In his 1985 novel, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman suggested that we were in an age of transition. With the invention of the printing press, we transitioned from an oral society to a text society. With the development of television, we moved toward a more visual society, and with the creation of the internet, we’ve transitioned yet again.
As a former teacher at The Academy, I have listened to many of my colleagues from others schools talk about the technology in their classrooms, and would generally pipe in with something along the lines of “don’t be jealous, but I actually have an overhead projector.” (You know, the old school kind, with transparencies).
Watching their bemused faces, I felt a keen sense of amusement, especially while considering my background in educational technology. Early in my academic career, I viewed technology as the ultimate goal for my classroom and even searched out school districts known for their technology prowess. The irony is not lost on me that I have found peace and even enjoyment in a school culture that traditionally has not emphasized technology, but even eschewed it in favor of old fashioned conversation and archaic books in paper form.
As technology has developed alongside a deepening culture within American schools of standardized tests and assessment, there is a general idea that permeates our culture, suggesting technology can be the solution to all of our woes. However, as schools have transitioned to 1:1 programs, many districts spent thousands and even millions of dollar to replace paper books and worksheets with an online counterpart – tablets, kindles, or “interactive” worksheets that fail to deepen understanding. But contrary to the view that technology will be the silver bullet that saves education, we continue to see study after study that suggest increased use of technology does not have the expected impact.
Over the past several months, in response to a global pandemic, The Academy has radically transformed from a school with a handful of TV’s to a school with fully equipped online classrooms for every grade, PK-12, and a virtual model that rivals the best available. But despite this change, The Academy’s views toward technology have not changed. At The Academy, this newly installed technology is merely a tool that enables our students to engage in the traditional learning they have always had access to. In this situation, we hope our use of technology enhances a learning experience rather than detracting from it, and based on my observations, I would argue it has. Just this past week, I observed during a class discussion in Mrs. Thompson’s 4th/5th grade classroom. One student, quarantined at home, participated via a Chromebook, fully participating and contributing to an in-depth conversation about Irish Home Rule. This access to technology allows all students consistent access to the quality education available at The Academy, even during a global pandemic, and for that we can be thankful.
However, it is important to note that increased access to the internet opens up a whole new world of dangerous possibilities for our students. Being aware of the existence of dangers within technology, specifically as it relates to educating students, allows educators to intelligently discern whether this technology is a benefit to or distraction from learning. As a result, The Academy has strict policies on access to smart phones, smart watches and the internet while at school. You can find these policies in the Parent/Student Handbook on pages 28-30, and over the next several weeks, we will be visiting with your Dialectic and Rhetoric students to remind them of these policies.
Contributed by Communications Director, Amy Allen