Technology in Education

With Apple’s education announcements, there has been an upswing of talk about technology and its role in education. That’s a good thing. It also happens to be something very near and dear to my heart for any number of reasons … the two most prevalent being my education degree and the fact that I now work in information technology.

They kind of go together.

This post is really just going one a bulleted list of paragraphs outlining some of my thoughts on technology in education and in the future I hope to maybe take some of those points and expound upon them a little further.

  • I think it is safe to say that technology, or the internet and computing devices really, are here to stay. Wishing them away isn’t going to change things, so hoping that you can just ignore technology in education isn’t going to change the fact that it is currently important and only going to become more so. What you can change is how you react to that reality. It is the whole “you can only change how you react to things” trope.
  • What we are doing is not working. The current curriculum around technology literacy is not good and not effective and how technology is incorporated in the rest of the curriculum is not good and not effective. This isn’t even taking into account that you can always do better.
  • The worst thing that happened for technology education was Microsoft’s dominance in the 90s. It allowed everyone to get lazy because a “curriculum” could be tailored around Microsoft and Microsoft alone and people could point at their market share and say “who else do you need”. Those days are now gone and now we have plenty of people who cannot think beyond “where is the Start menu”. Shameful, really.
  • Programming and logic courses should be offered, but not required, in every school.
  • People need to understand how technology (computers) works and also how technology interacts as well. There is no reason that a person should not understand how a computer and projector interacts with each other, how I/O (on a really basic level) works so that they can at least have a cursory understanding of what might be going wrong.
  • Open up the classrooms to a variety of devices and platforms. Choose technology that works best not technology that everyone else is using. If a lab full of Linux thin clients will do what you need and save you money … THEN. DO. IT.
  • TYPING. CLASSES. Have students typing and learning how to type from a very early age.
  • Teach technology throughout the curriculum. Want kids to learn how to set margins and tabs in a word processor? How about have them mock up an article in whatever word processor they want. Learning about large numbers and statistics? Use a spreadsheet and have them work on setting one up that will calculate totals on-the-fly. There are so many ways to do this where you give kids the leverage to learn while doing it across the curriculum.
  • 1:1 programs should be planned for an implemented pretty much everywhere. Yes, it takes planning and resources and training but it will need to be done at some point.

These are just the thoughts I can get down right now and, as you can tell, it is a lot of “stream of consciousness” prose above. There is a lot of work to do, but we have to start somewhere.

4 Replies to “Technology in Education”

  1. I could have written most all those points 25 years ago when I started teaching at age 22. Maybe with the exception of 1:1.

    Back then Microsoft had not ruined everything, but IBM PS2/25 units were installed for glorified typing and business classes. We had some Apple ][e units for apps and Pascal programming. And a couple Macs for DTP and a little graphics work. Apple ][e for simulations and ed software in grade school. But of course typewriters were still the thing in the late 1980s.

    I remember running the first twisted pair cable between my science classroom and the electronics / shop teacher. We could use some remote control software to see and control each other’s screens. We did some rudimentary printer sharing and gaming. Amazing that in 1987 we were doing some of that stuff given the times and lack of software… living in DOS and ProDOS and Mac OS System 3 world.

    Bob – you made some tremendous points. As I survey my wife’s school, I still see teachers who are clueless and kids just clamoring to do great things with technology.

    1. It really is true that there is nothing new under the sun. It is also quite alarming that the same things continue to come up over and over again.

      Disheartening to an extent.

  2. This is where the community should get involved. Some of the things you talk about are just not going to happen with traditional educators. They’re trained to teach the usual subjects (and that’s a good thing). Technology is a whole different ballgame. Technologists (quality ones) are expensive and are often not educators so the question becomes: How can we get quality technologists implementing the infrastructure and ALSO in the classroom? Then the next question I have is how can we do this in our rural area?

    I think we have the talent in the community to help schools provide some of this to our students.

    AMEN on the digital literacy. I don’t think its entirely due to Microsoft’s dominance. A large portion of the blame needs to go to the entire culture in education and business. “Learn how to use MS Office because that’s what you’ll use in a business environment!” So flawed and near sighted (and I knew that in the mid 90’s when I was in HS!). That’s not MS’s fault…it everyone’s fault because people didn’t understand exactly what digital literacy was. Now enough decision makers understand the concept that we can start moving in the right direction.

    1. Sadly, their trained to teach teaching … that’s where the bulk of their studying goes. Subject matter isn’t just secondary, it is tertiary behind passing whatever licensing exams are required for a license. I sigh.

      We do need to get more people involved, but it would require resources mainly. Resources which it seems they don’t have at the moment. So what then? I’m not sure. I do think it should be easier in rural areas because the numbers are smaller. The political capital should be less to get things implemented and the money needed should be less (you would hope).

      I think we’re thinking the exact same thing in the last part there. I don’t think it is MS’s fault (besides shoddy technology and no design chops), but their dominance allowed education to be lazy. Business also pushed for it.

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