The Technology of Nations

In 1776, Scottish economist and philosopher, Adam Smith wrote the masterpiece, ‘The Wealth of Nations’- actually ‘An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations”. By coincidence, the United States Declaration of Independence was adopted the same year, making the American colonies independent and thus no longer a part of the British Empire.

America has since evolved to dominate the old British Empire in virtually every aspect of human endeavors, except perhaps, social welfare. The Yankees figuratively were discipled by Dr. Smith who believed in free market and made his argument that ‘capitalism’ will benefit mankind than any other economic structure. He laid this foundation at the onset of industrial revolution and provided the basics for modern economics.

Smith made his case about the ‘invisible hand’ and why monopoly and undue and unfettered government regulations or interference in market and industry must be discouraged. He was of the opinion that prudent allocation of resources cannot happen when states dominate and over interfere.

In that old time, America farmers could grow cotton, but would not process it. It has to be sent to England where it would later be imported into U.S as a finished product. Understanding that this decision was not due to lack of processing ability, you will appreciate Smith’s argument that market must be free.

His theses were clear and were very influential; they provided the same level of fulcrum to Economics as Isaac Newton’s Mathematica Prinicipia to Physics. Or in modern times, Bill Gates’ Windows to the information economy.

While reading Smith’s book and understanding the time frame it was written, one cannot but appreciate the intellectual rigor in that piece. Before technology was penetrated in en mass across the regions of the world, he noted that all nations could compete at par in agricultural productivity. The reason was absence of division of labor in any subsistence farming system in the world. A farmer does everything in the farm and is not an expert in most.

Discounting fertile land, rain and other factors that could help farmers, all the farmers, from Africa to plantations in Alabama, the level of productivity was similar. Why? No specialization was employed in farming business at the time.

Fast track forward when the industrial revolution set forth. The British Empire became an engine of wealth creation through automation. It was a quintessential period of unrivalled human productivity which resulted to enormous wealth created in the empire. Technology not only helped speed process execution, it helped in division of labor.

Interestingly, Dr Smith had noted that except agriculture where productivity was flat because of lack of division of labor, other industries were doing just fine. And in those industries, there were organized structures which enabled division of labor. For instance in the construction industry, there were bricklayers, carpenters, painters, and so on; but a farmer was a farmer.

As you read through Wealth of Nations and observe the 21st century, it becomes evident that technology was so influential in the last few centuries. It has changed our structures and created a new business adaptation rules like outsourcing which is indeed a new breed of division of labor.

From accumulation of stock and pricing, as explained by Dr. Smith, we see today a world where technology is shaping everything in very fundamental ways for wealth creation. In this era, it has become technology as technology translates to wealth. So, nations that focus on creating, diffusing and penetrating technology will do well.

Why? It is about national technology DNA. The more passionate and innovative nations are triumphing at the global business scene. Give me Japan and I will give you electronics. Talk about United States, I will share biotechnology and pharmaceutical technologies, and indeed every major technology. Give me China, and I will give you green technologies.

So, as nations continue to compete on the technology paradigm, we see at the highest level of success measurement an embodiment captured by technology capability. When nations are understood from the lens of their Technology Readiness Index, Knowledge Economic Index, we see that countries have become technology competing nodes. In some really poor countries with no (effectual) technology, they do not have a node and are unplugged in the sphere of global wealth creation.

Simply, it will be difficult to separate the health of any modern economy from its technology. It goes beyond the wealth of that nation to its survivability. The most advanced nations are the technology juggernauts while the least developing economics barely record any technology penetration impact. For the latter, it is like still living in the pre-industrial age Dr. Smith discussed on agriculture and division of labor where processes were inefficient.

Perhaps, this explains the efficiency in developed world in both the public and private arenas. The more technologies they diffuse, the more productive they become. In other words, show me the technology and I will tell you where the nation stands in the league of countries. Interestingly, the invention of steam engine changed the world and powered the industrial revolution. The invention of transistor transformed the 20th century and is fuelling the new innovation century.

It seems that major scientific breakthroughs bring major great countries. Let me emphasize here that some old kingdoms that ruled the world such as the old Babylon, Roman Empire, and Pharaoh’s Egypt; there have been associated knowledge base that put them ahead. You cannot disassociate good crop production in River Nile to the mastery of Egyptians in inventing some sections of geometry for farming. Some of the old wars had been won by developing constructs that enabled efficient transportation of soldiers to battleground. There was science and nations were winning by using that knowledge.

