Technology in Schools

Technology has tremendous potential to improve the quality of education. There are many excellant software packages that provide what is called participatory learning, which gives students individualized, interactive learning experiences that instructors in today’s overcrowded classrooms cannot give.

However, several things must happen in order to realize the full potential of technology. First of all, computers cannot take the place of a teacher. If one consider’s Bloom hierarchy, computers will never be able to teach the higher level thinking skills of synthesis and evaluation. Many teachers have a hard time teaching these but with a computer it is impossible.

Secondly, having come to education after spending nine years in electronics manufacturing, I believe that the purpose of school is to prepare students for adulthood and the workplace. In the last two decades in California, we have seen an unfortunate trend where all of K-12 education is geared toward preparing all students for college. College is a wonderful experience and I wish everyone could go to one but the sad fact is that only 25% of all students earn college degrees which means that the other 75% have spent 13 years of schooling for something they could not achieve. In prior years these students could take woodworking, auto mechanics or metal working but now all these programs are being eliminated more and more with college prep classes which involve computers. This fact was brought home to me when I was doing my student teaching at San Diego High School. They had a very well furnished computer lab with the latest equipment but I remember one day having to go to a back room and discovering cabinets and drawers full of nuts and bolts that were used in the machine shop that the computer lab replaced. This at a time when the U.S. has a critical shortage of machinists and will award a green card to any foreign born machinist willing to come here and work.

Finally the change in focus that needs to occur in education can be illustrated by the difference between the fields of Educational Technology and Technology Education. Educational Technology is the use of technology as a tool to teach any academic subject. This is all well and good but it lulls people into a false sense of security in thinking that this prepares them for the hi-tech workplace that they are entering into. Technology Education is teaching about technology itself, what it is and how it works-how all technologies are nothing more than extensions of different parts of our body, about the binary number system, about computer logic gates, about how to use a soldering iron, about how to put together electronic and mechanical things.. These are the types of technology skills that can begin to be taught at the middle school level and that are needed in the hi-tech manufacturing workplace. If these skills are given to the 75% of students who do not obtain a high school degree, it would go a long way toward alleviating the unemployment and underemployment so many of these students experience.

Peter Honan