Around the education/technology twitterverse, there has been a lot of hand-wringing and “I told you so s” about THIS article  on TES, “Byte the Dust”. Basically, it outlines how tens of millions of dollars/pounds of educational technology are laying around gathering dust. This follows another study which reported that children with home computers had lower test scores.

Some educators are (and I think without reading the article in full), clapping and saying – there you go, we don’t need this waste nor technology in our classrooms! The traditional approach works just as well, thank you! – Like these teachers who commented on the ELT Tech blog.

That’s sad.

For one, they didn’t read the article in full. If they did, they’d have seen there is a lot of common sense in the many quotes/responses of the teachers in those schools. I’ve outlined them below.

For two, the only thing the article highlights is how in cahoots education is with business – how education isn’t about what works but rather, who can sell and buy from whom. It is an indictment of “Edubusiness” not the use of technology in the classroom.

Technology is an essential component of education. You can’t throw out this pencil and go back to scratching with limestone. It has its place and effect/need. However, you don’t need to spend billions on fancy doohickeys, widgets and doodads from Acme Inc. This is what you need.

1. Broadband internet access and a project/screen. All schools, all classrooms.

– There are plenty of free, safe resources online for students. Web 2.0 as it grows, will only make this more so. My own content rich community is one shining example – it is ELT but you can learn everything you’d want there and it is all what is freely available on the internet, gathered and supported in one place/community/portal.

2. Teachers trained in the technology and the resources available. The overspending on useless techno gadgetry is only rivaled by the underspending on the training of teachers (and ongoing support for) in educational technology. There is a plethora of evidence that the bane of technology in education is how school administrators just throw technology into schools without any support or training.

3. Access to devices for all school children and new ways to integrate this within the curriculum. We NEED better curriculum developers in the school systems – ones with know how about technology.

4. The promotion of a new “paradigm” where learning can happen outside school hours and online AND be accredited. We have to find a way to value what students do on their own time/dime. The school system can’t continue to have 4 walls.

Here are some quotes from the article which support my contentions:

“ICT is essential in schools, but schools are in danger of buying white elephant technology,” he adds. “There are so many flash salesmen and it is important that we’re not swept into the mentality of ‘new is always the best’.”too much business in the educational pudding.

“Every school needs to think about how it uses technology.”
Technology isn’t bad, we just need to do it better.

“Teachers don’t want fancy new gizmos; they want something that does what they want it to do,” =
Keep it simple (and cheap) – a screen / computer and the internet.

“If they have a bad experience with a piece of software they tend not to go back to it,” -
Teachers need support and ongoing training in technology

He’d make different decisions about the wireless network he had installed in 2002 as it proved too slow for pupils to be able to use portable kit around the school.-  Broadband for all schools – the governments MUST do this

Mr Taylor says they are now looking to move towards tablets and hand-held devices.-
It’s about the students having access – doesn’t matter the device but get them access to one! (but I’d invest in cell phones – they are the future of educational technology and what students use every day.)

Yes, at the end of the day technology is a tool but a VERY special tool and I reject those who say that it doesn’t count. For better or worse, like the book, it is transforming how we act, interact with the world. We’d better use it as educators – for the betterment of the world and to make sure our job still counts.

To the ELT luddites out there. Take a look at my ALICE or the use of Karaoke or our Quizlet group or this phenomenal online pronunciation site – Phonetiks. Then tell me it doesn’t matter or make a difference to student learning…..

Find out more about using technology on my ELT and Tech wiki. Take a watch of the PBS doc. “Digital Nation”. Fascinating. And ponder these thoughts….

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