Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Posted by lpearle on 30 January 2007

We all know about the “Not in MY Back Yard” mentality when it comes to housing for the mentally challenged, prisons, power plants, etc. But what about when it’s computers… and it’s not your backyard, it’s where you teach… and it’s actually Bill Gates and Paul Allen’s backyard? You start a website questioning the school’s push into laptops.

Most schools claim that they want more technology: it’s good for the kids, it’s a step into the future, it’s School 2.0. I’ve been hearing similar statements for over 20 years, when I first worked in a school. Some schools do it well, allowing for teachers to learn and play before mandating that they change their teaching styles to allow for this New Stuff. Most schools don’t. Most schools push the technology, without really considering the consequences to faculty (and morale), the curriculum, and student outcomes.

Don’t get me wrong. Despite my occasional rants and ravings, I’m not a complete Luddite. Wouldn’t blogging if I were, would I? I’ve used computers in one way or another since my father brought home a Commodore PET. There are some things that computers do very well, many useful applications. Still…

I come back to what one school I evaluated said: laptops in class place an artificial barrier between teacher and student, and student and student. They’re not focused on class and interpersonal interaction, they’re focussed on a tiny screen.

Sometimes, this is a good thing. Learning globally – exploring another country’s websites, for example, or a web exchange with another school halfway around the world – is a great thing. Extending one’s sense of self and expression by blogging, sharing information by creating a wiki, using Geometers Sketchpad or CAD software – all good things. But sometimes… sometimes it’s better to be local, to interact with the person at the desk next to you, to focus on the live picture, to recognize that not everything we put out there is good/wonderful/necessary, and to not forget that there’s more to life than bandwidth and pixels.

There’s more to education, too.


One Response to “NIMBY”

  1. Sherri said

    I’ll go along with this, and I used a laptop for my last few years of college — but only in a few workshop classes I took that were writing intensive because I can type far longer than I can write by hand.A laptop is a distraction when one is supposed to be listening. I did not type notes into a computer then because it interfered with my listening. The screen is a physical barrier as well as a mental one.Sometimes low tech is appropriate, especially when the goal is engagement and discussion. For an essay or a writing/research session, I can see the appropriateness. Just because you have the tech doesn’t mean it is always the best choice. It’s like driving to visit your neighbor next door. Unless “next door” means a difficult mile away or you are hauling 80 lbs of something…just walk.

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