In conclusion, the world has been living on technology and it is indeed defining our competitive space. As nations compete, it is technology that shapes the world with wealth as the major byproducts, in some cases. I make this case because some of the best technologies had been invented for non-wealth reasons (yes, directly). Examples include Internet and radar technologies which have created wealth and spurred commercial innovations but have military origins.

There could not be any more powerful way of examining national competitiveness than understanding the technology of nations. Yes, wealth has since morphed to technology and all competitions and wealth creation could as well be seen from technology viewpoint. And in this piece, I aptly replace Dr. Smith’s ‘wealth’ with ‘technology’ to have The Technology of Nations.

Increase Technology Funding, Implementation – Find Money for Education Technology in General Budget

Policymakers throughout all educational levels are wrestling with the cold, hard truth that the original funding of new equipment and software is the tip of the funding iceberg. In the ’80s we called this the “hidden costs.” In the ’90s we were so excited about all the new gadgets that we forgot to worry about anything else. Now, in the new century, we are wondering how we can afford to keep the tools our administrators, teachers, parents and students are finally putting to good use.

As the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) states in their Total Cost of Ownership white paper, “While many government and private programs provide the means of obtaining the much-needed technology for schools, there are few provisions for the necessary ongoing support of these technologies. School districts, having installed much of the technologies needed for classroom, administrative and community communications functions, are fast becoming aware of the support problems and need to budget for the ongoing support costs.” These monies are often the last priority of any school entity.

With the revolving threat of federal funds elimination for E-Rate and EETT (Enhancing Education Through Technology) funds, districts must find their own reliable and ongoing funding sources, and state and federal leadership would do well to help calculate and take into consideration total cost of ownership. Seeing the big picture is a necessity.

General Budget Technology Funding

To compound the funding dilemma, many education leaders have yet to realize that technology is no longer a separate entity. Technology use is an everyday occurrence in every school in every district, at one level or another. Unfortunately, many education policy leaders have not revised their general budgets to support the proven ways technology improves the work and goals of the local education agencies (LEAs). Leaders who consider technology a “black hole” (as one administrator once told me) are burying their heads in the sand and should be made aware or trained.

Those who set the general fund budget should be informed of the successes from districts that have recreated education budgeting and work practices. These districts take advantage of technology to increase business efficiency and advance student learning, thus saving money and truly educating students while helping meet No Child Left Behind mandates:

  1. One of the strongest organizations of high performing school districts west of the Mississippi River is the Western States Benchmarking Consortium. These districts constantly score above the norm on tests, have high graduation rates, and have lower dropout rates when compared with similar and dissimilar demographics. All of these school districts were early adopters of technology and have used it to support teachers, students and their business teams.
  2. Assistant Superintendent John Q. Porter of Montgomery County Public Schools, an outstanding school district on the East Coast, stated in the June issue of District Administration magazine, “Our enemy is time, and technology is the only way [to combat that]. Still, there are people who don’t understand the importance of technology because they fear it. One of the first things you realize in technology is that technology is change; those who fail in developing systems don’t understand the dynamic of change.”
  3. Two years ago, Poway Unified School District was going to hire 32 new teachers. The technology department used their data warehousing tool to show district leaders they needed only 25 teachers. The leadership followed their advice instead of following old trends, and their estimation proved correct. The district saved approximately $350,000 in salaries — more than the cost of the data warehouse installation.
  4. Student assessments have changed. Trish Williams and Michael Kirst, in their article “School Practices that Matter” (Leadership Magazine, March/April 2006), state high performing districts must have assessments that align with state standards and have the ability to quickly inform teachers of results. Online assessments give policymakers a choice of how to properly assess students to support learning, with 24 hours or quicker result reporting. This should be a common practice to support the students and meet NCLB mandates.

RELATED STORY: Find More Money for Budget and Technology [http://www.convergemag.com/summary.php?catid=418]

All budgets, despite project or department, must be completely reviewed to see how technology can support and make the end product more successful. Additionally, policy leaders must continue to research what new innovations will be appearing in the near future and analyze how these new tools will impact education programs in their local education agencies. All must be in a continual learning mode and work together to envision how we can help put students on a path to continual intellectual growth. Following are some steps to start down the path toward properly utilizing general funds for the support of technology.

