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.