NEA Magazine: technology in every classroom?

The latest edition of NEA Today (September 2006) contains an interesting question in its debate section. It asks, Should technology be used in every classroom?

Supporting this concept is a history teacher from Tennessee, who notes that, “In almost every field of work, some type of technology is used. Students must be prepared.” The teacher goes on to note:

BY using technology in the classroom, we’re speaking their language and teaching them in a way that they might learn. Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Estrada once said, ‘If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn’.” — Keith Parker

On the opposing end of the argument, a math teacher from Virginia says that technology can become a crutch for students more than an active tool for learning. He refers to reliance on calculators for basic computations and that “Some of my colleagues in the English Department atttribute their students’ writing skills, or lack thereof, to the heavy use of instant messaging and spell check.” He argues that there is more need than ever for direct instruction by educators.

Our generation learned how to read,write, and do arithmetic by learning from our teachers’ example — with pencils, paper and our minds … Yes, technology is an integral part of this process (learning), but that does not mean it is a required component of every classroom setting.” — Timothy Kubinak

It is an interesting debate and both teachers bring up vital points. Perhaps there is a middle ground here, too, which is that not every classroom should be forced to use technology. Too many teachers feel the pressure to do so and lack either the interest or training or understanding to do a rich integration of technology tools, and the students are the ones to suffer. But for those teachers who can envision a change in the classroom for the better — either through more motivated students or critical thinking — we need to find ways to support those efforts.

On the last page of the NEA Today, there is another very interesting column from Glen Bledsoe, who worries that the data being collected through technology for administrators to created a sort of remote controlled classroom.

You will start your computer upon arrival at school each morning and find your instructions for the day waiting for you. Like a good soldier, your part is not to question but to obey. You will be measurable. Technology at last will make teachers accountable.” — Glen Bledsoe

Glen reminds us that students are individuals and not blips of data, and it is the classroom teacher who is most acutely aware of this fact. It is a fallacy to rely on software analysis to attend to our students with a wide variety of needs.