Too Much Technology?

What is it that makes a public school valuable?  Is it the information it provides?  Is it the opportunities that available there? Going forward in these times of inter-connectivity, where the physical school building and the learning experiences are not synonymous, what do public schools provide that is exclusive?  What do individual schools have available that is not available anywhere else including other public schools? The answer: Relationships.  The face to face, regular social relationships that almost all of us crave are available there (or at least they should be).  I certainly remember that favorite teacher, the good times in classes, and the interactions I had that made my “schooling” a valuable experience.  After all, if Salmon Kahn can teach all the kids in the school Algebra better than the teachers employed there, why does the school keep those teachers employed?  Technology in the form of computers, smartphones, netbooks, web 2.0 tools…etc, are great things, as long as there is an allowance made for nurturing relationships where students feel valued and their learning is important enough for a personal touch by a caring teacher. Using online tools to grade student work, to set up outside of class meeting for students, and to schedule when things are due, can make a lot of what we do in school convenient, but when the use of those modes of communication crowd out meaningful, face to face contact, schools loose that one advantage they have: real, live, meaningful social relationships. Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to lining up to drink from the fire hose of information available via Twitter or other social media tools, I have been a frequent costumer for a long time.  Although I am not the most savvy user, I would like to think I am pretty proficient at finding and using the information that is useful for me to further my own professional development.  The beauty of the Internet and its connectivity is its ability to connect people and resources in ways that were not available a decade ago.  I believe the connectivity and sharing of ideas and resources has revolutionized many parts of our culture. Schools need to take advantage of and change their structure to accommodate the possibilities available via these technologies, but they cannot forget to leverage the one thing they have over the budding industry of online schools…real, live, meaningful interactions.  Need some proof of the human need for this live interaction?  Follow the tweets of the folks attending the annual ISTE Summer Conference in San Diego this June.  Inevitably they will talk about how amazing it is to connect with their personal learning network, live and in person.  It will be the most incredible PD available…..why?  Because they will get what they crave:  Real, live, face-to-face interaction with people they usually only interact with online.  Do we depend to much on technology?  No.  But we must not forget to emphasize the one thing that truly differentiates and gives value to our brick and mortar schools: real, meaningful, face-to-face relationships!

Photo courtesy of the humansocietyoftheunitedstates photostream on Flickr

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