Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Technology: A Financial Sinkhole?

"Technology" has been a buzzword for a number of years in education.  It was the ultimate teaching tool, supp  osedly.  It was going to make learning fun, supposedly.  It was going to connect our students to a broader world, supposedly.  It would guide our society to a Utopian future where all our problems would fade away, supposedly.

In reality, technology simply does not deliver.  The computer is a perfect example.  It is the ultimate building block to allow kids to create amazing things.  Instead, it is often used as an expensive typewriter.  Or a glorified electronic textbook.  Or a tool to create the single greatest danger to our oral tradition: PowerPoint. 

Computers aren't being used as a tool that will lead to educational revolution.  They are being used as a very expensive Band-aid to hide the fact that our school systems simply do not have the capacity to educate our kids on the skills they need to be productive members of society.

Worse, we teach skills that themselves are antiquated.  We equate "cutting edge" with newer and flashier equipment, yet do the same tired lessons.  Write this paper in a word processor.  Read some websites.  Make a PowerPoint.  Our latest big innovation?  Watching YouTube videos.

Hot damn!

I think I am becoming a bit of a voluntary academic Luddite.  I am moving toward the idea of abandoning technology in schools completely.  Computers in school have become the Ritalin of the new millennium.  They pacify kids.  Kids mindlessly surfing the web do not cause problems.

Additionally, we cannot keep up with the speed of innovation.  We're teaching kids to research websites.  Why?  Anyone following technology trends understands where the Interwebs are going... mobile apps.  Powerpoint?  It destroys speaking skills.  Word processors?  Okay, that's a good one.  Let's do something more interactive, though.  How about teaching kids to blog? Now that could be useful!

Educational technology policy is poor at best.  Schools never did respond well to change... we're just not designed for it.  Our clumsy attempts at trying to integrate technology have and always will be a failing effort. 

Instead of trying to teach kids skills they needed a decade ago, let's work on the basics... the stuff that won't be obsolete in five years.  You know... writing, basic math, talking to others, negotiating, how to change a tire... the skills that really matter.

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