Decades from now, this year is likely to be remembered as the year when area schools fully embraced new technology in the classroom.
The origins of this revolution occurred years ago. But the beginning of this new school year finds area schools throughout York, Chester and Lancaster counties committing even more to the new technology, and there will be no turning back.
The Clover school district is among several area districts that are adopting 1:1, a system in which each student has his or her own device.
Under the Clover district’s Connected Classroom project, elementary and middle school students have received personal iPads and high school students received their own MacBook Airs.
The Clover district piloted the program last year with some 1,000 students, and teachers have been trained during the summer and before school began to use the technology.
Such campaigns met with skepticism in the beginning. Would they cost too much? Would the technology become outmoded in a few years? Would the devices be just a fancy gimmick that wouldn’t really enhance the classroom experience?
But the concerns seem to have abated. Teachers, students and parents are enthusiastic.
It’s true, as many educators have said, that a computer is just a tool and that unless teachers and students can use it to improve the learning experience, it will be be little more than an expensive plaything.
A computer won’t turn a bad teacher into a good teacher or make students learn if they aren’t willing to put in the necessary effort.
But computers are something more than just another tool, more than just the latest version of the slide rule. The embrace of the new technology in the classroom integrates the learning experience with devices that today’s students use in everyday life – to communicate, to get information, to create, to express themselves.
The high-tech classroom also gives teachers new options for imparting information, interacting with students and presenting lessons. And often computers can offer more dynamic ways to use pictures, graphics, sound and video to heighten lessons.
Computers eventually are likely to make expensive school books obsolete. Students can use online books that can be upgraded instantly without having to publish a whole new version. And an electronic book never wears out.
Schools actually have no viable choice other than to go with the flow and bring evolving technology into the classroom. To do less would be a disservice to students, especially those who might not have access to computers at home.
Familiarity and fluency with computers and other high-tech equipment will be an essential skill for any student hoping to compete in the world today. Yes, computers are just tools, but students need to know how to use them.
And, as noted, there’s no turning back.