Investigative Article Excerpt (El-Abd)

Here’s an excerpt (3 pages) of the first two sections of my investigative article for class advice/review:

ACCESSIBILITY

In order to weigh the benefits and disadvantages of using technology in the classroom, it is first necessary to have access to that technology.

Samantha Benito is a graduate student currently enrolled inSweetBriarCollege’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. One of her classes, “Instructional Strategies for the Differentiated Classroom,” requires a field experience placement in a local county school.

“My current placement [atAmherstHigh School] only has a projector and a document camera,” stated Benito. “I feel like the main reason I have a hard time incorporating [technology] is because of the limited access.”

The problem of accessibility is not limited to the classroom. Teachers in rural areas, such as Linda Zabloski atAmherstMiddle School, face similar problems if they want students to be able to use technology for learning at home.

“I would love to see each student with their own laptop to download lessons and then have the ability to review them at home,” said Zabloski. “[But] internet access is a huge barrier to students in this rural community; only about 1/3 of my students have computer/internet access at home.”

Within the classroom, though, some schools are willing to do what it takes to ensure they are technologically in sync, no matter where the budget cuts are made.

When interviewed for the New York Times, Nicole Cates, a co-president of the Parent Teacher Organization at the elementary school, Kyrene de la Colina, stated “[w]e have Smart Boards in every classroom but not enough money to buy copy paper, pencils, and hand sanitizer. […] You don’t go buy a new outfit when you don’t have enough dinner to eat.”

Teachers who try to avoid this issue by allowing students to bring their own technology devices to class may be inviting a new type of problem with them.

In a blog post on Education Week’s website, Patrick Ledesma questions whether or not students should be allowed to bring their own personal technology devices to school.

Ledesma wrote, “[I]n this potential era of student devices, we could see classes in some schools where all students are focused on a single platform and organized for using technology for higher levels of thinking. We could see mixed classrooms with hodgepodges of technology where a teacher could potentially struggle to support multiple devices and software/operating system formats. And, we could see classrooms not using technology at all.”

But even when accessibility to technology is established, a new set of problems can arise.

 

TRAINING

According to Zabloski, when it comes to technology, “[t]raining for teachers is an important aspect. [Amherst] County does offer training, but with little time for practice and follow-up. We only have one tech person to help for 3 schools; he is only in our building 1-2 days a week.”

Jeff Frank, assistant professor of education at SBC, believes that teachers need to be trained to use technology before entering the classroom. He said, “[w]e train our graduates to connect the subject they are responsible for teaching with the interests, readiness level and learning styles of the students that they will teach. In this way, the students our graduates teach will be engaged, progress, and learn. […] Our graduates are experimenting with, and learning the strengths of, the iPad while still in graduate school so that they can strategically use this technology to increase student learning when they graduate.”

Emma Neave, a senior majoring in English at Sweet Briar who plans on entering the MAT program next year, believes that incorporating technology in the classroom needs to follow careful planning and pre-assessment to see what works and what doesn’t.

“Even then,” added Neave, “I think it can be trial and error—you may think computers will be great for your hands-on learners or that SMART Boards are great for your visual learners, but until you try it a couple of times, you’ll never know.”

The time and cost involved in trial and error has some educators worried, especially when school districts are quick to make the digital leap. An article posted recently to Education Week’s website looked at the learning benefits of using the iPad in schools. The author, Rob Residori, a literacy and technology coordinator forChicago’s Striving Readers project, said “I sometimes question if everything has really been thought through. […] Is this the best use of our funds, or is it simply a tool to engage and motivate our students? Of course, technology has that capability, but is that always the best angle?”

The school district in Munster, Indianarecently went digital, replacing, over the course of several short months, all math and science textbooks with laptops and interactive computer programs. According to the article on The New York Times, despite the excitement, some teachers are feeling overwhelmed by the sudden change.

“This isn’t stressing out students,” said Ms. Premetz, chairwoman of the math department atWilburWrightMiddle SchoolinMunster. “It’s stressing out teachers because of some of the technological problems, and parents who are wondering why their kids are on the computer so much.”

Whether or not they provide adequate teacher training, schools throughout the nation are increasingly tempted to turn to technology to reap the benefits it can help provide.

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