Funding Where There was None

Step 1: Evaluate and Prioritize

Data-driven decision-making is a fundamental part of this first step. Generally, there are three areas from which data should be gathered: instructional and business demands, the infrastructure to support those demands, and the equipment and software needed to meet those demands.

  • Instructional and business demands: these demands are driven by district objectives, community expectations, state and federal mandates, funding constraints and labor union guidelines. Expectations are increasingly high for districts to produce students who perform well on standardized tests and exhibit good citizenship. The business side of education exists to support the learning activities that will meet these expectations.
  • The infrastructure to support those demands: LEAs’ infrastructure consists of multiple components. Every two to three years, structural components should be reviewed. Telephones, data, alarm, networks and general physical condition of buildings must be assessed to understand what repairs and upgrades are needed. Funding is available in many states under deferred maintenance, or in operational and maintenance restricted funds. If a comprehensive plan is developed and followed, districts can ensure this major building block for support of education will be set in place.
  • Equipment and software to meet those demands: with the first two areas in place, an intelligent decision can be made regarding the purchase of software, computers and other related equipment that will work with the existing infrastructure and meet the district’s instructional and business demands.

Attaining these goals may require more than one year. It is also highly probable that goals will change over time. It is wise, therefore, to create a multi-year plan that is agile and modifiable.

Part of supporting technology is providing a maintenance, replacement or obsolescence fund, typically fed from districts’ general funds. Too often a majority of technology dollars are spent simply maintaining the status quo. The challenge is to meet the continual need for growth in the areas of technology for online assessments, home-to-school communication, 24/7 access to learning resources and virtual or distance learning.

Step 2: Partnerships

LEAs can benefit from partnerships with local and national businesses in two major ways. First, businesses use general funds to support technology, and business leaders can share funding and maintenance best practices with educational policymakers. Second, business partners can donate equipment or money to support technology innovations in education.

True partnerships support all parties involved. Such partnerships can be large or small, because any amount of funding will help. Large corporations often have several different funding sources. IBM, for instance, has the Academic Initiative and an alliance with the Computer Science Teachers Association to provide free software and curriculum planning. Intel offers multiple grant programs, as does Microsoft. Smaller companies, even the mom and pop donut shop, can and will support their neighborhood school.

Step 3: Form Foundations

If a community understands its local districts’ funding constraints, they are often willing to extend financial assistance by creating a foundation. While foundations are helpful overall, they should be avoided for individual school sites, as they generally increase inequities that already exist. Schools in more affluent neighborhoods may have foundations that raise $100,000 or more annually, while schools in less affluent areas may only raise $5,000 or have no foundation, and will obviously be unable to support their student learning projects.

Step 4: New Uses for Old Technologies

Thin client (a network computer without a hard disk drive, which is designed to be especially small so that the bulk of the data processing occurs on the server) is one way to use old equipment to run new software, where old computers can become “dumb terminals” and run new applications from the server. This solution requires a sound network foundation and server structure, but can reduce replacement costs and decrease technology support staff needs.

Step 5: Give Grants a Chance

Where are the grants? Too many education decision-makers and leaders, especially at the high school level, do not realize that state and federal grants are much easier to obtain if their free and reduced lunch count is 40 percent or more. It is important for educators to have accurate data and a high percentage in this area for funding sources such as E-Rate, EETT, or other related sources. In addition, ferreting out grant money can augment general funds to support student learning with technology.

The Road to Affording Ed Tech

General budget funding must be realigned to match the needs of local education agencies. This will help both the learning and business aspects of a school. These funds may initially need supplemental support, but educators must be aware of the benefits of technology. We must intelligently commit funding for the educational growth of all our children.

Leasing Equipment

Last year, the Poway Unified School District had to replace approximately 3,000 Windows 95 computers. These computers would not run the Web browser needed for their data reporting tool or the majority of teacher Web pages. The memory and speed of the computers were insufficient to run most of the enterprise-wide educational software available over their wide area network (WAN) and local area networks (LANs).

The district had less than $1 million per year available for this project. Leasing was discussed. The amount the district had for support was ongoing, so the question was, could a lease agreement that guaranteed a vendor an ongoing fixed dollar amount for several years also guarantee the district a continuing flow of up-to-date technology equipment?

