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Don't let technology in schools become a punching bag

A recent article spoke about the use of devices in the classroom (“Four years in, Baltimore County schools' $147M laptop program has produced little change in student achievement,” Dec. 13). More specifically the debate revolved around the use of personal devices, which the county gives to students and the effect it is or is not having on performance.

The article pointed out that there has been no measurable increase in performance for those students that have the devices and questions whether the $147 million allocated for the devices should be renewed (“Laptops neither effective nor welcome by parents,” Dec. 17). This seems more like an emotional reaction rather than a practical one (“Student laptops are just a tool,” Dec. 17).

Many people seem to feel that the money could be better spent elsewhere, perhaps on teachers. When did the choice between teachers and technology arise? The better scenario is to have both.

The problem with this entire debate is the use of data and the standard of performance. There are many factors in performance, and technology, as mentioned in the article, is only one of those.

Before the system starts taking away devices, perhaps they should consider the effects of the devices in the classroom. Students react to engaging and compelling instruction. There are tremendous online resources that are available to the students to use in accordance with the teacher. If the devices are taken away, how will these technologies be implemented or utilized in the classroom?

The metric is solely focused on performance, overlooking the notions of engagement that are so crucial for the student’s learning experiences.

Students when they graduate will be faced with a technological world. Devices will be their norm. They may not have paper. They certainly will not at work. Their interactions, no matter the career, will be with a machine, whether they are a doctor, mechanic or designer. They need to be prepared and that starts with school.

Of course some students will be on games when they should be doing classwork. If they have paper, they will doodle. If that is the worst case that we can come up with, perhaps that one problem should be examined. Student boredom did not begin with devices, and eliminating them will not solve the problem. There is certainly software that assists the teacher in monitoring what the student is viewing.

Education is a process and we have to establish a culture and climate that is conducive to learning. Would schools be better without advanced technology?

There is no doubt that smaller classes are a necessity, but they did not increase due to implementation of technology. They were too large long before laptops were introduced.

Perhaps we should be thinking about what else we can give rather than take away. Technology should not be a weapon in someone’s vague agenda. Rather than allow technology to become a punching bag, it should be an established norm and the dialogue should revolve how to better empower the students with the devices.

Chris Kosmides

The writer is a teacher at Windsor Mill Middle School in Baltimore County.

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