Lance Scranton: Textbooks or technology?
June 23, 2015
When budgets are tight and declining student enrollment is a reality, it can be unsettling. When I was hired to replace an English teacher 18 years ago, the high school boasted over 850 students. When we went on field trips or sporting contests, coaches were given money to defray the cost of student meals. A 3 year cycle to replace textbooks was the norm and each department had money to spend on supplies and classroom materials. Teachers were paid to receive extra training and regularly sent to different workshops and clinics to help stay abreast of current methods that would best help them in the classroom. Teachers were the focus of training and trusted to do what was best for students.
But that has all changed. Student population is decreasing and per pupil funding has not risen to meet the demands of administrative desires, teachers are constantly being asked to do more teaching with fewer resources and extra-curricular activities have become a pay-as-you-go system for parents.
As technology has increased its footprint on just about every area of teaching, there is plenty of student resource, teacher evaluation and budget frustration to go around. New data-driven evaluation systems put pressure on administrators to collect laborious amounts of data on each teacher and force teachers into a punitive mindset when being evaluated. Teachers sit through long evaluative meetings and wade through miles of data to determine their value on a never-ending conglomeration of categories designed to find any weakness an evaluator chooses to focus on.
With the increased use of technology, considerable expenses are incurred to make certain the computers and hardware are up-to-date and working correctly, servers are functioning, networks are dialed in and websites deemed inappropriate are filtered.
The latest technology is an iPad, which is being touted as the requisite tool for exponentially increased learning opportunities for students. Anyone can find more than enough evidence to support the claims of the iPad supporters. I use an iPad daily as a teacher in my classroom to execute a variety of tasks and have the capability to project the screen onto my smartboard. It really is an effective tool, and I think their use could be extremely beneficial. However, when technology doesn't work and it's all you have… a textbook doesn't tell you the website isn't available or the hardware doesn't support the flash player or the information is not available. It has happened often, when my technology presentation breaks down and I scramble to find some good old reliable textbooks to save the day or use the five computer labs we have available to support the lesson.
I won't be getting rid of the textbooks in my classroom anytime soon but having some iPads wouldn't hurt… as long as technology doesn't let us down. Regardless, technology or textbooks won't stand in the way of me doing everything I can to deliver challenging instruction. Maybe we could institute a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy and have a few iPads available for those who don't have a device already. Just an idea… it might even help the budget issues.