Thursday, May 23, 2013

Whither Technology

One cannot read any blog regarding DeKalb County Schools without somewhere seeing a statement about "how great DeKalb Schools were back in [insert favourite decade here]". Well almost any blog because The Other Dunwoody is in possession of evidence, anecdotal though it may be, that indicates DeKalb County Schools have been a disaster for over thirty five years. Perhaps longer. Nonetheless, let's accept the "tragic, inexorably slow decline" theory.

There are many reasons offered for the decades long decay of DeKalb County Schools: white flight; minority backfill fueling degentrification; poverty; diversity; and general social decline manifested as single parent "families". Could be. Could be any. Could be all. But let us suppose that superpositioning works and independently analyze certain factors and then ask ourselves about another potential element: "what role has technology played"?

Is "classroom technology" a positive or a negative contributor to educational outcomes? Is money better spent on additional classroom teachers or Wi-Fi and smart boards? Would you rather your child sit in a class amongst fourteen other children with a teacher and an overhead or in a class with twenty four other kids bedazzled by the magic of that smart board? Does a Kindle really add anything to a study of "To Kill A Mockingbird"? Really? Does anyone know with the certainty of hard data based on reproducible research what the definitive answer is to any of these questions? Is a visceral vision enough to justify the money we've spent and misspent on technological chimeras? Or is it just another educratic mind fart?

Many, like Clifford Stoll, contend that our affection for the newest dazzling technology has caused nothing but harm. Harm to our children. Harm to their learning. Harm to their future. And at this point he appears to be right.

So why is the Master of our DeKalb County Schools, Mr. Elgart, so damn keen on forcing DeKalb taxpayers to piss away their tax dollars, not his, theirs, on "shiny object" technology with no indication of any positive contribution to any child's learning? First, because he doesn't seem to give a damn whether your child learns anything or simply grows up to be a mental doorstop. And his only readily apparent concern about your taxes appears to be the dollars he, his organization and his cronies get. It would be very revealing to investigate his ties to players in "education tech".