Too fast with tech in the classroom?

ipadI got this great email from a great friend, whose daughter is in 5th grade. Here goes:

Her “school, and her 5th grade teacher in particular, are really big on ‘preparing kids for the new globally networked society’ – blah, blah, blah.

“As a result, parents of 10-year-olds are effectively forced to give their kids email addresses, laptops/iPads, sign them up to various online platforms (e.g., Collaborize Classroom), etc., whether or not the parents think that kind of ‘connectivity’ is appropriate for their kid at that age.

“Plus, personally, I don’t think it’s all that critical for kids to be using connective technology; a well-educated kid who is numerate and literate will have zero problem figuring out how to use connective technology a little later in life (like maybe as a [high school] sophomore…). I’d much rather have [my daughter] spend more time on basic math skills and developing face-to-face social skills than ‘collaborating with her classmates on an online homework assignment’ using an iPad the school forced us to buy and an email account we don’t want her to have.”

Now, keep in mind that my friend is as technology-literate as they come. He’s worked from home for years, using all of the technologies that come with that, and he’s also not a grump – but I get where he’s coming from. In fact, when he and I talked on the phone after he sent me this email, I too got grumpy. I asked: Does the school or the district have a plan for this technology roll out, something that lays out long-term goals and objectives and activities to meet those goals and objectives? Unsure, said my friend, as nothing’s been articulated to the parents. I asked: How about the teacher – what kind of plan has he laid out for parents, so that the use of these tools builds towards long-term outcomes for this classroom of kids? Again, unsure. My friend’s seen no sign of a plan.

Well, I’m gonna stick my neck out and guess that he’s seen no sign of a plan ’cause there is none. Nada.

I go into schools from time to time that suffer from the same ailment: Edtechnophilia. Interactive whiteboards abound, for example, but teachers use them like old-fashioned whiteboards, simply as a way to present information to a class of kids sitting at their desks. There’s nothing interactive about what I see – particularly those teachers that actually never turn on the digital/projector side of this technology and just write on the board with dry erase markers. A few questions at these schools make it obvious to me that the school or district bought and installed this technology without any long-term plan, without goals related to curriculum and instruction, teacher training, and student learning.

So, I’m with my friend: No putting the technological cart before the horse. What’s the plan for any technology’s use, not just for the classroom but for the school and/or district? How will a technology aid teaching and learning – and why’s a certain technology more effective than no technology? And, please, no more of this “digital native” explanation, as in, “Well, these kids are truly digital natives and so, naturally, digital tools are their milieu.” No, no, no: What is the plan to capitalize on these tools? In fact, which tools and when and how? And how will effectiveness of their use be measured – and compared to when not using the tools?

A lot to ask, I know, but a lot was being asked of my friend and his wife, with little to no explanation. Let’s begin with the explanation, not the iPad.

I got the above picture here.

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