News Column

Tablets and teachers can work together

January 27, 2014

The Wisconsin State Journal

Jan. 27--Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham is a strong supporter of technology in the classroom. That's why she is putting a $27.7 million computer plan in front of the School Board tonight.

But Cheatham also knows what really drives education, from kindergarten to high school.

"It's the quality of teachers that matters the most," she told the State Journal editorial board during a recent meeting.

Putting a tablet computer into the hands of every Madison student "will absolutely help teachers with instruction," Cheatham said.

In our multi-device, always-wired world, understanding and using the latest technology is a must for today's students and can cater to their individual needs and interests.

Ultimately, the issue is not how many devices are in a classroom but, rather, how those devices are used. The technology needs to offer more than whiz-bang special effects. It needs to open new paths to learning.

The high-dollar technology plan has attracted critics who question the cost and worry about additional "screen time," especially for the youngest students.

In response, Cheatham adjusted the computer plan for kindergarten and first grade, allowing for shared devices in those grades rather than the one-to-one ratio. That shaved more than $3 million off the original five-year plan, and it should help temper fears of digital overload.

As students progress, they should enjoy more and more access to technology. A "you get the tablet at 1 p.m. on Tuesdays" approach will not get the job done.

Teachers will be first to get tablets, allowing them to better track student performance. Teachers also should be encouraging more and better use of existing devices in the classroom, from laptops to smart phones, whether owned by the school or the students.

Let's embrace technology in the classroom in all forms. Rather than tamping down on the technology students already have, let's build on students' desires to type, Tweet and text.

It's a high-tech world out there, and our students need to know how to thrive in it.


(c)2014 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)

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Source: Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI)

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