Yesterday, I read this article from eSchoolNews indicating that a recent survey indicated that there was a slow process in the use of educational technology in US classrooms. I have no doubt but to believe that the statistics are correct – with the current focus on testing and increasing literacy and numeracy rates, many teachers are reluctant to experiment with anything that isn’t part of the proven practices. What is heartening to read is in the list of recent entries, an entry reporting on student programmers who are solving real world problems – in this case an augmented reality solution that helps hearing-impaired people to communicate with others.
As I write this entry, I’m in Sunnyvale getting ready to present at the Computer Science Teachers’ Association’s CSIT Symposium. The CSTA is a very power advocate for the support of Computer Science teachers and this annual event inspires those who attend to fight the good fight. This organization isn’t the only advocacy group for computers and technology; if you’re a reader of this blog, you’re aware of so many others and support that’s given through subject associations.
I went for a long walk yesterday to take in the community and see what it’s like to live in this area (at least the walking distance area from my hotel) of Silicon Valley. As I tend to do, I watched a lot of people and, being the summer, there were a lot of young people. I did feel like a bit of a narc – here I am a teacher on holidays watching students doing what they’re doing and many of them had portable technologies that were in effect phones or smartphones. I found it quite interesting. After all, we hear of so many people who hold up a smartphone and proclaim, truthfully, that there is more computing power here than in the world’s first computers and that this is going to be a game changer. I’ve even got a page on my PD Wiki devoted to iPods and iPhones in the classroom.
So, with all of this power and availability and the rush of schools to deploy wireless networks so that students can use school and personal computing devices to support learning, why do we have reports like the above?
Through distrust – I’m undercover, remember – I hear and see much of the same stories. The technology is not allowed in the classroom. The primary use is texting friends and listening to music. I was kind of disappointed. I guess I thought that I might see some sophisticated things here. I thought that I was particularly clever in the use of technology myself. I had dropped into a McDonald’s for a coffee and wifi to get a current reading on the mapping program on my iPod so that I could continue my walking tour. But, kids are kids.
Then, it occurred to me that perhaps we need one more advocacy program. After all, we have them for teachers and subject disciplines, but do we have the student voice? What stories do students have to share – if they’re going to be successful in activities like the Imagining Cup, what does education need to do to enable this? Is there another perspective on this whole topic that we’re missing?