When I started working as a middle school math and science core teacher fifteen years ago, not many of us had computers in our classrooms, for that matter not many of us had cell phones. In fact it was a time when only 36% of American households owned a cell phone (The Wall Street Journal, 2009) and only 26% of American families had personal computers (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2001), and those that did used them for business purposes primarily.
Times have changed, I now work at an elementary site. And 91% of American households have cell phones (Rainie, 2013), with over 75% of Americans owning personal computers (File, 2013). As educators we have an obligation to teach children to be computer literate, to be knowledgeable and critical consumers of online information and media, as well as to prepare them to be responsible digital citizens.
In my mind the poignant question is not “is it worth the hype?” but rather, “why would we not want to incorporate technology into our classrooms and schools?” I do believe that technology needs to be brought into our educational institutions responsibly and consistently in order to meet the needs of the current generation and future generations.
How can we as educators help to facilitate these changes? Well, luckily there are many websites and blogs geared towards making the task of integrating technology easier for the administrator, educator and parent, such as Edutopia. The ongoing discussions at these websites are very useful. Some schools are integrating technology in very innovative ways utilizing SmartBoards, iPads, Chromebooks, and students computers while using Open Educatioanl Resources, as well as implementing educational programs aimed at helping students work individually at their own level in math and/or reading. Some particularly popular programs in our district are Successmaker and IXL.
How can we do this with the least amount of strain fiscally? The financial piece is a very real obstacle for many school districts across America that are already cash poor. At my own school the Parent Teacher Association is currently footing the bill for much of the equipment and upkeep, and a partnership between teachers and the PTA has been established to assist when technical difficulties arise. Another solution is the use of personal devices which the students bring in.
There may be a lot of hype regarding technology, but it is worth the investment for the future.
U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration. (2001). Home computers and internet use in the united states: august 2000. Retrieved from: https://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/p23-207.pdf
Rainie, Lee. (2013). Cell phone ownership hits 91% of adults. Retrieved from: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/06/06/cell-phone-ownership-hits-91-of-adults/
The Wall Street Journal. (2009). Cellphone ownership soared since 1998. Retrieved from: http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2009/11/27/cellphone-ownership-soared-since-1998/
File, Thom. (2013). Computer and internet use in the united states: population characteristics. Retrieved from: http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/p20-569.pdf