Last September, a district just up the road from here opened a new $98 million high school with all kinds of high tech features including laptops for all the students, projectors in every room and more.
You might think the staff would be happy but that’s not the case according to Patrick Welsh, an English teacher at the school, writing in yesterday’s Post.
So, what’s the problem?
What a former Alexandria school superintendent calls “technolust” — a disorder affecting publicity-obsessed school administrators nationwide that manifests itself in an insatiable need to acquire the latest, fastest, most exotic computer gadgets, whether teachers and students need them or want them. Technolust is in its advanced stages at T.C., where our administrators have made such a fetish of technology that some of my colleagues are referring to us as “Gizmo High.”
He notes that even the young teachers complain about “technology for the sake of technology — not what works or helps kids learn, but what makes administrators look good, what the public will think is cutting edge”.
Welsh makes some good points, especially when he questions whether all the new technology is really helping to improve student learning.
What’s missing from his story, however, is any indication that the curriculum and teaching process is being changing to make full use of all the new tools.
He discusses a day-long training for English teachers at which they would “examine methods for integrating technology to deepen student understanding by increasing rigor, creating relevance and building relationships with students and among students”.
Notice that WE will be “building relationships” and “creating relevance” for students, not helping them do it themselves. In fact, I doubt anyone actually bothered to include students in any of the planning, for this inservice or the design for technology use.
Much of the rest of his complaints are pretty familiar – loss of face-to-face contact, over reliance on email for communication, devices that don’t fit my teaching style.
However, nothing in Welsh’s essay is really about technology. And I doubt that all problems with the way technology is used in his school belong solely to his district administration.
More than likely, this is yet another case of educators and politicians trying to graft technology onto the traditional classroom structure where the teacher is completely in charge of all learning.
Until that structure is radically altered in ways that take full advantage of the power of these communication and creative tools, schools will be wasting their money.
And teachers will complain about the disconnect between technology and teaching.