Originally published in The Clarion | September 29, 2010
The fifth principle of Technorealism (www.technorealism.org) is one that has proven itself over the years, yet still has enough validity today that it should not be overlooked. This principle – Wiring the schools will not save them – is both political and societal. Some aspects of this principle are obvious, others are simply open-ended.
Keeping the principles of technorealism in proper context is of utmost importance when considering this fifth principle. Published in 1998, this principle was established during the height of technical growth in the United States. The dot-com boom was in full effect as new businesses were seemingly created overnight to cash-in on the relatively new technological pie. Small businesses were getting “connected” for the first time and the Internet wave was beginning to sweep neighborhoods at an exponential rate. In universities, professors began publishing websites for their students and email was quickly becoming the preferred means of communication between student and teacher. As businesses and homes joined the Internet Revolution, it was only logical for our nation’s schools to take advantage of the new technologies available on the Internet.
Just like any other publicly-funded entity, resources available to school systems vary radically from city to city and state to state. With this in mind, it should be obvious that the more well-to-do school systems were at the forefront of technological implementation, leaving other systems years behind from the start. Over time though, a majority of schools across the nation had computers in the classrooms and libraries and were, for the most part, “connected”. It should be safe to say that some teachers and school administrators were better prepared for a connected classroom than others.
The introduction of Internet technologies in schools brought with it tools never before available to the teacher or student. While early adoption of these tools was for the most part sluggish, there were fringe instructors who jumped in head-first. Looking at the situation in hindsight, or even looking at it from the outside as everything was happening, several things were very obvious. In order for the new technologies to be beneficial to the students, the teachers had to first step up and sufficiently grasp the technologies. How a teacher used these new tools in the classroom differed as much as the personalities of the teachers themselves. Those teachers who were comfortable with the technologies made quick-use of them in the classrooms, often throwing the technology at the student with little to no thought of any possible adverse ramifications.
The major concern of this principle of technorealism was that teachers, administrators and politicians could very easily envision the new technologies filling the gap between teacher and student. The fear in 1998 was that some educators would over-rely on the technology and put it at the forefront of teaching. Unfortunately, in some situations, this happened and continues to happen today. No amount of technology can replace a teacher-student relationship any more than throwing paper money into a fire will extinguish it.