I had made up my mind that I was going to write today. I had no idea what I was going to write about, until I happened upon a tweet/retweet from Doug Johnson and Donna Baumbach, two library influencers whom I deeply respect. Their tweet led me to a post by Audrey Watters, who asks if it is time to give up on the idea of computers in the classroom.
Watters offers the premise that computers once were renegade, that they could democratize education. Now, she argues, they are part of establishment, a means of control and surveillance. They are part of an ever-growing industry that aims to make the white man big bucks.
I can hardly disagree. Each year we sign a contract designed to protect us, our students and the school system from bad choices made in an Internet gone amok. Our computers are locked down to the point that we cannot use the webcams for collaboration as our software may have intended. We cannot use wikis and blogs without imperial oversight. Everything teachers want to do that is creative must pass through administrative channels. Our choices, then, are to risk asking permission and being refused, or to claim ignorance and ask forgiveness. I choose plan B.
Our schools employ Technology Integration Specialists whose job is to help teachers find resources and employ them with their students. Much of their time, however, is taken by “administrivia-” setting up grade books, maintaining web pages, attending meetings about the upcoming test, implementing the practice sessions for the upcoming tests, and of course, administering the tests. They are not invited to grade level planning meetings where they could offer expertise to classroom teachers or even offer to help.
Don’t get me wrong: I strongly believe in computers in the classrooms, and I support the Technology Integration Specialists initiatives as vital to today’s education. But I do admire Watters for boldly stating how such an innocent initiative has become a tool of the corporate world and the education machine itself.
Certainly, computers in education (technology in education) is not the only part of education that has been commercialized to the point of insanity. The whole standards-based testing movement has become a huge industry that benefits no one in education – not administrators, teachers or students. But someone is making big bucks, or these initiatives would have been discarded.
How do we get off this merry-go-round? Certainly not by getting rid of computers in the classroom, but perhaps by adopting the renegade spirit that brought them to education in the first place. Do what is right and engaging with the tech tools you have –and ask forgiveness.