Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Where Should States Invest Their Educatonal Dollars: Technology or Teachers?


Where Should States Invest Their Educational Dollars:
Technology or Teachers?

    With the current economic situation many state legislatures are forced to make difficult decisions when allocating their educational budgets:  technology or teachers, but is this really such a difficult decision?  Assuming that all students come to school to learn (which they don’t)more technology: more computers, more IPads, more Smart Boards and more computerized education program seems like an easy fix.  Seriously, would you set your five years in room with a plethora of educational toys and no responsible adult to direct his learning?  I don’t think so.  Computers, IPads, ITVs, Smart Boards, Voice Enhancement Equipment, and any number of computer generated testing and teaching programs may enhance education, but they aren’t the core of education. 

                Schools are not learning factories that can be manned by robots and machinery to turn out high quality students.  Students are people.  Some students are highly motivated to learn and can learn virtually independently of others. Often these students learn, but do not develop social skills like Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory, absolutely brilliant person, but completely socially inept.  In our society, it is not enough to be brilliant.  Students need to develop the communication and social skills to work in a diverse world.  Most students are not highly motivated.  Most people (students included) need someone to direct their learning; someone to spark a flame of curiosity; someone who can be proud of them when they succeed and give them emotional support and encouragement when they fail.  Most of us need a teacher. 
                Technology can enhance learning.  It can make learning exciting and fun, but if a teacher gives students a computer without appropriate direction, the student zips to  to play mindless games.  Students need teachers who are passionate about their subjects, who can instill in them a love of learning.  Computers or any other electronic gadget cannot do that.  Anyone who has a teenage child who is texting under the table at dinner can tell you that technology used incorrectly can alienate teenagers more than it can connect them with others.  If you look at the suicide rates among teenagers, or the violent crimes in schools, the last thing our society needs is more alienated young people.  There are far too many deaths of youths from violence and drug over-doses for us not to recognize that there is a problem with youth alienation. Teachers add the human interaction that all people need to learn and grow into responsible adults. Schools need good quality teachers, not more computers.

                How do we attract the right people to be teachers?  Teaching used to be a highly respected career. States have cut salaries and benefits for years. Media has vilified teachers blaming them for every problem in society.  To attract the right kind of teachers, we need to stop thinking teaching is a short-time career that women waiting to get married settle for. Good teachers take a long time to develop, yet some have implied that a teaching career should last be no longer than seven years and be a stepping stone to another career.  What that really means is states don’t want to be responsible for teachers’ retirement.  That is not a good way to attract the brightest and the best to become educators.  Spending money on lavish building and  bulky microphones to hang around teachers’ neck while teachers’ pay is so low that teachers are in the faculty room begging the water department to not turn off their water or are working two jobs to support their families deters the brightest minds from pursuing a career in education.  Where should states invest their educational dollars? Try high quality teachers.