Why do schools need a computer teacher

I love to look at the logs of this blog to see how people are finding it. It looks like close to half the traffic here comes from search engines. Now I wish there were lots and lots of people who subscribed and read every post that I make of course. At the same time I like to think that people searching for information on the Internet are finding it when they get here.

The other day someone arrived here after searching for "why do schools need a computer teacher" The post that showed up at the top of the search page was one I wrote back last April called "Do We Really Need Computer Applications Classes?" In it I discussed some of the ways beyond dedicated computer applications classes that we should be teaching students how to use computers.

I've been thinking about this question in a broader sense lately in the context of the One Laptop Per Child program. The question I have been thinking about is why do children need teachers? Much of the idea behind the OLPC program is that children will teach themselves and each other. The computer as a tool will enable them to to overcome a lack of well-trained teachers. Heck of a theory.

Of course some students do teach themselves a lot. Most of what many students know about computers they learned on their own or from friends. And I've known a good number of students over the years who have gone far beyond what they learned in school in many subjects through self-study. Having a computer makes that sort of thing a lot easier. But is it enough? For most children I think not.

How would you have done in school without a teacher? Could you have gone to the library and immersed yourself in books and learned what you needed to learn? Are the videos and other media one can find on the Internet enough? For some, sure, but for everyone?

Now don't get me wrong - I am much more afraid of the consequences of the OLPC programming failing than I am of it succeeding. I desperately want to see technology used to improve education everywhere in the world. Not just in the third world but in the US as well. There are lots of indications that it can do that. It's just that the idea of not training and equipping teachers to have and to share knowledge scares me. The idea that kids are motivated enough and discerning enough to learn enough on their own flies in the face of my own classroom experience. As much as I believe in technology I believe in good teachers more. They must (in my opinion) be an important part of the equation.

My fear if the OLPC program does not live up to expectations is that a failure will set back the continued introduction of technology into education. That would be a catastrophe. So I hope they succeed. I just wish there was more emphasis on training teachers so they could better "kick start" kids along the learning path. Lets give the kids every advantage we can.

Comments (4)

  1. Rachel says:

    A bit off topic, as I focused on your "Do schools need computer applications classes?" post… I’ve struggled with my computer applications classes to make them really meaningful. Some of the things I’ve added to the basic curriculum of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Access includes topics on ethical computing, security (especially as related to the internet), creating resumes, image editing, using programs like movie maker or adobe premiere elements, the history of computing, basic hardware/software concepts, efficient search engine use, and the use of the internet for research. I think by expanding the curriculum to include these sorts of topics you can make a class like computer applications much more meaningful.

  2. AlfredTh says:

    I completely agree with you Rachel. These classes have to have some meaning and go beyond what students will think of themselves. Sounds like you are really adding value to your classes and creatign better educated students.

  3. Doug says:

    Teachers can only open the door to interesting topics that the student would not discover on his own.

    It is up to the student to do the learning. Only a few will take the topic to its full potential. The rest will at least have some awareness of some useful information.

  4. Gerard says:

    Totally agree with your last statement "I just wish there was more emphasis on training teachers so they could better "kick start" kids along the learning path. Lets give the kids every advantage we can."

    This is so important for New Zealand, we are having the problem in Technology subjects, we are not getting the teachers.

    Also Technology over here is hard materials, soft materials, food, biotech, ICT. The qualification that students get in New Zealand is NCEA, and the assessments are Technology Generic, so you get the same outcome for all Technology. In my opinion ICT is a separate subject, with its own Development Process. It is also why teachers are getting out of teaching, and other do not want to get into teaching. Our own qualification system stuffs things up over here.

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