I was asked to write something for our student newspaper on how our implementation of 1:1 Laptops was going at our high school. I think I went a little overboard but I thought I would put it here for everyone to see, since most of you don't subscribe to the Red and Blue. Even the student newspaper industry is dying...
I am both excited and worried about all of the new technology in the system this year. On one hand, I think it's great that our kids finally have tools in their hands to engage and stimulate their learning. On the other hand, I don't think teachers, students and parents were adequately prepared to handle the challenges that go along with implementing these tools.
And that's just what computers are: tools.
Like a book or calculator or SmartBoard, they can't replace what a good teacher can bring to the table. Not that I am a good teacher, but when I feel anxiety or frustration about kids who get error messages or have login problems, that has a negative impact on me and the students. The other problems that come with a new textbook and new curriculum are magnified when there is not sufficient time, training or guidance. In an industry where we are constantly bombarded with more testing and more paperwork, it is disheartening to add more fuel to the fire without proper preparation. Other industries don't treat their employees in that manner. They realize that their #1 resource are their employees (go watch Undercover Boss once).
That being said, I do understand the positive effects of the digital curriculum. I have seen much more engagement from students when working on problems. I have the kids sitting in groups of threes and they have been awesome at helping one another to figure out problems. That collaboration is something they are going to need when they enter the workforce and I am glad they are doing it. I love the instant feedback we get from a problem. It helps me to see where the group needs additional help and where to give an individual push. I have been doing my best to integrate those technologies and other web tools like Edmodo and Twitter the past few years, so it is nice to see us trying to catch up to the pack.
I still think the missing step is that kids need to be creating stuff, and not just working problems. It is difficult, in my PreCal class for example, to have them do anything other than learn the standards, then repeat. I want them to tackle real problems about real things and then create and collaborate with the new technology they have been given. But creating those kinds of lessons take time and resources that I simply don't have. I hope that one day the technology allows me to get back that time so I can come up with engaging and meaningful stuff for my kids.