about every Vernier probe ever made. How much of it do I use? So little. Our tech person’s idea of training is “Here you go – here’s the stuff. Figure out how to use it on your own.”

    • Craig Hill

      If I had that equipment with no support I would ask the students to help you figure it out. They would love to.

      • Brian Bennett

        I agree with Craig. Kids can be our most valuable resource when it comes to learning new technology sometimes. And most of those times, it takes us being willing to let them play with it rather than being paranoid about them using it at all. They can learn things and then share with their peers (or you).
        I would also add, though, that you’re right, Kim. There should be more support when the tools are distributed rather than just handing them over.

  • Rick Jackson

    Great post. As we spoke about this weekend, technology can be a very powerful tool, but it remains a tool. Just as a textbooks, a pencil, or a straightedge is a tool, so is a laptop or a smartboard. It really comes back to the teaching being done and the effectiveness of the use of the tools.