Are there other things too?

My principal asked me a great question today…

“Does putting technology in the hands of kids specifically sit with laptops or are there other things too?”

This comes out of a conversation about the pros and cons of subscribing to sites such as Brain Pop and Discovery streaming.  I kind of gave an openly sarcastic response that went something like…”Those are great sites, but can we put the money towards something that will empower the kids rather than the teachers.”

I rushed off an email response and decided to print it here.  Please leave your answer in the comments, I would really love to share them with her.   More than almost anyone I have worked with, she has shown a desire to learn more, and to question, and to listen to other’s opinions.  I have shared responses with her from twitter for other questions, and would love to show her the “power” of a blog…so don’t be shy, leave an answer, I would love to compile them and share them with her…one step closer to getting her to start blogging.

My response(give me a small break, I had 5 minutes before kids walked in):

What an absolutely fantastic question!  I don’t think I can bring myself to a quick answer…but before the bell rings…

When the protests started in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, the first thing the governments did was to limit access to the internet…ironically the same exact thing that Wallingford does with its students.  When you take technology out of the hand of the user, then they must rely on someone else and can only rely on what is given to them…in school it’s the teacher they are forced to rely on.  Putting technology into the hands of kids is as threatening to teachers, as protesters using the internet is to the regimes of dictators in the Middle East.  When it is not in the kids hands the teachers choose what they learn, how they learn it, what sources they will learn from, and the final product.  When a kid cannot conform to that, we create an IEP to force them to do what the teacher wants then to do.

There is technology that is made to empower teachers, and technology that empowers kids, I think we need to question who we are buying the technology for…the teachers, or the kids.  One just needs to look into a teen’s room to see which tech does which.  You will not find a teen with a SMARTBoard, a document camera, or a subscription to Discovery Streaming(I know they can’t get it, just an ex).  You will find them with a laptop, a cell phone, and a camera.  There is a reason why the iPads2 are sold out and newest SMARTBoard models aren’t.

Some teachers do let their kids onto computers, but they dictate the learning, the sources of info, and the final product…kind of like watching televisionin Iran…most of what they let kids do on a computer is just elaborate paper and pencil stuff that could have been done with a hand-out.  Why don’t we let kids use computers, use cell phones, or cameras?  They might learn on their own…they might get empowered and then what would our job be 😉

Creativity, Collaboration, Communication…Three outcomes of tech in the hands of kids.  Schools generally don’t want their kids doing three of those…I know we like to say we do, but not authentically, we just want them to mimic the three C’s because then they stay under our control.

O’boy…sorry…such an incredible question…I can go on forever and don’t know if trying to squeeze in an answer before kids was a wise way to answer!

So there you have it…please add to the conversation, and know your comment will be sitting on her desk next week.  If you can’t make a difference in your school, help me make a difference in mine!

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