Now that there are possibilities out there, I wish I hadn't taken the time to read some of the articles I read the past few days! I am perplexed! First of all, I read an article that summarized comments made by the Obama administration's basketball-playing Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. I had a chance to listen to him in person in Washington, DC this past July and was very impressed by him as a leader as well as the direction that the Obama administration is carving for education. Anyway, in this article Duncan stated that "education leaders in the United States must work to close the digital divide and ensure that all students have access to top-notch technology, while at the same time using technology not just for technology's sake, but as a game-changing learning tool." I buy into that 100%. He then adds "we need to be much more creative and innovative in how we do things. For instance, students today use cell phones and PDAs on a regular basis, so coming up with creative ways to deliver content and curriculum and curriculum involving technologies that students like to use is one way to grab students' attention." Again, I am on board there, recognizing that we have an outdated philosophy on these devices as evident by the policies against them that we have in many schools, ours included.
Then I read an article about a brand-spanking-new magnet school slated to open next fall in Paradise Valley Unified School District in Arizona. The purpose of the school is to boost the number professionals in science and technology related industries in that state. It is called The Center for Research in Engineering, Science, and Technology. This STEM -- science, technology, engineering, math -- school will have a hands-on curriculum with a focus on biotechnology projects and all the latest and greatest in terms of technology and equipment. They will also have the best and brightest teachers that can be hired. With all we are hearing about how we are falling so far behind in math and science and that crisis awaits, Arizona is making a huge commitment to turn that around. Yet, only 60 students have applied for the 150 slots available for the first class! What's that all about? It doesn't sound like the Field of Dreams philosophy of "build it an they will come" proves out in this respect. This sounds like something Duncan has encouraged, yet it is struggling to attract students.
After that, from the Washington Post I read Fewer High School Students Taking Computer Science Classes. You can tell by the title what this one said! As we all know, it is hard to find a student that doesn't know how to navigate the the Internet to do research, socialize with Facebook, text or tweet on their cell phone, or play a video game. Just sit outside an American high school or middle school at the end of the school day and you will see that vast majority of students using devices when they walk out the door that they have been denied the use of inside! But just as our kids are using more technology, very few of them know how computers and the Web actually work. Throughout the country fewer students are taking computer science classes, to the extent that many schools, with choices to make because of budgetary problems, are dropping course offerings in this area. The College Board has even made the decision to cancel one of its AP computer science classes. Chris Stephenson, executive director of the New Your-based Computer Science Teachers Association stated in reference to our high school students "their knowledge of technology is very broad but very shallow." The implications for this is that we are creating a generation of teenagers that use computers at a very high level yet will most likely not have the know-how to contribute to the way that computer technology will shape lives in the future. Again, this decline in computer science education comes at a time when our political leaders are hammering away that we need to improve math, science and technology skills for our future workforce.
As I said before, I am confused! However, I do believe that we have to move beyond the common practice of using computer technology as a tool and use it to truly integrate instruction and learning. It is so much more than an electronic pencil and paper with a capacity to connect our students with learning that goes far beyond the walls of the classroom. This has to be our aspiration!