I (Michayla) read this article about how a high school in Pennsylvania is integrating technology use into the classroom. They’re not just using smart boards or school-owned laptops. They are letting kids use their personal smart phones and tablets in the classroom.
The article says that this new policy is “an attempt by the district to come to terms with fiscal realities.” There is simply not enough money to provide every child with a laptop or tablet. The idea is that allowing kids who own smartphones, tablets, or laptops to use them in school would free up the school to purchase devices for kids who do not own one.
This is quite a paradigm shift. Most schools have a strict “no-phone” policy. However, according to the article, educators are recognizing the need for kids to know how to use these devices properly- whether that is how they use it to find information or how they use it to interact with others.
But wouldn’t opening the door to personal devices being used in the classroom create a flood of issues with it? Sure. I appreciate how this school is addressing that question, though. Their answer? They recognize that they don’t know everything about how allowing these devices in the classroom will affect the education experience. They are doing what they can to safeguard that experience, but they also know that this is something they will need to address as issues arise. They are not letting fear of the unknown keep them from trying something new. Like the article says, “As with any new program, there are growing pains.”
This high school requires students to register their devices with the school and only use the school’s network (which blocks access to specific web content). But what is a student with a 3G data stream going to do if they are really determined to access something? Circumvent the school’s network, of course. Educators are going to have to learn how to handle those situations properly.
What is the benefit to allowing students access to technology in the classroom? First, this generation does not know life without the Internet. It is part of the way they gain information and interact with each other. This affects the way they study, the way the process information, and how they connect ideas. It’s taking how they learn information in every day life, and incorporating that into the learning experience of the classroom. Second, it’s accomplishing one of the principals that many schools are adopting: “real-world learning” and more engaged learning (critical thinking and problem solving vs. rote memorization). Third, technology use has opened up incredible opportunities for special needs children to learn and develop. I used to babysit an autistic child very regularly when I was a high school student, and it excites me beyond words to think of what will be possible for him as an adult because of technology.
Are there going to be issues because of these devices showing up in the classroom? Absolutely. Are there going to be downsides? Of course. But schools can’t really know what those will be specifically until they try something new.
How has technology effected your child’s learning experience? What do you see as the benefits and negatives?