Government officials and state lawmakers are pushing to try to get more technology in classrooms and to the families of students. Many believe that a rise in the number of technological resources may help better the quality of a student’s education.
Some officials believe that such a measure should be started as early as preschool or kindergarten in a child’s life, writes Benjamin Wood for The Desert News. Many young children are out into a low quality day care or sit in front of a family member or neighbour’s TV while their parents work. This is a missed opportunity for the child to learn and strangles their potential. Children learn easiest at young ages. Wood quotes Libby Doggett as saying:
“‘I think high-quality early education is an essential foundation for every child,’ said Libby Doggett, a deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education. ‘Every child is born with great potential, and we’ve got to give them the opportunity to develop that.’”
Some people worry about the cost of adding more technology and if the outcome will make the cost worth it. New technologies such as computers and tablets cost school districts millions of dollars. According to Wood, some wonder if the technology will distract students from real learning and others wonder if the technology will all too quickly become obsolete. Utah is slowly adding pilot technology programs to see how students and educators take to them before making them a state-wide investment.
The other problem is making sure that educators and parents are familiar with the new technology, says Wood. If they are not, it will be nigh impossible for them to help students with their work or teach with the new technology.
“It isn’t just technology, and it isn’t just software. You’ve got to invest in your people,” she said. “If you’re not going to provide the training and the support for the teachers and the parents to learn to use the technology, then it’s really been wasted.”
Another problem with new technology is paying for it. The federal education budget spends less than 1% on research and development of new educational technologies, reports Stephanie Simon of Politico. Because the federal government seems uninterested in funding new technology development for schools, the private sector has stepped in.
The Department of Education is putting together a “developer’s toolkit.” It will be a guidebook for entrepreneurs looking to create technology especially for the education market. It will include what teachers need from technology, how student learn best with technology, and how apps are used in classrooms.
As far as the apps are concerned, there is yet another issue. Many apps collect student and player data. The data helps the app developers tailor the app to individual students, but so much student information going to a third party makes parents and educators nervous. Simon quotes one official as saying:
“’When you’re talking about student data, we’ve got to be really careful that we’re open and transparent about how the data is used,’ Culatta said, ‘and we have to be really, really careful that we’re not breaking trust’ with parents.”
The bottom line is that technology is useful and aids in the learning process, but lawmakers need to weigh that against rising costs and student privacy risks.