Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Extension of a Man's Hand

"A tool is but the extension of a man's hand, and a machine is but a complex tool. And he that invents a machine augments the power of a man and the well-being of mankind." -Henry Ward Beecher

English teacher Patrick Welsh has written a controversial editorial for the Washington Post which blames low staff morale and wasted class time on, of all things, too many "gizmos." The offending gadgets are LCD projectors, "exotic computer gadgets" (hand-held computers) and similar technology tools: items that most school districts would dearly love to possess.

Welsh bemoans the banishment of overhead projectors and suggests that the portable school pads are used solely by teachers who are "too lazy to write on the board." He assumes that Internet access is problematic and students are so bored that they play endless games on the laptops their district provides.

There is no simple answer to the issues that seem to be afflicting T.C. Williams High School. But there are a number of questions that might be raised:
  • what professional development was provided for staff members in preparation for moving into such a high-tech facility?
  • is there adequate technology support for hardware, software, and network issues?
  • do teachers have access to an educational technologist who will help them integrate technology into their curriculum?
  • are students so bored & disconnected because of network & filtering issues, because of poorly constructed lesson plans, or due to lack of necessary computer skills?
Tools change but the need to facilitate learning remains constant. It is possible to educate students without high-tech "gizmos" but when they are available, it is foolish and irresponsible not to utilize them.

Why don't the administration, faculty, and students in Alexandria realize this?

"We might hypothetically possess ourselves of every technological resource on the North American continent, but as long as our language is inadequate, our vision remains formless, our thinking and feeling are still running in the old cycles, our process may be revolutionary but not transformative." -Adrienne Rich

"Workbench" by russell.bride

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