Comments & Opinions
This morning I found an interesting article related to the use (or lack of) of new IT technologies in the school. Note that I'm talking in general about 'schools' and not specifically of any nation.
Now, speaking of 'new IT technologies' means to ignore that most of this stuff was invented in '70s and never moved out of it. Likes it or not, most of IT was invented and established between the '60s and the '80s and is still with us. We improved the hardware, making it faster, smaller and more 'portable', but for the rest... Almost everything that came later is hot fried air and very little else.
The major advancement in the last 30 years have been virtualization (the godman 'cloud') and 'containers'. And if you're not a sysadmin, you don't even notice that stuff.
Stuff loke "AI" and Robotics are more for R&D labs than the run-of-the-mill "school", first because they don't work (AI) and second because nobody really know what to do with them for real.
There is a lot of shouting about "using the new technologies to solve the teaching problems", problems that seems to be (in no particular order): stop cheating during tests, gives better opportunities and reduce the workload for the teachers.
This last detail is a bit perplexing because, for example, here in the Netherlands, this year there were reports of way too many teachers, especially in the primary classes because there are too few childrens to whome to teach. And I'm basically certain that somewhere there are schools with not enough teachers, that makes me think that the problem is not the total number of teachers, but the fact that the schools (or the Government) doesn't want to pay. So the idea whould be to use "the new technologies" to do more work with less time and less money. And we all know how well that works.
So, there are students that cheat during tests. The problem here is not that the tests can be cheated but why is everything based on the results of those tests?
How do you judge the efficiency of a teaching system. And note that I said "teaching system" and not "teacher". You check if the student has actually understood the matter. But understand if somebody understood (yeah...) ain't that easy. Especially because in the great majority of cases, when the teacher asks "is it clear?" nobody bat an eyelash. So you have to 'test'. But one thing is to test if somebody can apply a semi-mechanical procedure, and a different thing is to test if somebody has actually understood a complex concept or something like a language. And if we extend this to the meaning of a text...
The attempt (mostly failed) is to reduce everything to a single number that is easy to manage. And this is the result of a teaching method that is based upon "standards". If the standard is that everybody must have read a book and passed a test, then it doesn't really matter if somebody did read the book but didn't understoon anything, or even if he did NOT read the book, as long as he knows which box to check in the test.
So, how could the "new technologies" solve the problem? Well, they couldn't (to say it short). They could, at best, make the scoring faster by checking which one is the 'marked' box. But the reality is that in many cases, the 'new technologies' do not add anything but a superficial lick of paint that doesn't do anything but "looks cool". Read a book is boring, reading the same book on a brand-new 'tablet' instead is a lot 'Star-Trek'.
And let's not forget that to apply these "new technologies" you also need an adequate infrastructure (or at least an infrastructure) and in many cases this is lacking. The personnel that is also supposed to implement and maintain the aforementioned infrastructure is also lacking. And peoples need first to be re-trained, that is not easy.
What is going to happen for sure, is that a lot of people will jump on the bandwagon and start asking money, for hardware, software and services. And given the lack of knowledge, not many smart thing will be selected. What is going to happen is that the providers of gadgets will show off the newest toys and the various "managers" (let's call them like this) will start throwing money around for them. Money that they don't have and do not belongs to them.
We should also ask ourselves how "safe" is all this stuff, both in IT and in physical sense. Every day that goes by we get news of stolen or published private accounts and data, put a school in the middle and you can expect even more problem. Schools do not shine for physical security either (in the sense of checking who goes in and who goes out), add to that the "care" that the average student has regarding stuff and I wonder how long those 'gadgets' will last.
And how all this will "improve" the situation is to be seen. My guts says not much.
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