Are Schools Embracing Cheap Technology Too Quickly?

Because the price of consumer technology like personal use electronic tablets have fallen in recent years, many schools used the opportunity to purchase a large number of such gadgets for students to use in aid of learning. However, questions are now being asked if the education establishment is not moving too fast and too soon to digitize their classrooms, and if some vital parts of learning aren’t being lost in the bright glitter of an iPad screen.

Patrick Gray, writing for Tech Republic, is by no means a Luddite. He is a technology enthusiast and believes that judicial application of tech to academics can do wonders. It’s hard not to be blown away by everything that a Windows or an Android tablet can now make possible, especially considering how rapid the progress has been. But more is needed to improve the quality of our schools than some silicon miracle.

Despite being the beneficiary of technology at school, I’m not sold on the concept of equipping every student with a tablet, allowing Wikipedia to be used as a primary source, and YouTube videos of underwater life substituting for another high point of my elementary school career: donning rubber boots and netting tadpoles and water bugs under the auspices of science. Tablets and technology, in general, seem as if they should be an accelerator for competent instruction. However, in the United States, they’re too often employed as a replacement for it.

Those school leaders who hope that the companies themselves could add a little clarity may be asking the wrong people. After all, many of them – Apple in particular – have been grooming children since before they started school just so they can demand Apple products when they got to the classroom. For Apple, says Gray, the education market isn’t strictly about improving education. It is chiefly about turning Apple-using students into Apple-using adults.

And what is the result of all this growth of technology in schools?

Will a generation educated on tablets miss the benefits of experiential learning, dryly observing iTunes University classes on chemistry rather than inhaling the sulfuric odor of hair burnt by Bunsen burner-fueled antics? On the other hand, I wonder if perhaps there were someone like me three decades ago, lamenting the invasion — in meticulous handwritten cursive, of course — of noble institutions of learning by Apples, Commodores, Tandys, and the occasional IBM PC. I would have scoffed at this curmudgeon who felt I could learn logic without the crutch of GW-BASIC.