As a Gen X’er myself, I’m pretty sure almost everyone from my generation and generation Y remember the song in Billy Madison, “Back to school. Back to school, to prove to Dad that I’m not a fool. I got my lunch packed up, my boots tied tight, I hope I don’t get in a fight.” And who could forget “O’Doyle rules!” ? The Gen Z students going back to school this time of year can look up clips of these movies on their school issued iPad or laptop, something we couldn’t have fathomed in the 90’s – along with not even needing a locker or never hauling around multiple textbooks, all possible because of this incredible technology. Fast forward about a decade and you started to see the beginning of this learning revolution in the classroom. Another classic (maybe not) clip from School of Rock shows one student with an “old school” Macbook, both literally and figuratively.
There’s been a fierce debate in recent years about whether the new technology is actually detrimental to learning or hugely beneficial to students. Is this way of learning more engaging for students and does it ultimately help them to become successful adults later in life? A blog from School Specialty says the answer is yes! The students excel not only academically, but creatively as well. Not to mention, 1:1 programs end up saving schools plenty of money on software licenses etc. Even taking this into account, one could argue the only thing that matters is switching to all digital textbooks is wonderful for the environment, saving millions of trees and potentially hundreds of dollars on chiropractor visits down the road.
On the flip side, we live in a world where the average K-12 student is either looking at their phone, television, or computer most of the day. Is contributing to this situation really the right angle to take with teaching or is it furthering the madness of phone zombie culture? In the most extreme, preposterous forecast – imagine a scenario where interaction amongst human beings consists of some sort of bizarre collective consciousness that lacks a real human element and only “speaks emoji”. Pretty silly, yes but at what point can the “human experience” be lost down this path? How can this culture of devices affect people both as a species in terms of culture but also biologically in terms of evolution? Probably a little more than interesting to at least consider, I would say.
No matter how society progresses technology-wise, it’s probably irresponsible to leave students out of this new ecosystem of schooling. Laptops and tablets aren’t going away, they’re evolving constantly. It’s easy to see the fruits of their benefits ripening each day, becoming faster and making life easier in general. Their place in society (and the education system) is very stable. Besides, most schools use a “Remote Management” software on their 1:1 devices, eliminating much of the misuse that many people fear is more of a distraction than a benefit.
Some of the new devices being rolled out in 1:1 programs are very impressive and almost transcend conventional thinking in terms of the act they will play in each teacher’s curriculum. It’s almost as if they rewrote the book…of learning (pun intended). Check out some of the new devices for this school year here. There’s a computer or tablet that fits the budget and needs for students from Kindergarten to College. Thinking back on those years, it’s fascinating to consider how my own career path may have been affected if high-tech gadgets were incorporated throughout my schooling. Something I will never know but maybe it’s better that way.