Robots in the Classroom?
What is technology’s role in education?
This morning I’ve fielded a dozen or so panicked texts from my sophomore. His school-issued laptop hasn’t been working and today was a testing day. Without a functional laptop, he couldn’t take the test. And there were no spares to be found.
We all remember how when the Covid-19 pandemic shut down schools around the world, learning went online. Class instruction via Zoom became the norm, students turned in work over the internet, and districts got creative in their approach to reaching families who had limited access to wireless connections.
And now that things are mostly back to “normal,” that technology takeover doesn’t seem to be going away. On the face of it, having multiple methods of communication and instruction seems to be an excellent way to make education more equitable for all different kinds of learners with different types of schedules and different levels of family support.
Plus, the internet makes our lives bigger, doesn’t it? Our physical bodies can be in rural Vermont even as we explore the caves of Lascaux. Which are closed to people, anyway, except via video!
But then why aren’t we seeing major upticks in academic performance with all this access to technology? And why am I having to text my overly conscientious son ideas for breathing exercises so he calms down while he waits for a friend to finish the test so he can take a turn on the laptop?
Part of the problem is that no, not everyone has equal access. In May of 2023, Forbes reported that about 42 million Americans still had no access to broadband. Struggling school districts have trouble meeting the technology needs of every student. The school systems that rely on every student having a working laptop fall apart when there just aren’t enough laptops to go around.
Another part of the problem is that technology is at its best when it’s used to foster and strengthen human relationships. And those relationships are where the real learning is accomplished. But too often, technology is considered a replacement for, not a supplement to, face-to-face instructional time.
And as artificial intelligence programs become more and more sophisticated, those human relationships are going to become even more critical guide posts of where and when real learning is happening.
Technology isn’t going away—and most of us don’t want it to. But we do need to keep human relationships front and center, especially in learning environments.
And we all need to practice those breathing exercises for when technology doesn’t make the grade.