Sunday, August 19, 2007

Changing needs and expectations

I don't read it every Sunday, but today I sat down for a few minutes with the Parade magazine that came in our paper. What Kids Really Need is an amazing article telling parents about the technology needs of their kids today. Now I agree with pretty much everything they had to say, but what blew me away was that this was coming from a magazine with a readership of 71 million, that has been around since 1941. Parade is an institution in the U.S. A very mainstream, relatively conservative, lightweight, breezy Sunday read for many Americans. A couple of sections really struck me:

From "Choosing the right computer" -

The average student needs to browse the Web, write reports and communicate via e-mail. Less than $700 will buy a computer that can do all that, monitor and printer included. You’ll want to add software to protect against viruses and spyware ($30 and up, annually), a surge-protecting power strip ($10 or more) and perhaps speakers ($20 and up).

As your budget increases, so do your options for processing ease and storage capacity. After you’v e covered the computer essentials, extra RAM
(about $100 per GB) will make the computer work faster and more reliably. A larger hard drive (250 GB will cost about $50 extra) also is a worthwhile investment.

If you already have a computer or two at home, consider wireless networking. A simple router and software runs about $100, but the ability to share a single printer and Internet connection could ultimately save you money. So, too, could a home server, which will back up the files on all of your computers, so they’ll be safe if one should crash.

Then there was advice on buying a cell phone for the kids - with a nod to the fact that they are banned in many school districts. But this part had me nodding and shaking my head at the same time: "Computer must-haves" -

A computer can cost $600 or $6,000. Here are some features you don’t want to be without:
• At least 1 GB RAM. The more “random access memory” you have, the more programs your little mulit-taskers can run at once.
• At least a 120 GB hard drive. This “permanent memory” stores programs (like Word or Excel), games, photos and music.
• An external hard drive. Most operating systems let you automatically back up your files. If the computer crashes, the prom photos and the senior thesis will be safe.
• Security software. It’s essential to protect against viruses, phishing and other nasty cybertricks.

Made me wonder just how many TEACHERS have this type of equipment, either at home or on their desks at school. Hmmm.... At home I'm squeaking by, just keeping up with those specs, but in my classroom, the slowest computer is my district issued "teacher workstation", which doesn't even come close. If we teachers are expected to lead, well, this is just so obviously out of whack....

This also made me wonder (again) if the day is finally coming closer when those technology in schools naysayers will finally give up asking, "yes, but does it increase academic achievement?" Will they finally now begin to realize that it just doesn't matter - we live with technology, so we teach with it, too - duh. Just like the pencil, the light bulb, the TV, and on, and on...


JSG said...

As a long-time appreciator of your blog (here and your classroom) I am moved to comment.

Maybe it's the cynic in me that notices the fact that the enforcers of NCLB have all of the benefits of technology available to assess, score, disaggregate and determine culpability for those "negligent teachers" in the field, yet schools must beg and scrounge to limp along with outdated equipment.

Thank you for sharing your passion and your wisdom.

-Judy Gould (Fleming Island, Florida)

Mark Ahlness said...

Judy, thanks for your comment. It is indeed so easy to be a cynic when you're a teacher these days. I usually try to turn that negative energy around into positive words and actions, but sometimes it just leaks out :)

Have a great year - Mark