Hi everyone! I’m participating in a challenge to write a post a day about a daily prompt given by WordPress. Today’s (August 11, 2016) is “Surface.”
Instead of veering off into the land of abstraction, there’s something incredibly concrete and relevant to my life that I think of when I hear the word, “Surface.” My school district just spent a ton of money (I’m guessing we’re talking about 7 digit figures here) to implement a program that will now provide every single student with a Microsoft Surface 3 tablet to loan for the year. The device will remain school property, but students will be able to take it home and use it to do schoolwork.
Keep in mind that I live in affluent, east-coast suburbia. The aim of this program isn’t to provide students whose families can’t afford new computers with a useful learning tool. No. I can only imagine the Board of Education was tunnel-visioning on the trend of implementing laptops in schools to help students streamline learning and prepare us for a world that’s increasingly reliant on computer skills.
There’s nothing fundamentally flawed with that line of logic, and many schools have successfully transitioned to these 1 on 1 laptop programs. However, many students were less than thrilled about this initiative. It seemed like it boiled down to the fact that students believed they were losing privacy and (if you want to be dramatic) freedom.
We do EVERYTHING on our phones and computers nowadays. There’s private information stored on these devices. Information that our 6th period English teachers don’t need to know and use to evaluate us subconsciously. Unlike that memoir that we submitted at 2am, no doubt full of grammatical errors and flawed logic, other sensitive information about us could be “submitted” without our permission or knowledge. The fear was that our keystrokes and internet activity could be filtered and monitored by teachers, the administration, the Board of Education, and whoever else in power.
I participated in the pilot program last year that aimed to test out the initiative on small classes before releasing it to the entire school district. In a few weeks, the pilot program encountered issues including short battery life, crashing tablets, lost documents, and more technological problems. Every. Single. Day. Those aforementioned issues took up class time. What does that mean? It means that I and my fellow classmates taught ourselves the chapter of precalculus that we were supposed to learn in class, at home. Even then, we fell behind other classes. Of course a learning curve is expected, but when after 6 weeks the process of using these Surfaces in class is still not streamlined and bug-free, I’d be skeptical of releasing this initiative for every single classroom throughout the school district.
Why should students spend a valuable year of time sacrificing their educational quality for administrators trying to force these glitchy squares into our accustomed circular routines for the sake of technological education. Time is one of the most valuable things because we can’t get it back when it’s gone.
But WAIT. Students made their objections heard at a recent Community Forum and it now looks like despite all the promises of stepping our education into the new technological era, this initiative will not be enforced. Students are now not required to take home a device with them. Students can bring their own devices to school. The Microsoft Surfaces will not be used much in school at all, according to the superintendent. The administration also promises that student activity will not be monitored. They will only have power to block access to certain websites deemed inappropriate for school.
Well, hooray for Democracy! What do we have here? We just spent a lot of money on computers that won’t be used much. But our privacy and dignity is intact.
I am face-palming so hard right now. 7 figure expenses. My fiscally conservative conscious is screaming WHY WHY WHY.
Is the one on one initiative not a right match for my community? What would be a better way to implement technology in public schools? And should schools just leave basic computer training to be done individually at home in an age where children are born with screens in their arms and the ipad is the new silver spoon?