Recently I was invited on to our local school’s District Advisory Committee. The goal of this group is to discuss upcoming changes with a subset of the parents. They have two sets of parents from each grade participating on the committee.1
This quarter’s meeting2 we were presented with three reports 3 for various strategies for connecting students with computers. There were different ratios represented in the documents. One report suggested a “1-to-1”, that is, one computer per student was ideal. Another report said 3 students to 1 computer showed the same learning outcomes. We were asked to split into groups and discuss the various reports and then report back to the larger group with our findings. Mind you, this is all done in about an hour.
The argument of all three reports was that student learning was either impacted with a closer connection to a computer. One report suggested moderate gains, another report showed no improvements and the third showed decreases focus and face to face participation.
In the last decade computers have impacted, or dominated, the way we:
Recently this has been accelerated with an influx of smart phone and tablets. The majority of the local high school students I interact with carry iPhone’s or an Android-based phone. A couple have “feature” (a name that is still funny to me) phones with keyboards. They are often feverishly tapping out messages to their friends. And of the two I know that have feature phones, one has a Kindle Fire and the other an iPod Touch.
There is no stopping it, computers will soon be part of every student’s day. They may not be the eMac’s of yesteryear, or even the iPad-like tablets of today. But the reality is our curriculum, reading, test-taking and discussion will primarily take place on digital devices. I don’t know how else to look at this trend.
We can pretend this is not going to happen. But this does not prepare us for the future – the inevitable digitalization of our educational-resources.
Everything costs money. There are plenty of concerns about breaking computers, losing tablets, disadvantaged families getting access. These are all legitimate concerns.
Computers are not magical. Students will not learn more or less based on a computer. They are not going to get smarter because they have a 9 inch screen in their bag.
Let’s not treat computers, tablets, smart phones or any other digital device as anything but a tool. These are amazing tools. They run software that morphs their functionality to near limitless ends.
This tool can allow for new styles of learning. Learning about new things, in new ways. There is no doubt that future student’s learning is not going be based in textbooks like we had. Maybe the idea of printing out your paper and handing it in will sound absurd?
But computers are still a tool. Without the correct understanding and knowledge of how to use the tool, it might as well be a rock. If we do not view this correctly, it is not going to advance our educational goals.
Computers are no different from a pencil. They serve a purpose. An instrument, to help accomplish a goal.
We must be careful to identify the goal we want to achieve, before we pick the tool.
Sorry for the extra details, I might reference this group again in my writings. It is the Gilbert School District Advisory Committee, often referred to as DAC. ↩
This was the Fall 2012, quarterly meeting. ↩
Unfortunately, I can not find the reports online. At the meeting we were handed a packet of information, that included these reports. I did not see enough value in the reports to save them. Their data was flimsy and contradictory when looked at in the aggregate. ↩