To Tech or not to Tech
01/30/15 - Editorial by Renee Wilkins
To tech or not to tech? That is the question. Many schools across the nation jumped on board with the one-to-one initiative, moving students to IPads instead of textbooks. Some say that incorporating technology into the classroom engages our tech-savvy kids; others believe textbooks are the old standard to stick with. One thing is clear to parents who have had children spanning the last 10 years in RRPS - textbooks have slowly vanished from our students’ homework routines. Paper, too, has disappeared. Like water in the Mojave Desert, paper is gold to teachers who are given paper rations and have to come out of pocket for the rest.
Acknowledging that cost is paramount, let’s assume for a moment that over the course of 3 years there is a break-even point between the use of textbooks/paper and computer tablets. Moving entire school systems to this format is no easy task; teachers are already consumed with student assessment tests and fear losing their jobs because of poorly performing students. Understandably, some view incorporating this technology as burdensome, but there are lessons to be learned from those who have gone before us.
Some school districts that have been using IPads are now switching to Chromebooks because they are much cheaper to purchase and maintain, and the learning curve for the teachers is not as high with PC. Due to the strain of training teachers to fully utilize tablets, schools are easing the transition by picking one grade to start with as a pilot program. Other considerations are the possibility of damage and theft.
Opponents also argue that students who learn from physical textbooks retain more because of the way the brain processes the information they see. Proponents believe that technology encourages kids because it is the medium they are already immersed in and can expand upon. Many teachers are already independently incorporating technology by having students use their smart phones during class to take interactive quizzes. If fully utilized and mastered, there are endless potential learning tools with tablets.
Every generation has those who resist or embrace change. “Tablets vs. textbooks” is our modern day version of “horse and buggy vs. automobile”. There is always a trade-off. I, myself, went kicking and screaming from the texture and scent of real books to the cold slim lines of Kindle convenience. But I did go. It’s where the next generation has already been and won’t likely return from.
Whether the funding for this transition is comparable or equitable remains to be seen, yet lingering in the air like rotten eggs is the amount of waste inherent in government, evident in the hundreds of computers recently purchased by RRPS for the sole purpose of administering the PARCC exam (another assessment test).