Technology in the School

While taking an accounting course in college, I often wondered why the professor demanded we manually tally columns of numbers instead of using a calculator or computer. During her office hours, I finally decided to express my frustration. My professor calmly agreed that using a calculator or computer would be a much more efficient solution.

And then she said something I’ve not forgotten in nearly two decades: “I want my students to understand the accounting principle behind the calculation.”

She went on to explain how devices and software would be used once I completely understood the principle.

I thought back to this college experience recently when my son was docked points from a test because his teacher was unable to read his writing. My first thought was, “Who cares? He can type 50 WPM!” But the more I reflected on it, I began to see the value in my son learning to write legibly.

If you haven’t taken a tour of a school lately, you might be shocked at the number of devices children have access to today. Each day my kids use a combination of computers, laptops, and tablets which have been integrated into the curriculum. Documents are created and saved to Dropbox so they can be edited at school or at home. Assignments are emailed to teachers, and most correspondence between parent and teacher is done through a online portal. When my daughter forgets to hand in an assignment, I’m notified immediately.

As a parent, I’m trying to make sense of it all.

What the local library was to me, Google is to my children. My book reports would have kicked butt had I had access to Wikipedia! I’m sure the bar has been raised. Teachers expect more from my children who have unfiltered access to the world’s information at their fingertips than they did from me when my best source on the topic of amphibians was a WorldBook Encyclopedia from the mid 1950s.

It’s exciting to think about how technology will augment  and enhance education in the future.  We are to the point today that adding more computers to schools probably doesn’t contribute much. The increase in learning comes from using them properly, similar to what my accounting professor was trying to tell me years ago. I recall learning how to navigate my way around a computer, how to type, and how to use a word processor, and that wasn’t until 7th grade. Today’s 7th grader would run circles around me.

I’m just beginning to think about how my children’s education changes when every device they touch is connected to the internet. Will I field fewer questions from my children? How will they recognize online opinion from fact? These and other issues will be addressed as they come to rely more on a digital world.

Until that time, I’ll be working with my son on his penmanship.