Who Really Benefits From Putting High Tech Gadgets in Classrooms??", Michael Hiltzik criticized U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski for promoting the adaptation of digital technology into American classrooms. He points out derisively how Thomas Edison suggested essentially the same thing in 1913 - primarily to promote a wider adaptation of the motion picture technology whose patents he then controlled. Hitzik's argument, essentially, is that the adaption of equipment like iPads and laptops takes resources away from "maintaining good teaching practices and employing good teachers in the classroom," and that our top educators have "bought snake oil" benefiting only certain corporations and private interests.
While Hiltzik may very well be correct in his assertion that at least part of this push has been driven by Apple and other corporate interests, he seems unappreciative of the deeper value in providing students with what are essentially critical tools necessary to compete effectively in the evolving modern workplace. True, an iPad in and of itself isn't a solution to any problem, but merely a means to an important ojective: to allow students to connect, collaborate, and network - to learn and use social media to accomplish their goals, obtain quality employment, or even create their own opportunities in our increasingly information-based economy.
The greatest challenge in bringing technology into the classroom is making certain that teachers are prepared to provide the proper guidance in using this connective technology. Social media, after all, isn't simply a means through which to share the minutiae of our lives -it's a means through which individuals anywhere can communicate with others worldwide, and build a network of like-minded and interested friends and/or colleagues.
These concepts seem to be largely missing in the larger national discussion about technology in the classroom. This isn't about iPads and laptops - it's about online interaction and collaboration.
Students should know about how some of their compatriots - young entrepreneurs, activists and artists - are successfully using social technology. They need to be celebrated and studied by their peers, and understood by their teachers. The question remains: who can teach a skill that is only now evolving?
Embracing technology in the classroom is only part of the challenge. Learning to use technology to build community may be the single greatest benefit.