There is an underlying assumption in modern schools of all stripes that “more is better” when it comes to laptops, SMART Boards, and various other digital supports. But, does the addition of these kinds of resources guarantee a better educational experience? The answer is, “not necessarily.” As one of our teachers has said: “it’s not about technology, it’s about learning.” This should be the mantra of every classroom in every school. There is no point in investing in SMART Boards or interactive digital short-throw projectors if they are only going to be used as 21st century blackboards and overheads. That is not good enough. What needs to be happening has to begin with our academic vision of the school.
We have to ask the questions: “How can we enhance student learning and academic performance with the aid of technology?”; “What could we do more effectively with technological support than we could do without it?” and, “How do we make students and teachers see the available technology not as a gimmick, but rather as a stepping-stone to take learning to the next level?”
Interestingly enough our teaching staff spent part of last Friday’s professional development day discussing exactly this issue and looking for new and innovative ways to use our available technology to engage our students, and continue to unlock the barriers to learning. We are blessed at KGMS with excellent access to both interactive digital boards and student laptops through our shared mobile computer labs. With more than one computer for every two students, we can basically ensure that anyone who needs that kind of resource support can get it at almost any time of the day.
But, the point of all this innovation is not to simply “decorate” the school with technology but to continue to use it to make us a better school. Many schools pride themselves on having a smart board in every room, or requiring every family to buy their child a laptop. The might make for great marketing, but ineffective use of those resources – while good visual p.r. when prospective parents or visitors glance in the class – can impede rather than enhance the learning process. There is no practical reason for stretching limited technological resources or requiring families to lay out money simply to ensure that every teacher in every class has her or his students sitting at a keyboard. What makes more sense is to focus our resources where they will have the greatest impact. In the best schools, like ours, students excel in the use of technology because teachers who “get it” are given the support and the infrastructure they need to push forward the frontiers of learning. It would appear to be far more effective to guarantee that every student has at least one exceptional on-going experience with technology in her or his learning day rather that to try to provide a series of mediocre ones. Teaching and learning is the ultimate interactive experience. Whether or not it involves the use of technology is far less important than the extent to which it engages, challenges, and meets the needs of our kids.
That is why, as much as we have invested in technology in our classrooms, our real priority is to continue to staff them with “state of the art” teachers. They’re the real “smart” in smart boards!