Thursday, July 10, 2008

Schools: What Limits Their Technological Transformation?

A recent article in the New York Times cheerily reports that in the schools of the future:
  • "students will use free Internet applications to complete their classroom assignments on school-issued laptops that also substitute for text books;"
  • "parents will use instant messaging to chat with teachers about their child's progress;"
  • "educators will track students' academic growth with sophisticated software that allows them to better tailor lessons and assignments to each youngster's achievement level."
Certainly, all of this is possible and more besides. But the realists among us recognize a fundamental limitation — the kids. They have to buy into these possibilities before technology can ever transform the process of schooling.

There is no guarantee that this buy in will happen. And this is particularly true of the schools that most urgently require transformation, the schools of our inner cities.

Here is a brief cautionary tale that makes this point. Once upon a time there was a Philadelphia inner city school that was technologically impoverished. Through some miracle several ancient classrooms were equipped with new computers. The following week, during class change, two male adolescents went into the classroom and chased one another across the desktops, trampling the computers in the process. There was no money for repairs or replacements. Thus ended all of the bulleted possibilities above.

For more detailed realistic considerations of educational issues, visit

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