How To Harness Technology in the Classroom? Ask the Students.
“American Classrooms are dead,” pronounced Bill Gates in front of an audience of top professors and researchers at the 2013 Microsoft Research Faculty Summit. That was five years ago. Since then, a number of fellow tech billionaires have followed suit — aligning themselves with what Silicon Valley refers to as “Philtech –” the idea of social progress through software.
In addition to the sizable financial contributions made to public education by the likes of Bill and Melinda, Chan and Zuckerberg, and the late Tim Cook, the US Government, as of 2018, spends over 56bn on technology for schools, or $400 per student. Schools themselves invest between 10 and 20 thousand per student.
So how, exactly, are students benefiting from these investments, these contributions? While many classrooms boast Smart Boards, Promethean Panels, and the like, most have a lack in immersive tech resources. This lack is both incongruent with the nature of Philtech as well as with Gen Z’s very comfort within the digital sphere. In a generation in which children know how to touch and swipe, doubletap and download within the first two years of life, we must ask ourselves: Why haven’t our learning environments progressed as much as our social and leisure environments? Why do classrooms bear a stronger resemblance to rudimentary schoolhouses 100 years ago than the futuristic spaces we had imagined?
Perhaps district and school officials are timid when tasked to make purchase decisions regarding ed-tech. For many, both technology, as well as the administrative and educational needs associated with it — loom uncertain and ominous. In this face of this fear, Gates himself recommends approaching the problems in education from the inside out — starting with the individual student.
Personalized learning, wrote Gates on his blog in 2016, is the future of education. Societal values, particularly in America, continue to shift towards individuality, customization, entrepreneurship, and “creating your own path.” As a result, “one size fits all” solutions to the gaps in our educational system won’t suffice for the change-makers and earth-shakers we call Gen Z.
“Put students in charge, “ continues Gates. Every student has a goal, he writes, weather it to be to accepted to the University of Washington or finish the semester with all A’s. When students feel that they have resources to take action towards their specific goals, the technology part is easy.