A fellow teacher Facebooked yesterday that she was reading an article about the future of textbooks in the technological age, and it began a conversation with a colleague about what should we expect. Basically, they are going the way of the dinosaur. In the near future, netbooks and E-book readers will take the place of the big, bulky books your children or grandchildren are carrying.
On one hand, doesn't that sound amazing? No more back strain by the ripe old age of thirteen. The resources online are endless, and less trees will be destroyed. Children, who are naturally geared toward the new and shiny, will easily adapt to the changes, and most will excel. We then can drive them to school in silver jumpsuits and flying cars.
Don't get me wrong, I love technology. My kindle is my new favorite toy, and I love how easily I can zip in and buy a book and zip out to read. I would love an I-Pad. Don't see one in my future, but it would be fun; however, we need to realize that using technology is easier said than done, especially in rural or urban areas with higher rates of poverty.
First and foremost, technology fails, big time. We are using an online computer program for summer school this year and guess what happened after lunch yesterday: we lost Internet connection. We had a plan to go and grab...insert gasp...textbooks, but the final bell rang, and the children skipped merrily home. We lost seat time due to the fact technology is completely unpredictable. My own desktop, hooked up to my Smartboard, proves this on a daily basis since it takes twenty minutes to just boot up, if I am lucky. The same teacher workstation is so outdated, I have to use another computer in my room to just open my school email. The list can go on and on and on.
Yes, I know, in the long run the argument is based on expenses. Every thing in education is based on the bottom line; however, technology doesn't last forever. Within moments of purchase, your items go immediately out of date. Things need updated. Computers need to be replaced. School boards don't have the budget in coming years, and then none of this happens. Then what? My district can't even afford to replace the English textbooks we are currently using. They are over fourteen years old. How will they be able to do yearly upgrades?
They next argument is that this will allow every student the ability to do more and learn more ( and pass more state tests). Well, maybe not. Not every student in my school has the ability to access the Internet at home. If I offer a technology based assignment, I have to present an alternative to the students who are unable to go online. We even have students who live in areas where cable companies fear to tread, and have you even looked at the online packages for most satellite providers? Downloading is only free from midnight to six AM? Seriously? Once again, a one size fits all solution to a diverse population isn't the answer.
I hate being negative, and to be honest, I want this to work. I want to see technology incorporated into the curriculum in a manner that is productive and reliable. I want them to prove me wrong. I want to see my children with their school paid for I-Pads growing and learning in ways I never could. I want their success in this miraculous age we live in; however, maybe we need a more realistic view of what life is really like for our students. Maybe we need more than the latest fad.