Ed Tech Skeptic

I guess I would characterize my attitude with regard to technology as skeptical. Why should school districts throw all this money into technology when at the same time teachers and others are losing benefits, when teachers are being asked to teach in cities as hyperinflated as San Francisco in an increasing number of unprotected part time and unsecured positions, and when schools are being shut down due to lack of funding?

Ideally, it would be nice to say that we could have both technology and everything else. However, I feel that money is a fixed resource, not in unlimited supply, and that there are decisions, made at the upper echelons of district offices, that mandate where the money should be spent, and that these decisions take money away from one thing to give it to another. Instead of spending money to hire more teachers or give teachers more opportunities to attend subject-area conferences; to create grants to do research; or to provide for sabbaticals so that teachers are energized, competent in their fields, and ready to tackle the tough job of teaching, the districts across this country seem to be setting a higher priority on incorporating technology in the classroom. Certain districts give every new teacher in some schools a laptop and ask that they go off and put it to good use, while laying off teachers in other schools. That is one incentive being used by an unnamed school district in the Bay Area to promote their plan of action for shut-down and reopened failing schools. Meanwhile class sizes stay the same.

Sure people get paid more if they know how to use technologies like Excel or Access. Well this may be true, but students who have attended Ivy League universities get paid a substantial amount more than those who did not attend them, and on average having a larger vocabulary translates into higher earnings for everyone across the board. Why, therefore, don't we set aside funds for Etymology classes to teach students key word roots for medical, law, and other fields? Oh that’s right, now we are talking about an ideal world. Besides in my opinion knowing technologies such as these is so basic as to not really translate into much more than 21 st century secretarial skills. For students this technology is somewhat useful but not entirely, especially when students have no means to practice technology use at home because of a lack of resources. Even under the ideal circumstances, with a computer in every classroom, this still doesn’t give students enough opportunity to practice what they learn.

Is the solution then, as many suggest, to increase funding for technology in the classroom? Is that really the solution — more computers in every classroom at the cost of valuable resources being used in one sector but not in another to meet urgent needs. With poverty being the biggest obstacle to not only students but also teachers devoting the time to learning technology, should we really suggest that governments - city, state, federal, district — allocate more funding to technology? Why not give poor students business acumen to help lift themselves out of poverty? Why not give teachers more chances to be as up to date and educated in their fields as possible? Someone visiting the United States for a short time once said to me that she was surprised at how poorly qualified some teachers are in their respective fields. She was from Eastern Europe and noted that in her country nearly everyone teaching at the high school level held master's degrees in their subject area. Furthermore, what does it suggest when, in another example, the parents of a family of five child music prodigies decides to take them out of school because, according to their calculations, too much time is wasted in school, between homeroom, moving to and from class, etc. Are we to add to the list of time-using factors mandatory typing practice? After all, in a different decade such skills would have been taught at a secretarial college, why shouldn't they still, or why shouldn't students who can, seek them out on their own. Whatever it boils down to, keyboard practice isn't going to get more minorities, special education students, or poverty-stricken children into college.

Perhaps I am selfishly lashing out an education system that seems bankrupt because it belongs to a country with deficits, a country made up of corporations that break promises to workers by failing to pay pensions, and where increasingly students are defaulting on student loans. And what happens at the top mirror what trickles down to and flourishes at the bottom, because when school districts can't manage their money, it fails to become priority that they should teach students to manage theirs or to acquire wealth. Giving every new teacher a new computer instead of sending poor girls to business summer camps, where they can learn to use technology but in meaningful and purposeful ways to elevate their own poverty, is a shame. The reason why laptops are being given but not summer camps is because it is easier to be technology pushers than educators or reformers of society. That is a sad fact. The real work is work that takes more than technology; it takes human power, valued teachers, and kids enlightened with ideas by teachers motivated and taken care of. They in turn will take care of society's children by teaching and inspiring them.

Email:Poyan Lotfi