Learn WITH Technology

by Jean Tower


In a recent blog post on School CIO, Gary Shattuck compares learning from the computer to learning with the computer. It is an important distinction.

There are those who view technology in schools as an opportunity to sit students in front of devices and have them learn from online courses, videos (like Khan Academy videos) and content-specific applications. They assume that if we do more of this, then we can become more efficient machines of education and can lower our per pupil cost by cutting some educators.

I, like many of my fellow EdTech leaders, see technology as a tool with which we can better engage students, enhance teaching and learning, individualize and personalize learning, and accelerate achievement. I don’t see technology replacing teachers or enabling schools to reduce the number of educators. Instead, it enables us to do our jobs better and more efficiently. Technology provides students with opportunities to create products and share them with the world, to collaborate online, and to communicate beyond the walls of the classroom or school.

That’s not to say that technology won’t help us save money. I think that it already does. We use much less postage, print fewer flyers and newsletters to go home, and offer progress reports and report cards through an online parent portal, which saves toner, paper, envelopes, postage and time.

Moreover, all of our systems converge in technology. It’s quicker to answer what doesn’t need technology in schools than what does. We use technology to – – track student data, schedule classes, record student grades, create bus routes, check out library books, control the heat, submit maintenance request tickets, keep inventory, manage budgets and purchases and payroll, maintain special education plans, sell school lunches, pay for kindergarten online, help high school students through the college selection process, secure the doors to our buildings, send voicemail to email, and so much more – there is almost nothing information technology (IT) doesn’t touch. It makes us more efficient and helps us run the business side of schools. I believe that every person who reads this can add yet another system that schools manage using IT. These are places where IT can and does save us money – operationally.

Educationally, the promise of technology is not to cut teachers and save money – it is to better serve our students and to provide them with 21st century opportunities to learn, grow, and participate in global citizenship.





{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Keith Young December 6, 2013 at 8:45 am

Very well stated.

Jeff Kessler December 7, 2013 at 10:55 am

Jean, most of what you are describing is how technology has made the infrastructure that supports the teacher and the student more efficient. This use of technology is substituting for paper and pencil. The tasks you describe remain, mostly, the same.
The promise of technology in education, the “…student-centered classroom…” Gary mentions, will require change to centuries of school tradition.

Jean Tower December 9, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Jeff – I absolutely agree. The distinction I was making was that technology may reduce costs on the operational side, but that I would not expect it to save us money or staff positions in teaching. That work continues to require HUMAN expertise.

Jean Tower December 9, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Thanks, Keith. I think some people want to apply business cost analysis upon technology in education and it isn’t always a good fit.

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