A Letter to the Boston Globe

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In response to the editorial “Who should pay for classroom technology?” published in the Boston Globe on August 31st, CEO Richard Rowe considers the following issues concerning education and technology:

1) What makes up a great education? The data are clear that, by far, the most important component of a great education is great teachers who are well trained, have some independence and have incentives to keep them in schools and to grow their careers as educators. Without great teachers you cannot have great education. Too much attention and money is wasted looking for “quick fixes” on peripherals that, by themselves, make little difference in learning. We should instead be creating ways for teachers to become more effective. See the New York Times editorial “The Original Charter School Vision” for Al Shanker’s revolutionary suggestions on ways to provide a quality public education for all children.

2) Who should have a great education? Our United States has grown by embracing the principle that every child has a right to a high quality basic education at least through high school if not beyond. That is not happening today. Our educational inequalities are both unacceptably large and unnecessary. We are lagging far behind most other developed countries in both quality and equitable access. Technology, while it can be helpful, is not a quick fix for the problems facing our educational system. This comes back to enabling teachers to become more effective by providing them with more enabling structures and as well as compensation that more adequately reflects their role and importance. 

3) Who should pay for educational technology? To the limited extent that educational technology can improve learning, it should be an integral part of our public education budget. It might be “nice” for everyone to have a laptop. However the data indicate that, well managed, most of the benefits from information technology can be met with as little as one laptop for four or five students, working sometimes in groups and sometimes alone. In any case, it is unacceptable to argue that the cost of technology, or any other aspect of basic education, should be dependent upon any body but our Commonwealth — all of us paying our fair share through our taxes and not just a few. Education should certainly not become dependent upon those who are trying to sell for a profit as much technology as they can, regardless of its benefits.

So, lets encourage and enable our teachers to create learning environments that provide great opportunities for learning for all of our children. Technology probably has a role, but it is surely a subordinate one.