A self-described “technology optimist” writing in the New York Times says that it’s time to “reconsider how large a role technology can play in changing education”.
He advocates for the expansion of that role because of how “new Web education networks can open the door to broader changes” and “the emphasis can shift to project-based learning”.
The educational bottom line, it seems, is that while computer technology has matured and become more affordable, the most significant development has been a deeper understanding of how to use the technology.
Very nice! If only it was happening.
However, if he really believes that all of this is going on in most US schools – not to mention stating as fact that “the ratio of computers to pupils is one to one” – then he really is an optimist.
Certainly there are some classrooms where students are using computers and networks to create and communicate, guided by teachers who understand how to foster real learning through those “web education networks”.
And then there are the vast majority where the standard model remains in which the teacher and the textbook remain the dispensers of knowledge and student access to most networks is highly censored or blocked.
That includes thousands of classrooms in our overly large school district, where the major emphasis on the use of technology this fall will be yet another expensive instructional management tool whose primary purpose is boosting test scores and keeping schools off the NCLB hit list.
Although I do draw some optimism whenever I read examples, such as those in this essay, of how teachers are changing the basic structure of their classrooms through the use of technology, most of those are still very much aberrations.
For example, the author includes the story of how officials in Indiana were excited by a program called the New Technology Foundation and sent some educators to observe in some California schools where it was being used.
Last year, one teacher in the state “signed up for the new project-based teaching program at her school”.
In Indiana, the number of schools using the foundation model will increase to six this year, and an additional dozen communities have signed up for the next year, said David Shane, a member of the state board of education. “It’s caught fire in Indiana, and we’ve got to have this kind of education to prepare our young people for the future in a global economy that is immersed in technology.”
I guess considering the glacial pace of American education reform, that could be considered “catching fire”.
It’s hardly a blip, however, when compared to the accelerating rate of change in the way technology is used for communication, collaboration, learning out there in the real world.
Making it very hard to remain optimistic.