Is more technology in classrooms the solution?

To Chromebook or not to Chromebook? With apologies to Bill Shakespeare, when it comes to technology, more and more Ohio school districts have decided ‘tis nobler to endure the slings and arrows of spending outrageous fortunes than to risk falling behind their peers.

At a time when people nearing the “get off my lawn” stage of life—the ones bemoaning the lost “good old days” of the three R’s—want younger generations to spend less time with their noses stuck in some device and more time on “the basics,” many school districts are moving in the opposite direction, some spending a king’s ransom to invest in a Chromebook (or similar hardware) for every enrolled child.

Jackson Local Schools, already near the top by most academic performance standards without this add-on technology, will cross over to the dark side this fall.

In February, the district said about 2,000 students will receive Chromebook laptops when the 2017-18 school year begins and that by the end of the 2018-19 school year, all of the district’s students should be using some type of laptop or tablet in the classroom.

Even with what appears to be a fabulous per-unit price of $137, the cost to the district will total about $274,000. (For the record, I did not need a Chromebook to perform that calculation.)

Yes, grants often cover a chunk of these technology costs, so taxpayers aren’t always footing the entire bill. Still, it’s real money that could be going to other educational efforts, raising the question: Is more technology, more hardware and “cloud computing,” really the best way to go?

I mean, what could possibly go wrong with a bunch of teens and pre-teens carrying laptops to and from class? (That sound you heard was not lunch money hitting the floor; it was Johnnie’s laptop becoming a $137 doorstop.)

Jackson administrators said students will be responsible for maintaining the Chromebooks. On Plain Local’s website, you can find a “Chromebook repair form.” It’s there for a reason.

What about cyber security? Heck, what about cheating on assignments or tests?

Never mind. I’m sure that never happens.

If this is the best way to spend educational dollars, then more power to the districts. Godspeed, if you will.

One wonders, though, whether we’re only a few short years from entire generations who can’t read a map (let alone fold one) without it giving them turn-by-turn instructions.

Siri, where is my next class?

—Rich Desrosiers

Knowing where to find the answer

My dad showed me a slide rule once. I scratched my head and poked at it as my monkey forefathers would have. He explained that when he was in college everyone used one. It was not for measuring, though it looks like a ruler. It was for doing complex division and multiplication, amongst other things.

“Want me to show you how it works?” He asked.

I immediately fell asleep from boredom, only to wake several years later when the world had forgotten all about slide rules.

Education is constantly changing thanks to innovation. When I was in school, blackboards gave way to whiteboards. Now, instead of being asked to awkwardly stand in front of the class and work a problem on the board, students can awkwardly show their work from the comfort of their seats via Smartboards.

There is something very interesting about living in the age of technology. When you have all of the information at the tip of your finger, why do you need to retain any knowledge at all?

Really, the knowledge you need is not the “what” or the “why,” it’s the “how.” As in, how do I find this information?

And I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Smartphones, in a way, level the playing field. Not a day goes by where an argument over a fact isn’t quickly put to rest by someone with a quick Google finger.

It is a good thing that more people have access to more knowledge.

The big challenge students of the future will face is how to sort through all of that knowledge and how to decide what is credible.

—David Manley

Teachers make an impact

Regardless of who you are or your lot in life—CEO or sitting in the Stark County Jail—somewhere along the line in your life an educator had an impact on you. It could have been, and probably was, a positive impact. It may have been, but likely not, a negative one.

Teachers have one of the single most influential occupations in the country. There aren’t many other jobs where you touch the lives and shape the futures of so many people than teachers. In my life, there were at least three teachers who had an impact on me. It is appropriate to thank them here, and none of the three will know this is coming.

A host of elementary teachers:

No one teacher sticks out among this group, although it’s been about 35 years since I was in elementary school. I remember Mrs. Steve in the second grade. I was a new student to Massillon City Schools. I was a Canton kid who moved into the district in the middle of the school year. Mrs. Steve made me feel welcomed. She had a warm smile and gentle spirit. She was my first impression of Massillon.

Then came Mrs. Mower and Mrs. Allen. If I ran into either lady today, I’m sure fear would creep in. Mrs. Mower taught me a tough lesson: never fall asleep in class. She could fire a chalkboard eraser from the front of the class and hit a student dozing off in the head with great accuracy. Believe me, I experienced it. Mrs. Allen taught me the phrase, “Child, what’s you major maladjustment in life?” It is a line I used to use on my own kids.

High school:

I grew up on the tough, southeast side of Massillon, in public housing. I was a member of the Washington High School baseball team and our head coach, Keith Herring, came to pick me up every morning for the preseason, early morning workouts. I didn’t have any other way.

Mr. Herring, though, was like me. He grew up on the southeast end of town. He still lived there. By watching him, I knew it was possible to become something from the southeast side of town, and to live there and become a productive member of
society.

He was the in-school suspension teacher. He handled the kids no other teachers could deal with. I was a student aide in his class, and it always impressed me the way he handled so many different personalities and realized everyone had a story. To this day, I will pick up the phone and discuss important decisions with him. Except now I call him Keith, one of my good friends.

College:

Dr. Kim Phipps was the chair of the communications department at what was then Malone College. I was a transfer student from Capital University and I was already working part-time at The Canton Repository. My major was communications with a concentration in journalism.

Dr. Phipps took an interest in me and because she did that, it gave me the confidence I needed to finish college and earn a degree. I know I never told her this, but because she believed in me, it allowed me to believe in myself and eventually, my six-year journey to a four-year degree ended.

—Todd Porter

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