Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Jewish Standard Gets it Right (Just About)

I have written before how the purpose of integrating technology into education should be about improving the quality of the education that we offer, not as a means towards drastically reducing costs by allowing for more students per teacher (see here).  However, it has generally seemed that within the Jewish press (lowercase "p"), there has been a tremendous push to present technology as the savior, as the way out of the tuition crisis.  Many articles have appeared over the past few years hailing a variety of new schools and new approaches that purport to use technology as a major lever to increase class size, thus requiring fewer teachers and thus leading to lower tuition.  Never mind that very little solid evidence exists thus far to guarantee such results - the drumbeat has continued to roll on.

And so it was a pleasant surprise to open up the Jewish Standard (Bergen County, NJ) this past week to find a lovely article about a lovely individual.  Dan Fried, a chemist by trade, has been looking to donate ipads to schools to hand out to students (what is known as a 1:1 program - one device per child).  He has already given them to two schools, and has spoken with several others in the county about doing the same.  Each school is proceeding at its own pace, but the overall point is that Mr. Fried, in his beneficence and vision, is enabling schools to attempt changes in the classroom that were mere pipe dreams a few months ago.

What was so pleasant about this article was the lack of focus on technology as a potential money-saver.  Other than one line early in the article about the possible impact on schools' bottom lines, and Mr Fried's hope that this would occur, the rest of the fairly extensive piece focused on how schools were integrating the ipads or other technology into their programs, and their hopes and plans for the future.  This was a responsible article about innovation in education, not about messianic hopes about how ipads would reduce the need for teachers.  Kudos to the Jewish Standard for providing some balance in the public discussion on this issue.

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