Everyone wants to reform our public schools. Most of these folks are sincere, although billions of dollars can be made through the sale of electronic teaching devices. In the article I mentioned in my post, from the New York Times Magazine, Joel Klein reportedly states that the tablet can help customize the teaching experience and take advantage of students enthusiasm for gadgetry. This new pill will also help teachers who feel overwhelmed in the classroom.
Wait a second! It occurs to me that all of the reformers who are interjecting their pet projects into the classroom may be part of the problem. Things are always changing for the public school teacher and this leads to excessive paperwork and excessive time given to retraining. We’ve had the “Touchy- Feeley” movement, emphasizing self-esteem along with attempts to toughen up the curriculum. The latest rendition being the common core. Now we have people pushing emotional intelligence, which seems to harken back to the self-esteem movement of the 1980s. Oh, and don’t forget reform 2000 and a number of other reform ideas that have been quickly interjected into the school system.. This reminds me of the old saying “Don’t sell your bread in the marketplace when it’s only half-baked.” Unfortunately, the marketplace in this scenario is schoolchildren and teachers held captive by government ideology and the teachers unions.
So what’s wrong with the tablet as a new pill ? Plenty. In order to introduce this concept into the classroom, the school will need a great deal structure and good communications between teachers, administrators and students. School that already has these qualities doesn’t need to experiment with electronics. Kids need to learn to communicate with other students and with their teachers and to ponder over the materials they are learning. Yes, customization helps, but the tablet is not necessary to achieve customization. Every good teacher identifies differences in students and customizes his or her teaching approach to each child.
True reform is found in training and selecting the best teachers and then giving them the freedom to work with their students’ educational needs.