Is money spent on school technology money well spent?
Public education has advanced at a rapid pace with the focus on the paperless classroom. Education leaders are advancing the theory that technology can place everything on computers for learning, review and testing. This is the mantra school districts throughout the country have been marching to since the early 2000’s. This focus on creating everything electronically has been advertised as the delivery system to assist our students in becoming better learners.
We are being sucked into the educational technology black hole by focusing more and more of our educational budget on technology infrastructure, software, and hardware.
With the creation of Common Core (the federal government’s attempt at taking over our local school systems) the requirement that all state testing is done on computers to allow quick analysis and feedback to our educators has been established. Unfortunately, so far, we have not seen the promised results. Testing has been closed down on several occasions due to technology problems, and we are still testing over 10 weeks out of the school year. The testing results are taking longer to obtain by our educators than they did when we started taking state tests and used pencil and paper. Test scores are still not published in a timely manner, taking up to 9 months to produce. I am sure someone will come up with something to sell us to fix this problem. We are being sucked into the educational technology black hole by focusing more and more of our educational budget on technology infrastructure, software, and hardware. The Broward County School District passed a bond issue a few years ago to raise $800,000 for much-needed technology infrastructure and upgrades. It is comforting to know that the taxpayers of Broward County have confidence this will fix their education problems and make them a better school district. The problem with borrowing money in this fashion is the borrowing is long term while the technology purchased with it is short term. In other words, the product lasts from 3 to 5 years while the payments could last 20 or 25. Technology changes at lightning speed. Windows 7 was introduced in late 2009, six years later Microsoft is pushing everyone to upgrade to Windows 10. The problem is that sometimes that upgrade requires the upgrade of other programs, upgrade of RAM and storage. Some older machines will not operate smoothly under a new operating system. Multiply the pain and costs of upgrading one system and then multiply that across all the schools of a single school; district; county; state; country.
Some studies suggest that computers actually hurt students test scores.
Can you imagine yourself using today the computer you had 20 years ago? No, you probably couldn’t. Can you imagine yourself still making payments today on a computer you had 20 years ago? No, you probably couldn’t. I wonder if the citizens of Broward County will sign on for another $800,000,000? And teachers wonder why they cannot get a raise. More importantly, with millions spent on technology; upgrades; and maintenance; does it improve learning? If you do a search on ‘does technology improve education’ your results will show almost an equal number of results of studies that that indicate it improves education as there are studies that show it does not and some studies that suggest that computers actually hurt students test scores.
Not surprisingly, Bill Gates and his billions are a driving force behind Common Core.
This merry-go-round will get even worse when we eliminate all printed books and printed materials and have everything on electronic tablets. Just think how convenient that will be. We just need to remember to renew our licenses for access and continue to keep track of our upgrades. I am sure the Microsoft’s, Dells, Apples and CDWs of the world will be willing to work extra hard to provide us with all the technology we will demand to keep up with the changes. Not surprisingly, Bill Gates and his billions are a driving force behind Common Core. This is a never-ending gravy train created as a solution to our educational dilemma. How well is this solution working out? What will be the cost to continue down this path? Some day we will long for years past when you could pick up a book, with its printed and worn pages, and educate yourself the way our parents and grandparents did. We should ask them how good was their education in the times before technology. Maybe we already know. One thing is for sure; the price of education will continue to grow as we slide deeper and deeper into the darkness of the technology black hole.