As I have been preparing for the upcoming school year my thoughts keep turning to the use of technology in my classroom. I have been thinking of the issues that I will, and probably many educators will need to overcome. Here are some of my thoughts:
1. Lack of funding. Many schools have been repeatedly underfunded in areas in which directly impact education. Most schools are running on computers that are outdated and that most of us would not keep around at home, but they are ok for the education of our children. The computer that sits on my desk at school is running Windows 98, with 256 mb of RAM; not a terrible machine, but certainly not what the business world uses (which by the way is who should have a vested interest in students coming out of high school with better skills). Most of the computers in the building are of the same specs. Luckily we have a lab or two that is more up to date than W98 computers but they are mainly consumed by Computer Aided Drafting and Business/Computer classes.
2. Mundane use of technology. PowerPoint is nothing more than a fancy overhead projector and researching via the web is merley faster use of books and encyclopedias. However, I am afraid that most students use of technology centers around these. I am not undervaluing these aspects but it is unfortunate that education seems to be lagging on using technology to enhance thinking instead of dolling up presentations and research papers.
3. Lack of preparation. I am entering my 13th year of public education. When I starting my teaching career I believe that I was prepared to handle the technology of the day. In other words I could type and flip the on/off switch on the overhead. However, as technology has changed I don’t think that teacher prep has. New teachers are still doing things the same way that the teachers they are replacing have done for many years. Again, I am not really slamming the old ways too much. They were good enough to educate me and you. However, technology has got to be more prevelant in our classrooms if we want to continue to produce the kinds of people needed to keep America great. By the way, who decided that keyboarding “typing” was not important enough to make sure that kids can actually type? Many of my students are amazed when they see me actually typing and not pecking at the keyboard. Does anyone remember “home” keys?
4. Lack of Support. The focus of my thoughts here are from the companies producing games. Gaming is huge in our young people society. X-Box, Cube, PlayStation, and PC based games have grown to unbelievable heights in our world. The technology needed to run these games is possessed by millions of young people and the entertainment value of them is very high. I enjoy them (read my earlier post about Civ IV). However, it is frustrating and worthy of criticism that there are very few products out there to easily integrate in to the public school classroom. Most games are too graphic in nature to justify for use in the classroom. If they are not too violent then they take hours and hours of game play to finish a game. I understand games like Civ are designed for entertainment, which they do very well. But where are the games designed for education? Especially games at high school or college level? There is obviously a push by some, me included, to get the word out on serious games…..but the lack of product for teachers to use in the classroom, in essence, equals a lack of support by the makers of games.
5. Unwilling to change. Is the system broke? That is a big question with room for much dialogue. However, I am willing to bet the face of education in the USA has not changed in 50 years. Kids that graduate today are essentially going through the same educational processes that I did when I walked across the stage to Pomp and Cicrumstance in 1986. What is really sad is that when I shook hands with the principal in 86 that is was not much different than when my father graduated in 1960. Institutions are slow to change and public schools certainly fit the bill.
Obviously it is summer time which gives me more time to ponder the difficulties of life. Also, football hasn’t officially started so my mind hasn’t turned into football mush, which is when everything in life is considered on the basis of how it will impact football. It is amazing how many good football thoughts happen at church and written on the bulletin, a restaurant and written on a napkin, or while cutting grass and I have to stop….come inside and write it down.