TECHNOLOGY QUESTIONS

3/1/98

 For some two years, the Plainview -Old Bethpage district has been embarked on the implementation of a five year technology plan. The essence of the plan is, to use the words of our superintendent, is to "infuse technology" into the district. Today, we have experienced a significant part of that infusion. There are now some 750 computers in the classrooms and labs of our schools with many more to come. This has been no mean accomplishment, especially given the very limited amount of staff devoted to this endeavor. Of equal importance, the introduction of computers has been accomplished without a deleterious effect on the finances of our district. Yet, it is disturbing to note that scarce attention has been given to the uses to which the technology is being put.

Like so many of the school districts in our nation, there has been a rush to buy the latest computer equipment without much thought as to how it will be used to improve instruction. Technology plans tend to focus on hardware. The belief here and elsewhere appears to be that if we just put computers into the hands of teachers and children, wonderful things will happen. The magic of technology will somehow miraculously revolutionize the educational system bringing better and more interesting learning and tapping the creativity of both students and staff. To be sure, some of this does happen, if only for a brief period of time. But, there ought to be more if we are to justify the huge expenditures for technology. Questions, deep and potentially disturbing questions, need to be asked and time provided to search for their answers.

Now that we possess all of the latest computer equipment, what would we have our students learn that they weren't learning before? If they are learning the same things, are they learning them better and more efficiently? Given that the role of the public school is to prepare students to participate cooperatively in a democratic society, what impact on this role will there be as students spend more and more time on individualized work at a computer terminal? As we slip into a world in which terms like assignment are replaced by "work product" and "portfolio," a world in which students often spend as much time learning to present their work product in the latest presentation graphics, are we losing sight of the importance of content, quality of thought and depth of inquiry, substituting "glitz" for content and software knowhow for depth and clarity of ideas?

These are but some of the questions that need to be honestly asked. When a business makes a significant capital expenditure for new machines or equipment, it usually knows what it expects from its investment. Shouldn't we know?

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