Public Education is due for an overhaul just like other industries. America spends more on education than almost any other nation in the world. This is true either measured by gross national product or per pupil expenditures. Everyone agrees the academic results in the US are disappointing. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only thirty percent of American students achieve proficiency by national standards. The public is not getting a good value for their dollar. Citizens certainly do not embrace more tax dollars to fix the problem. This was quite evident during the recent recession and the major cuts to state aid.
Salaries and Benefits comprise nearly eighty percent of the total budget. All schools in the world struggle with the traditional classroom model. It is impossible for one human being to teach a large group with different learning abilities. Resources are not unlimited, and every nation is trying to solve the same problem. This is the promise of technology. It will allow schools to break out of the traditional classroom model and used the Internet,and individualized computer based instruction. Technology holds the key for radical changes for both the student and the taxpayer. In the traditional classroom model the teacher presents a concept to the whole group. Some students understand and others fall behind. If the teacher slows down too much then the advanced students become bored. The goal is to find the right mix of media to help the students keep pace.
In today’s ever evolving software has the pattern recognition capability. Technology is superb at providing practice. If one student is struggling in writing, the software analyzes the writing sample and provides immediate feedback on what is wrong and how to correct it. An advanced student will automatically receive more challenging assignments with the same type of feedback. The students today already have a high affinity for technology and enjoy the engagement. The teacher, while still valuable will receive constructive feedback in a fraction of the time it would take through standard methods. Prudent use of technology can also dramatically affect labor costs. For example older students can take a greater amount of their coursework online, as opposed to the traditional classroom model. There are infinite ways technology can be employed to increase achievement and greater savings in the long run.
Educators know that Technology will provide a larger role in the future regarding the ability to deliver a superior education. We also can see, how technology can become obsolete very fast. Educators need to be involved in the procurement process when it comes to purchasing technology, so it can last as long as possible. We can see how a product purchased, just a few years ago, becomes obsolete very fast. Technology holds great promise for the future but public school districts are far behind in implementing quality technology into their programs. Charter schools have had much more success with the implementation of new technology. This is not because educators do not have access to sophisticated and innovative solutions. It is because they tend to be bad consumers and buy equipment that is popular or sold by vendors they are familiar with. For example, a smart young entrepreneur from Boston developed a software program called Better Lesson. This allows all KIPP charter school teachers nationwide to collaborate and share lesson plans. This is a great way to enhance teacher performance, because when you incorporate great lesson plans you become a better teacher. Achievement First, another charter school, had a similar story to tell. They originally built a software system so they could analyze student data instead of performing the task manually. Better organized data lead to greater student performance. Achievement First originally contracted with a local software vendor and the solution worked at least in the beginning. However, future upgrades were tedious and modifications were difficult. They eventually contracted with Wireless Generation for their future software versions and this relationship addressed those earlier deficiencies. Education foundations are also limited because they tend to fund projects instead of products. Foundations tend to fund the end user and not the entrepreneur that develops the product. In many cases we find that the original equipment cannot be upgraded because of cost or no knows how to reprogram the system. The hardware lacks compatibility with existing equipment. Again we find that charter schools lead the way and public schools can learn from their example.
The winning combination for the future is to combine the best practitioners (teachers) with some of the brightest entrepreneurs in the field of technology and software development. Future technology solutions should include a vision where software is easily upgradeable and will integrate well with other products.
Technology when properly implemented holds great promise for both student and teacher.