There was a fascinating article in the Texas Tribune this week about the recent legislation in Texas that, among other things, appears to allow textbook money to be directed toward technology, calls for “open source” textbooks to be authored, and gives the (appointed, not elected) commissioner a new voice in textbook adoptions there. It is a well-written and thought-provoking article — if you haven’t read it yet, I recommend it.
There are so many aspects of this article worth thinking critically and writing about that I’m thinking of devoting a whole series of blog posts to it. For now, though, I want to talk about this comment by Board Chairwoman Gail Lowe in maintaining that textbook funds should be spent on printed books, not technology:
“Some homes in south Texas, in the barrios, don’t even have electricity, much less laptop capabilities. I think we’re putting the cart before the horse. It’s important that students grasp the material, not that they have a new toy to play with.”
I hope that in saying this, Ms. Lowe was really just venting frustration at the apparent spreading of power from only the board to the board and the commissioner. I really pray that she doesn’t advocate the view that technology is a “toy” and that it shouldn’t be wasted on children of poverty.
It is a crime that in the United States, we have such poverty that children are growing up without electricity and running water, much less high quality education. Surely, QUALITY EDUCATION is the most prominent path out of poverty.
Will textbooks that are written in a way that is neither engaging nor even accessible, especially to children of poverty, help this situation? I think not. Engaging technology is certainly not the only answer, but it is one answer. And with the attitude of many adults in the educational-industrial complex, who are responsible for traditional educational environments, engaging tools for independent, differentiated learning may be students’ best chance.
One more note — A few of the significant benefits of laptops are that they can be charged and run for hours on batteries, that their mobility extends learning opportunities, and that they can facilitate rich collaborations around the world. They are uniquely suited as a tool for developing 21st century skills in all types of environments.
Let’s put politics aside and give our kids a chance to be successful.