Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Investing in Tools Rather than Craft

Even before I had any interest in promoting educational technology, I was astonished by how much more willing school officials were to buy tools  than invest in training for teachers to use the tools.  Typically, a technical expert or administrator who has never actually taught with  recent (or any!) educational technology will buy the latest gizmos for their buildings.

Then they wax astonished when it isn't being used. What is more, the check writers want to purchase cheap gadgets with little attention to ease of use. Consequently, when a school newspaper reporter contacted me recently for a reaction to the Detroit Public School's expenditure of $49.4 million of Federal stimulus funds to purchase 40,000 new netbook computers, I had this response:

I am very skeptical of the purchase.  A number of school systems have made enormous equipment purchases-- often based on price point, alone.  Then, somehow, the teachers and students are supposed to magically go about the business of learning how to compete in the 21st Century global marketplace.  Professional development and training are absolutely essential in order for the technology to get used.  Unfortunately,  investment in p.d. is gravely lacking throughout our educational system.

It is all too typical that the people who write the checks suppose that the gadgets themselves will change the instructional paradigm.  They have it backwards-- the people working with the kids have to be reeducated to see the incredible possibilities of the tools.  In terms of quickly moving DPS to higher tech, it would have been better to buy iPod touch labs, allowing the teachers and kids to get going with a technology they could master in 48 hours.  But it sounds so much more serious if the kids have "computers", never mind that support is lacking for their integration into the curriculum.

Am I being too cynical?

Flickr CC photo by leo.prie.to

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