Worth the Hype or Not?
On technology in the classroom
To determine whether technology is worth the hype or not, one need only ask themselves what type of world they live in now and what type of world the next generation is going to live in should present trends continue. As it is, our educational system is set up in the classical model of industrial education; or to have students learn as much as they can in the standardized day. As educational leaders, it is incumbent upon us to realize that this is not how the world works; we see that changes are abound and it is our responsibility to make our schools relevant not only to the world our students will enter, but also to the learning process.
The system we have now does not work. As far back as 1934, prominent Stanford educational researcher Ellwood Cubberly described American educational as a “manufactury” where students were prepared for a life of efficiency. DuFour et. al. wrote that uniformity, standardization, and bureaucracy became characteristic of school districts in which a small number of “thinkers” decided what was to be taught in every classroom and that those “directives” would be disseminated from school boards down through the educational bureaucracy. Teachers, like factory workers, would need strict supervision to ensure they were teaching what was mandated and that the finished products (students) were correctly moving along the assembly line from subject to subject. Observing the typical American classroom now, one would find many similarities to this stark description.
What we need now is a total revolution in how we educate our current students. Fullan presented the case in Stratosphere that integration of technological tools, in concert with sound pedagogical practices, would produce the results American educational leaders desired; a closing of the achievement gap when compared to students from other industrialized nations. This type of integration has been attempted in the past by many schools across the nation. However, absent the proper pedagogical structuring, almost all attempts have been doomed to failure. No matter how effective a technological learning tool is at teaching a skill, ultimately all electronics are supplements to an effective teacher who guides the learning process. Used properly, these technological tools become enhancers of the learning process and expose students to the types of tools they will be using both in the post-secondary educational setting and the professional setting. If the goal of public education is to prepare students for success in the world they enter as young adults, then surely we can adjust how our course of preparation such that it actually sets up our students for success.
On the question of whether technology in the classroom is worth the hype or not: I believe our world is increasingly technology-centered as the mobile age expands. Should trends continue, this is the world that will exist when our students become functioning adults. Therefore, the headlines, platitudes, and added workloads of any educational technology integration is certainly worth the hype.