Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Reality of Tech in Schools

Dan outlines the problems you actually run into in many high schools:

4. Our mobile computer lab a) comprised just fifteen laptops, and b) was available for check-out only once a week, c) if that.
5. Kids lost work. I had them send their Excel files to themselves and then download the attachment the next day. Trouble was kids sent old files to themselves or they named files computer arsenic like "<<xxxx….davidsfeltronz!!!….xxxx.xls>>" which put both Excel and Gmail into simultaneous cardiac arrest.
6. I overestimated my students' computer fluency. Name it: locating saved files, opening programs, using a trackpad, using modifier keys, sending e-mail. These tasks all required constant, patient re-explanation. Missed that mark by a country mile.
7. None of them had used Excel before. Ever. Many didn't have it at home. One triumph of this project — recognized by a lot of students — is that my kids are now somewhere in the top quintile of Excel users. This will doubtlessly prove useful again in their lives — not in the when-will-we-ever-use-this-in-real-life? sense, like they won't be able to find food or shelter without Excel, just that it will open up a lot of interesting opportunities.

If you don't understand this, most of what you write about ed-tech policy is fantasy.

Also, the proposition that we can solve this problem by spending more money while following the same IT strategies that got in this already expensive mess is an even greater fantasy.

You are also delusional if you don't think that it is a grave problem that high school students can't do the above.

2 comments:

Bill said...

This is a very common scenario.

I try to juggle the reality of educational-technology (as this post succinctly illuminates) and all the hyperbole about the greatness of technology.

Yea, ok, I get it. Technology is this great thing - and are many genuinely cool things we can do with technology - but my kids don't know how to create a basic formula in excel, support is lacking, and there is a profound lack of understanding about technology in many schools.

Thank you for posting this.

Ben said...

It's frankly amazing that this doesn't get talked about more. Maybe the people who talk about everything else but this just come from some other kind of school, one where everything just works.

I've decided to stop feeling badly that I haven't managed to lead a web 2.0 revolution at my school. If I've simply provided a functional, available, and friendly infrastructure for our users, I should feel pretty good about that.