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Needed: A Digital Woodstock
Mark GuraMy job calls for me to visit a large number of schools to assess their progress in
the area of instructional technology. True, I’ve almost worn out my Toyota Camrycrisscrossing the city. But, I’ve been afforded a unique view
of the way the transition to
computer enabled instruction is going. In recent months I’ve walked through countless
classrooms which have recently received computers. The majority of these machinesremain, as of yet, underutilized or unused.
I’ve talked at
length to teachers and supervisors about why this is the case. These
have been thought provoking conversations. I’ve learned from the concrete suggestions,
complaints, and requests staff members have voiced. More interestingly though, the needfor something not spoken of, a kind of glue to hold together all the elements of this profound shift in human intelligence, consistently appears between the lines.
It’s been my observation that in relation to the technology issue, schools tend to
fall into one of two categories. A small group, those that are well on the way tointegrating computer technology into the fabric of teaching and learning, revel in their self-assessed position as being far ahead of the pack. These schools, like all schoolshowever, hold that the day in which teachers will instinctively reach for a mouse insteadof a piece of chalk, is still down the road. They simply believe that they have somehowmanaged to do the impossible and gotten themselves to the futur
ahead of schedule.The other group, those schools that represent the vast majority, is stuck in aholding pattern. They are waiting for something undefined to signal that the era of computer supported learning is ready to begin. It is not the lack of any particular technology resource that is holding them back. One simply has to walk through theseschools and observe the quantity of computers, networking, online access, professionaldevelopment, whatever, that has been made available, to see that that is not the case.
What’s needed is
something else.It is not lack of interest, understanding of the possibilities represented bytechnology, or commitment to education that is lacking either. Rather, there is a strongsense in these schools that as soon as the era of computerized instruction begins inearnest, they will take the plunge too. They look forward to jumping in headfirst, but arewaiting for the whistle to be blown indicating that the train is ready to leave the station.Until then, they will continue to test the waters with their big toes.Sadly, such schools often burn up energy that could be better used to reinvigorateinstruction through technology, in token gestures to legitimize themselves as worthy
recipients of technology resources. They’ll point to their superficial use
of applicationslike word processing as evidence that they are on-board, the offering of tired and
outmoded computer courses to ensure that “technology literacy” is part of the curriculum,
and the occasional scheduling of technology in-service days for teachers, and the like.The pity is that although technology may be in use to a degree, it is just another set of motions to be gone through. It does little to add value to the learning experience and theentire community knows it. Often they feel confused or cheated because of it.