Schools and school districts often find themselves caught between competing ideas and thoughts. Today we find ourselves working to help students learn using tools that we used when we attended school in the 20th century – pencils, paper, and books, while needing to help students enter a world that uses 21st century tools – computers, tablets, iPods and smart phones.
When I attended K-12 school in the 1950’s and 60’s we were required to memorize many things. My most vivid memories of mathematics include working to memorize my multiplication facts. I can close my eyes, remembering standing in class when called upon to answer several questions from my mathematics teachers using only my memory. No calculator or computer. In fact when I was in high school I saw my first calculator that could do only five (5) functions – add, subtract, multiply, divide and find the square root of a number. (Cost about $200.00)
The tools available to me back in the 20th century included a pencil, paper, flash cards, a textbook, and the encyclopedia when I was in elementary school. In high school I was introduced to the slide rule, which helped us with complicated problems.
Some time after I graduated from high school calculators came down in price and appeared in every classroom as a tool for children to use when doing mathematics. I cannot remember the exact time this happened but I do remember hearing folks say, “why do I need to learn math, I’ll just hire an accountant to do it.” I will tell you I soon learned that homebuilders do not hire an accountant to work on the job site to do mathematics when they build a house. There are many other jobs that do not hire an accountant on the job site, but do require a good understanding of mathematics.
Today in the 21st century there are not many jobs that do not require the use of technology of some kind. A computer, tablet, or smart phones are the tools of the 21st century. Is it our job in the Stanfield School District to help students so that they know when and how to use these 21st century tools?
In the Stanfield School District we recently upgraded our technology infrastructure so that there is a public or guest wireless network available to students and guests who are in the school district and need access to a wireless network (Wi-Fi). This allows anyone access to the Internet while in the school district without having access to our secure network that the district uses to do its business.
For us the technology whether a computer, tablet, smart phone or iPod are just tools that students and others can and should know how use to do their work. I believe that we as a school district are tasked with helping our students so that they know the appropriate ways to use the technology. We must help students to become proficient with the technology as the expectations for them as they enter the world of work and life will require them to use the technology.