Schools have a lot of challenging decisions to make. Cut the PE program to save academics? Switch to merit-pay? Ditch the books and embrace technology? Budgets are limited for schools across the nation and many are aware of how their students’ test scores could be the key to unlocking the extra dollars that may hold students’ future, their teachers’ futures, their school’s future and the future economic health of the United States.
So why would anyone consider making changes that could adversely effect student scores and therefore funding? Because, like most risks, it might also be the answer.
New technology is a worry that costs schools money, alters the curriculum, requires a great deal of teacher time and focus and doesn’t come with a guarantee to boost students’ scores or secure educators’ positions. However, choosing whether or not new technology should be introduced to the class is arguably not an option. As higher education admissions and the world of work become more competitive, students will need to be technologically literate with the most current technology as will their teachers.
In the article “Schools Struggle to Balance Digital Innovation, Academic Accountability,” one school is profiled that took the technological leap with running after the goal of having a 1-1 laptop initiative that would materialize in three years. They expected an “innovation dip,” as students acclimated to the new digital curricula. However, in the three years it took the initiative to take off, the district went from ranking 30th in the state to the fourth. Educators found students were quick to latch onto the new digital tools because they were relevant.
Schools want their students to succeed. And if it was guaranteed that they would get positive results from replacing their curriculum with a digital one, they might be more ready to accept it. But, the relationship between academics and technology is still a new one and without definitive proof of increased academic achievement, it’s a gamble some educators aren’t willing to take.
One little discussed factor in this debate is the way many students—especially those in low income areas—spend their time out of school and at night. Many of these high school students don’t spend much time on task studying to develop challenging skill sets that will truly allow them to be college ready. This is due, in part, to the fact that most schools have “class sets” and don’t allow students to take their books home at night. If students have access to computers, they can use on-line study guides, write their own opinions in response to YouTube video and create a lesson to present to the class on a topic assigned by the teacher. Interactivity, time-on-task at home and the ability to see course work and projects through to the discovery and completion stages prepares students for increasingly more complex work in the largely self-paced environment of college where every one hour of class should be met with three hours of study.
Experts say schools have to find a balance; and the only way they’re going to do that is through trial and error. In the same article, Christopher Dede, a professor of educational technology at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, uses a hospital analogy to explain the balance needed between innovation and education. Imagine a hospital with a high death rate that refuses to try new, modern practices because they don’t know the outcome or if their will be a down time before seeing results. He says, “people would be upset because they’re maintaining a bad situation under the guise of being accountable.”
Incorporating technology into the curriculum shouldn’t replace books, class discussions, group projects, hand-written assignments, and other tools of yesterday’s classroom. Technology should enhance, supplement, and assist in learning. Educators, parents, content providers and the students themselves will all have to take responsibility for new and engaging ways to learn, to grow and reinvent learning, urgently for the present, and certainly for the future if we are to compete, thrive and lead in our challenging, interconnected global world.
LifeBound’s Virtual Academy helping rising freshmen and those who didn’t do as well as they’d hoped in their freshmen year of high school is now available at www.lifebound.com. In addition to this, LifeBound has virtual sessions for parents and will have several other topics in the next six months. Let us know other topics you would ideally like to see in this format.
“Schools Struggle to Balance Digital Innovation, Academic Accountability,” http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2011/06/15/03innovation.h04.html