By Pat Crowley, Parent of 2 former DCSD students & Community member
Published online April 5, 2016 in Denver Post Your Hub
As recently demonstrated by the protest of the students of Ponderosa High School, today’s students care deeply about their teachers and understand the important role that the teacher/student relationship plays in their education. Unfortunately, we have seen a disturbing trend in the DougCo School District that appears to point to the notion that technology can replace teachers. More and more often, technology takes precedence over teachers. We now have an Information Technology(IT) department that is gobbling up tens of millions of dollars on new, ‘first in the nation’ education technology projects. These frequently end up being more complicated than expected and over budget. A recent IT project was approved over the objections of new board members and knowledgeable citizens. It was approved despite the fact that we do not know what the full costs will be and was contracted out using a non competitive bidding process. Is this the appropriate way to treat our tax dollars?
We have a superintendent who appears to believe that technology can replace teachers. Why else would she send an email to the staff member that was overseeing the creation of a promotional video for the district that states, “The one thing that bothers me is that we have a teacher in front of the class with a book…that’s the antithesis of us and what we aspire to offer our kids. So… Can that visual either move the teacher to the side without the book or just have kids with robot? I think it’s a key moment.”? Why else would she be attempting to create a cloud based data storage and collection system, which includes student performance tracking? Why else would we be seeing the push for “personalized learning”, which is frequently a euphemism for “just give them an IPad or Chrome Book and let a software program do the job.”? Why else would the district have a contract with a company whose proposal states, “This system within the classroom can facilitate more leverage of teaching resources and classroom content, allowing one teacher to provide a live classroom experience to multiple schools and other classrooms within the district “? A child’s teacher in the near future may very well be a video image on a screen. Where is the research to show that this is what’s best for kids?
Children are not widgets or data points. They do not belong in a pipeline to a predetermined job based upon the algorithm of a computer program. The purpose of education is to nurture, teach, and encourage a lifelong love of learning to ensure subsequent generations are thoughtful, productive, caring citizens, capable of participating in and continuing our democracy. A child’s progress in this effort cannot be measured by a computerized learning program that is devoid of human emotion. A computer cannot tell when a child is tired, hungry, frustrated, overexcited, or just having a bad day. A computer cannot tell when a child finally understands a concept or is excited about a new discovery and wants to delve in more deeply. A child cannot develop a relationship with a laptop.
I fear we are losing touch with what really matters regarding the education and well being of our children. We are humans, and humans need relationships. The human touch is being lost in education, and its loss is to the detriment of our children and society in general.