This Isn't Your Grandparents' Classroom Anymore

As a society, our consumer habits indicate that we have whole-heartedly embraced the wave of technology that has transformed the way we operate. Still, one important question cannot go unanswered. Does more technology actually mean we are solving the very core problems that drive our innovation?

Today while teaching a 5th grade class for a service project, I asked the teacher if I could use the whiteboard (which, interestingly enough was the blackboard/chalkboard not too long ago). She proceeded to turn on a projector connected to the ceiling, hand me a remote electronic pad of some sort, and tell me to write on it. As I wrote, my writing then came up on the screen. I was amazed, and the children looked at me like I was silly for not knowing what this was. It is astounding how things change. I am still a student, and I feel archaic in a classroom of 5th graders.

We do not do things the way we used to. Informal, at-home education has changed just as drastically as the way we conduct formal education and schooling. Of course there will always be disparities. Some children will have an abundance of books to read at home, while others may not have this luxury. Just as technology has advanced, similar disparities advance with it. It is quite an intriguing reality that innovation does not necessarily reduce inequalities, but what is certain is that it changes the nature of inequalities.

One article on early childhood education emphasizes that “Appropriate use of technology in the classroom is to expand, enrich, implement, individualize, differentiate, and extend the overall curriculum.” Meeting these goals means not simply focusing on the technical use of the physical technology itself, but rather ensuring that technology remains a tool which accomplishes all of these objectives. If we continue in this mode of thought, with these objectives in mind, aren’t some students severely limited? We may be able to say that all students are better off than before, even though some are at a greater advantage than others. However, in the context in which we live, success is only measured relative to the achievements and abilities of others around you. A bit of an abstract concept, but I believe it holds true. Everyone can be a bit better off, but if the gap has not been bridged between those who are at an advantage and those who are struggling to catch up then have we even really made any progress?