The title of Separate but equal evokes several images for me, but the most powerful is the one below, which led me to make the image at the top of this blog post. On the one hand (Privileged), children interact with curriculum, state and national standards in ways that make sense, that engage, that allow for learner’s choice. In the other, students are drilled and tutored in the curriculum until they achieve subjective, minimum standards masked to look like the end all and be all of schooling.
iPad tests: In McAllen, Texas, public school officials have opted for iPads over desktop PCs and plan to distribute 25,000 iPads over the next few years. The total spend of $20 million in the McAllen district covers the cost of the iPads and also the Wi-Fi network and training needed to support their use. The program includes iPads for third grade and upwards and iPods for pre-kindergarten up to second grade. (Source: How Tablets Are Invading the Classroom)
What’s wrong with this picture?
One way–perhaps completely incorrect–is the idea of looking at the use of new technologies as a matter of separate but equal. After all, implied in the first photo is the idea that iPads represent privilege, in the hands of the powerful, while desktop computers are used elsewhere. The seed of this idea started with an old blog entry where I wrote the following:
Imagine a school where “technology integration” is no longer an alternate reality, separate but equal in theory though not practice, to today’s schools.
But that idea didn’t quite work. So, then I played around with the idea of iPads vs desktop computer labs. Unfortunately, that’s not the real issue. The real issue is the idea of learning as an activity that happens among the elite schools, those that are permitted to fail and improve…and the lack of that possibility among public schools held to rigid accountability standards.
One of the fun aspects of a blog is that occasionally, I’ll stumble on an old blog entry I wrote and ask myself, Do I still think this is true? Or, was there anything in this blog entry worth keeping?
In re-reading this blog entry, I found myself dwelling on this list of possible transformations:
- Imagine a school without computer labs.
- Imagine a school where “technology integration” is no longer an alternate reality, separate but equal in theory though not practice, to today’s schools.
- Imagine a school where computer teachers no longer exist, but rather, teaching and learning occurs across content areas, using technology when appropriate.
- Imagine a school where classroom teachers know when technology use is appropriate, as well as what technology is appropriate.
- Imagine a school where “what technology is appropriate” simply refers to an app rather than a physical piece of hardware.
- Imagine a school where every child has their own iPad or tablet.
- Imagine a school where every teacher and staff member relies–not on a desktop computer or laptop for their daily tasks of grading, attendance, word processing, crafting parent updates–on an iPad or tablet device.
The most fundamental transformation, though, isn’t hardware or access. Rather, it is the freedom to engage in learning versus the idea that schooling is mandated and tightly controlled and measured. Rather than scaffolded learning opportunities for human beings, we have lock-step march towards a dystopian goal of those who have the freedom to engage in learning, and those who have not.