Monday, January 31, 2011

Put Technology in Classrooms but Not at the Expense of Kids

Many school leaders realize the world is changing with technology ubiquitous, and schools need to keep pace by providing learning environments rich with technological tools and on-line resources. But the conversation on the topic is increasingly difficult this year with school budgets under siege. Nearly every state in our union is laboring with how it can provide adequate funding for its schools.

Many recognize the significance of placing mobile research tools in the hands of students in a one-to-one, high-tech classroom environment. However, we struggle for how to do this when our funding is dwindling. In our rush to try to find a solution to these challenges, let us not forget that some of our students are suffering the worst during our nation's economic downturn.

Some schools, unable to raise the funds for one-to-one laptops, are looking at using the students' own cellular telephones in the classrooms. It seems that nearly every student has one, and sometimes those students whom you would least expect have the most sophisticated phones. But we cannot let these initial impressions confound us. Many families are struggling during this time. It is not a given that all students have cell phones and all can afford them. Some students stay very quiet because of their embarrassment that their families cannot afford such gadgets.

I believe firmly in the right of every child in the United States to a free public education. It is no longer free if there are daily user fees attached to devices the students must bring to class. There is a wide range of cell phones: from smart phones, to media phones where students pay data charges, down to track phones where students buy their minutes in advance and pay for every text message. Is it free if a student has to pay on a daily basis to participate in class?

Cell phones should be allowed in school. Our school allowed them early on, and our students have learned to use them appropriately. But cell phones are not the solution to our classroom technology needs.

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