Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Caught Off-Guard by the Digital Divide

I started the week thinking about yesterday's editorial in the Washington Post about a school that's "too high on gizmos." If you haven't read it yet, the editorial criticizes the Alexandria school district for purchasing new technology without first considering what tools are truly needed to improve student learning.

The problem? What a former Alexandria school superintendent calls "technolust" -- a disorder affecting publicity-obsessed school administrators nationwide that manifests itself in an insatiable need to acquire the latest, fastest, most exotic computer gadgets, whether teachers and students need them or want them. Technolust is in its advanced stages at T.C., where our administrators have made such a fetish of technology that some of my colleagues are referring to us as "Gizmo High."

(Found this article linked from Weblogg-ed and SSI K-12.)
Later that day, I interviewed someone who teaches in the Baltimore public schools. When I asked her to describe the technology situation at her school, she said that her school just recently got a Xerox machine, and that they have overhead projectors but no pull down screens. She then said that they have about one computer for every ten classrooms.

This is ridiculous. How is this the state of things? At work we spend so much time talking about SmartBoards, Web 2.0, curriculum software and technology integration it's easy to forget some times that in some schools, getting a copy machine is a technological leap forward.

Obviously just throwing money at the problem is not the answer, as the Alexandria school demonstrates. In addition to funding, districts need to be aware of what possibilities and opportunities exist so they can create a clear vision for how they want technology to support instruction. But that's easier said than done. I wonder how representative this teacher's school is of the state of technology in her district, how many districts are in similar situations, and how can we do a better job reaching out to these districts?

No comments: