This article brings up a topic important to me. A lot of the kids I teach have low literacy levels. When I was a new teacher, I learned about”English Learners” in my class, as they are called. Some of us, me included, thought simplistically that if we could teach them math or science in Spanish (predominant home language for my demographic) that the problem would be solved.
As time passed, I began to realize that it would not matter what language I spoke. Some of these kids are illiterate in ANY language. They simply didn’t get training in language skills of ANY type when they were young. The reasons are varied, from social, economic, and political, but the fact remains: these are my students and I have to find a way to start from where we are. I’m still searching …
I think technology literacy is suffering from a similar stereotype. Older adults see kids using cell phones for such a variety of interesting communication strategies. They think these kids are absolute geniuses with technology and it occurs to them, simplistically again, that if we just throw a bunch of iPads and PCs at them that the problem will be solved.
What you find out looking deeper is that these kids have only the barest notion of how technology works. Many can barely save a Word document, email a photo to themselves to get it from their phone, or use keywords to search effectively. They certainly don’t understand Boolean logic or C++ coding (invented around 1980, over 20 years after Fortran) or the iterative benefits computers have for repetitive tasks. Some do not understand irony of LOL. Some would not recognize /afk (invented in the 1980s) as a sentence with meaning. Many can barely figure out how to use Google.
Technology is wonderful. I love it. But it isn’t some magic bullet in education. It may be that it isn’t a bullet at all. It may be more like a new color of highlighter or a pencil that doesn’t need sharpening: a wonderful tool if you know how to use it. It is certainly a great way for tech companies to get money from school districts who don’t know what they are doing.
Teaching kids how to use the tools they have, whether they were invented in 2014 (you might actually USE a 3D printer), or 1947 (transistor invented), or 200 BC (when paper was invented), is an urgent business for the students who are already behind.