The Philadelphia Public Schools is planning to spend $75 million next year to equip fifty of its schools as high-tech "classrooms of the future".
The plans call for wireless clocks, digital cameras, interactive computerized "whiteboards," modern desks, and marker boards to replace slate boards. Audio-enhancement systems will allow students in the rear of classrooms to hear as well as those seated up front. District officials envision a wireless environment, and each student will get some kind of computational device, likely a hand-held system that can connect to a keyboard.
For now, let’s ignore the fact that Philadelphia is having trouble just paying for basic schools need – like libraries. I’d like to know how much staff training and support is included in the $1.5 million per school. Too much money has been wasted on instructional technology over the years by buying lots of boxes and wires and assuming teachers will know how to efficiently integrate the use of the computers into their teaching (or would learn on their own). Without a great training program, much of this $75 million will be wasted.
More importantly, where is the evidence that all this stuff (wireless clocks?) will actually improve teaching and learning? It is very difficult to find any proof that saturating a classroom with high tech will, by itself, improve education. What you will find is that, in order to affect major changes in student learning, the technology must combined with a complete revision to both curriculum and instructional practice.
But high tech is still sexy and politicians standing next to lots of fancy gadgets in the classroom make great photo ops. Plus the Big Monopoly is helping to design these "classrooms of tomorrow" – and we all know they have nothing but altruistic goals when it comes to education.