President Obama has recently pledges to implement a $750 million worth initiative called ConnectED to enhance technology for 99% of the students in the U.S. within five years, according to an article published by the New York Times on Feb 4th. The specifics of this plan include an increased access to high-speed Internet in the classroom by big service providers such as AT&T and Verizon and a $100 million worth giveaway of iPads and MacBooks by Apple to disadvantaged schools.
The article points out that fewer than 30 percent of schools are equipped with the broadband connectivity needed to stream video and use other educational tools available on the Internet. President Obama said ConnectED would give students an edge to compete in the global economy.
Upon first reading the article, this idea seems very plausible. But after some thinking it made me question whether or not this will actually help with educating the next generation of Americans, for the following reasons.
How important is technology in public education? For a higher education institute like Ithaca College, especially with the Communication School, it makes perfect sense to have cutting-edge technology because many learning process will not take place without them. However for K12 education, I don’t see how students’ ability to learn can be hindered by slow Wi-Fi. If teachers need to show a video they can do it on a wired connection computer, students are just fine learning by reading traditional books, listening to lectures by their teachers and interacting face-to-face with their peers. They will still learn plenty.
Last year, Chicago school board voted to consolidate its resources by permanently shutting 50 schools; Pennsylvania planned to lay off over 3000 education professionals to save the costs. Nowadays we see news like these way more frequently than we should. Teachers are whom students get their firsthand knowledge and influence from and therefore the foundation of their education. When the foundation is falling apart it’s hard to see how better Internet and many iPads can make things better.
I admired President Obama’s extraordinary abilities to convince these capitalistic corporations to donate their hard-earned dollars to a noble cause such as education. But I still think I would be more at ease when the he takes initiative to keep teachers on their jobs, so that American children will have an education, then worry about making it better.