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Back in 1988, I took a photography class at Glendale Community College. This was in PDA (pre-digital age). Like my fellow students I brought in my brand new Minolta 35mm camera. Our first assignment was to go around campus and take a composition picture in black & white showing textures. Our teacher went out as well, taking his 1950 Brownie camera to take shots. When we returned we all prepared our film, chose the best negative, developed it, and proudly placed it on a viewing rack. We then voted on the best picture. Okay, you’re jumping ahead, but you’re right! The teacher’s photo won. I still remember his words, “It’s the eye of the photographer, not the camera that takes a good or great picture.” Years later, when I taught a digital video production class I passed on the same phrase to my students. Composition is a communication skill that should not be left to the camera to decide.
My teacher’s quote can also be applied to today’s professional teachers. The technology available for classroom projects, presentations, and experimentation is awesome. But in the end, it is still the teacher not the tool that motivates a child. Today’s teachers are graduating from the best universities coming out with knowledge and insights on how the human brain learns, memorizes, and thinks. Neuroscience research has become part of the university’s curriculum with the newest information and studies on learning impairments, learning styles, cultural integration, and motivation motif’s. And yet, not one class is set aside on the topic on current technology being used in the classroom. Not one class discusses the best methods and procedures on how to implement any of the technology tools available into lesson plans that will engage and motivate young learners.
Some will say, today’s technology is quite intuitive, and there doesn’t need to be any training in it. There is some truth in this. My Canon Rebel digital camera can take good automatic pictures once I set the auto dials, then all I have to do is push a button, and instantly I get to see my taken image. But professional photographers learn how to compose their own shots, manually setting their own speeds and lighting, using raw files instead of tiff files. Pro photographers expand the envelope of their tools to invent and create new ways to communicate visually. There is a difference between a candid shot and a professional shot. But what has all of this to do with teachers?
Teachers who are not trained in how to manipulate the technology given them are limited to only the program instructions and device functions. Student engagement and motivation becomes a reality when teachers are trained properly on what their technology is capable of doing. An iPad device has access to thousands of apps, however, understanding how a child thinks and learns opens up opportunities in not just choosing the right app, but being able to manipulate it into a functional teaching tool. Teachers need to be taught how to choose the right technology and software programs that will meet the student’s learning style. There is no one size fits all here. It is at this point we transform the classroom facilitator into a EduTech professional capable of changing lives, engaging students, motivating them to their highest potentials, and in the end, even keeping the bureaucracy satisfied with higher test scores.
I have to confess I’m often amused when I read an article in the newspaper or the Internet about school districts that have given computers to students who then break into ‘secured’ areas or forbidden websites. The real punch lines comes with the words, “this was unexpected!” Really?
30 years ago (1983)
Back in 1983, the Commodore International released its newest computer model, the Commodore 64 home computer that cost $595 dollars and had only 64K memory. This was an 8-bit computer that could be hooked up to a modem (300 baud), and more importantly–programmed. In 1983, the movie,”War Games,” with actor Matthew Broderick, playing David Lightman a high school student, told the story about a young teenage hacker who breaks into a government computer facility and nearly starts WWIII. In 1985, a real fourteen year old boy from Escondido, California, was under FBI investigation after hacking into the Chase Manhattan Bank computer (Arrington, 2008). Most security people at the time were surprised that a 8-bit computer could log into a million dollar mainframe computer. Oh yes, he did use his Commodore 64 computer to do the job.
According to a recent article (Jones, 2013) Bernadette Lucas, director of the Common Core Technology Project for LAUSD, purchased 50,000 iPads, at a cost of $678 each, and handed them out to 47 schools to test them out on program integration and security verifications. Within a short period, 300 David-Lightman-type students breached security measures designed to prevent students from accessing websites such as Facebook and YouTube, plus in house security. When the iPads were called in thirty iPads were missing.
“We’re learning from what’s happening,” was Ms. Lucas’ response. Considering the history of computer hackers that have been well documented since the 1980’s, at what point does information become knowledge. This becomes a serious question because the district goal to distribute 600,000 iPads to LAUSD students that will be in full force by next fall.
The Real Question
The iPad is a useful tool that can be used in very creative ways. The key is not about allowing or not allowing students to have access to the technology hardware. The real issue is supervision. This is no different than having a teacher in the classroom or on the playground. Unless LAUSD or any school district can guarantee total supervision, and 600,000 independent users is not in the mix for this security task, then the prudent solution is to keep the units locked up in school. If school districts become responsible for incidents (cyber bulling, adult sites, or any questionable sites not allowed in school) created outside their school campuses by students using assigned school equipment, I think the solution is quite evident. Use them only in the classroom because in the end the teacher, the school, and the school district are still responsible for giving out Pandora’s boxes to discoveries and potential future lawsuits to minors! I welcome your comments!
Arrington, Michael. “MySpace Cofounder Tom Anderson Was a Real Life “WarGames” Hacker in 1980’s.” Weblog post. TechCrunch. N.p., 30 Aug. 2008. Web. Oct. 2013. <http://tcrn.ch/aUNn13>.
Jones, Barbara. “LAUSD’s IPad Problems Frustrate Those Involved in the $1Billon Technology Project.” Huff Post Los Angeles. N.p., 2 Oct. 2013. Web. 7 Oct. 2013. <http://huff.to/16igCYc>.