It all started there, with one teacher, a crowded space filled with students of all age ranges – including some who may have been older than the teacher – one blackboard, and few, if any, materials for the class to work with. Jump ahead to today and the image has changed drastically.
We now have an elaborate and complex educational system that is constantly being challenged to absorb and reflect the bold new world of technology.
Too Much Technology Too Fast?
We should ask ourselves if things are moving too quickly to accommodate the variety of needs and learning environments of today’s students. Is there a middle ground between the simplicity of long ago and the powerful presence of technology in our schools today?
Before technology became such a pervading presence in our lives, we had books, paper, pens and pencils. Internet access, cell phone availability and tablet applications were nothing schools had to consider yet. Students could easily find books through the school or public library, or often borrowed them from friends or family members who had used them before.
Blank notebooks, drawing pads, sharp pencils and colorful pens unlocked imaginations and allowed children to take their creativity anywhere without having to worry about affording a laptop, high-speed wifi connections or whether or not they had enough battery power.
The simplicity of the past certainly does not mean that it was better. Still, a question worth asking is whether or not the influx of e-readers, computers, social media and the internet is set up to benefit only those who can afford. Electronic devices and gadgets, as well as connection to them, all cost money, and while many schools and families can afford them, there are many who cannot.
The Problem With Internet Access
When schools require students to have access to the internet to complete assignments and conduct research, what message does that send to families who cannot afford this luxury? Public libraries offer computers and the internet at no cost, but their hours are limited and their locations are not always convenient.
Families must arrange their own transportation, schedule visits at the convenience of the library hours, and work out any childcare or supervision arrangements.
Even in homes with a computer, problems arise. Internet access may be slow and/or unreliable, computers may be outdated and needing upgrades, and several family members may need to use the computer at the same time.
In contrast, families who can afford fast computers, reliable internet access and screen time for anyone who wants or needs it are a clear advantage educationally, aren’t they? Another point to consider is that while schools may offer after-hours homework help or computer access, very often students cannot stay after school due to work or family obligations.
Is EdTech Doomed To Fail?
With schools across the nation facing these problems, these issues of affordability for all students, is the technological revolution doomed to fail?
While there are many obstacles that need to be overcome, creative and practical solutions are happening all the time. The internet, computers, e-readers and tablets are becoming more and more affordable, and many disadvantaged schools are receiving funding and support to provide their students with electronic devices to support their learning.
What part can you play in helping technology be accessible to all students, not just those who can afford it?
Article supplied by Karen Lederer from Dominican University’s Masters in Education Program. Would you like to write for Edudemic? Join the 30 guest authors who use Edudemic as a free, easy, and fun way to get their voice heard.