Only four out of 10 ninth-graders today graduate from high school ready for college or the workplace—and it’s going to take a more thoughtful, strategic use of technology to change that equation.
That was the message of Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, who spoke Sunday at NSBA’s Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.
More attention must be paid to technology because limited financial resources and demographic trends are likely to force schools to hire fewer, younger, and less-experienced teachers in the years ahead, he said. Technology will prove a useful tool to help these teachers maximize their time and instructional effort.
But the promise of technology will only be kept if school leaders are smart about its use, Wise warned. Technology is not simply about adding laptops or Internet connections to classrooms.
“If you do that, you accomplish nothing but the spending of a lot of money,” he said. “What is required is a conscious strategy. When talking about districts where the technology is not working and large amounts of money were spent, you’re looking at a district that did not develop a conscious strategy beforehand.”
To emphasize his point, Wise showed his audience two slides: one of a classroom of a hundred students sitting in an amphitheater-style classroom with laptops in front of them; the other of a classroom where students were organized in small groups, with the teacher standing amidst half a dozen students, each working on their own laptop project.
The more intimate setting was the more reassuring, he noted. The scene suggested students were receiving personalized instruction. They were more engaged in individual instruction and advancing at their own pace, with an instructor available to answer questions, track individual student progress, and ready to step in when students faltered.
Any discussion of successful technology in schools won’t focus gadgets and software, he added. “It’s about the teaching, the pedagogy. We want technology to enhance teachers … We want technology matched with what teachers teach to allow them to do what couldn’t be done before.”
That’s going to take a lot of thoughtful planning—and school boards are just the entity to see that happen, Wise told conference attendees. One of the strengths of technology is that it can be adapted to variety of settings, and school boards are best positioned to determine what adaptations are needed for their school settings and student populations.
“During the next several years, the local school board will be the main agent for change,” Wise told School Board News after his presentation. “They will provide the innovation … school boards are where the rubber meets the road, and they’ll create the future education laboratories to help us find what works.”