Education in the age of the iPad: How can we adapt?

Heights residents agree that the thefts that forced the district to overhaul its digital technology policy were contemptible, and represent a moral failure on the part of those who allegedly robbed middle schoolers of the iPads they were given to improve their computer proficiency.

Our community will not tolerate wrongdoing, and in many respects it has been cheering to see how quickly local government, law enforcement and citizens have reacted to protect schoolchildren and ensure no more thefts take place.

However, it has become clear that—given the cost of the devices, and the high value many place on access to the kind of technology used by Heights students—the conditions that led to the thefts are not likely to change in the near future.

To make an informed decision about the future of digital devices in our schools, we must take an objective look at the role computers should play in education and how to adapt that to Cleveland Heights.

As a veteran of the Heights public school system until eighth grade, I remember the beginning of our district’s campaign to make technology a part of education. It began with MacBooks; small, expensive, and fragile laptops that were nonetheless a boon to teachers whose students may not have had access to computers at home. Although the laptops had great distractive potential, it was clear that students were benefiting by becoming more proficient in using tools that would help them become better prepared for an increasingly digital way of life.

As financial realities have arisen and the district’s methodology has changed, Heights schools have adopted a variety of devices depending on the age and location of the students involved. Although individual students and teachers may have experienced difficulties in implementing technology into their daily routine, anyone involved in our school system would likely tell you that computers belong in our classrooms.

For those students who are unable to afford technology on their own, school technology provides a helping hand into an unfamiliar world. For those students who don’t understand how to productively use technology, classroom instruction provides useful advice. In an age when the national economy is based on information, and computer literacy is a must-have skill, it is clear that our schools must graduate students who are fluent in the digital world. The only question is how to make that goal a reality.

To integrate technology into Cleveland Heights education, our foremost priority should be ensuring the safety of students. Students cannot be tasked with transporting technology that could potentially put them into danger in their own neighborhoods. The district must ensure that the interaction between students and expensive technology does not put those students at risk. With a responsible plan of action that coordinates educational and law enforcement personnel, residents can have faith that their children are not in harm’s way.

Second, we must train teachers so that they can pass their technological knowledge on to students. In Cleveland Heights, we are fortunate to possess some of the most highly educated and capable teachers in the nation. It is only fair to give them the tools to practice their trade.

Third, we have to make digital technology a daily aspect of the education process. It is only through repeated, guided exposure to technology that students can gain the expertise needed to become engaged members of the digital community. With these guidelines in mind, we can act to bring about an education system that thoroughly prepares its students for the new and rapidly evolving world they are soon to become a part of. As times change, so do the Tigers.

Alastair Pearson

Alastair Pearson is a Cleveland Heights resident, and a student at Saint Ignatius. He is editor of the opinion page for the school newspaper, and is involved in the school's literary magazine.

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Volume 5, Issue 12, Posted 7:12 PM, 11.29.2012