The district obtained a four-year lease with three vendors, with an agreement at the end of four years to rotate the machines out with a new lease agreement. Additional cost savings included the maintenance agreement — vendor responsibility for all repairs during the lease period.

Thin Client

Districts throughout New York and New Jersey have discovered how to use thin client technology to make old computers new again. During the late 1990s, thin client was dismissed as too slow and too expensive to be useful in most school districts. This perception has changed in business, as in education, with greater network speed via WAN and LAN technologies, and tremendous server cost reductions.

In a thin client environment, workstations do not store programs but rather receive everything from a system of servers (one server for about 20 workstations). When servers were $20,000 each, this was cost prohibitive. Today, servers that can support thin client cost about $3,500, allowing quick communication with workstations and a cost-saving solution.

Total Cost of Ownership

How can policy leaders find the true cost of supporting equipment? The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) and the Gartner Group have an online tool that will assist in the estimation of this cost for various levels of technology.

Published in the Fall 2006 issue of Converge [http://www.convergemag.com/story.php?catid=418&storyid=106722]

Beware the Seductive Power of Technology

I Like Technology. I’m conceding all the good and fun things that computer-based technology has brought into our lives; I’ll not fight that battle. Not only would I lose any argument against the wonderful additions technology has made to our lives, I would be fighting against myself. I love it that I can flip open a Star Trek “communicator” and talk to almost anyone, anytime. I love the very idea of having a communication device out in my back yard, near the bird feeder, that is communicating with a satellite in low earth orbit. Wow! And do I ever love my computer-oops, computers. As in many computers. In fact, my job is strongly tied to technology and I love to get paid. However, this article is a warning, a plea to open our eyes wider than our big screen TVs, to step back out of cell phone range, to put down our PDAs for a minute and look at what has gotten a hold on us.

Technology is Seductive

Technology has the power to draw us in and cause us to lose perspective about what is happening. Just try talking to your child (or maybe your spouse or best friend) the next time some slick TV program or commercial is shimmering across the screen and you’ll see what has all of their attention. Technology draws us in. But if we’re drawn in, we’re also leaving something behind. We could be abandoning loving or developing relationships or the quiet time necessary to think purposefully about our lives, where we are going and how we want to live five years from now. To continue this idea, that technology is seductive, let’s look at the natural progression of how we respond to new technology.

Technology as a Toy

All new technology comes to us in the guise of a toy, thus its initial seductive pull on us. No matter the age, the new technology feels like a toy. It is smooth, pretty and flashes little lights. It makes cute sounds and we respond to it from the childlike (or childish) center of our being. It is not the sophisticated 35 year old business executive that is responding to the new all-purpose, highly-evolved technology thing, it is instead the seven year old child inside that is gushing and filled with Christmas morning lust. We might not even have any way to use it yet, but we play with it. We turn channels, set the volume on the 96 surround sound speakers (yours doesn’t have 96?), take pictures of our toes with it, and enthusiastically pursue carpel tunnel problems as quickly as our thumbs and fingers can fly over fun little colored buttons. It is a toy. But it does move evolve into our next category and that makes us feel a little better about it and helps us avoid the fact that we just spent a year of future retirement on a toy.

Technology as a Tool

The toy usually becomes a tool. In our strong desires to justify the purchase of the toy, we look for things it can do. Ah, it keeps my calendar. Cool! Now I won’t have to keep track of my $29.00 day planner and worry about losing it. I just need to worry about losing my $495 PDA. But it can also take pictures. That’s important. It’s also good that it can erase them because I find I take a lot of pictures that are really crap and now I not only spent time taking the pictures, I also get to spend time erasing them. But the toys often turn into very serious tools. I may continue to use my cell phone toy as I unconsciously blow through red lights and make turns without signaling (need that spare arm for the cell), but I also realize this toy is a serious safety tool. I don’t want to be broken down on the highway and not have this link to help. The same 50″ flat screen wall hanging that is a toy is also a tool to be aware of threatening weather and important current events. And the notebook computer that empowers me to look at pictures of potential Russian brides helps me write this article and project investment returns. Toys have the potential of becoming tools. From puppies to working dogs. But there is a third and more dangerous level.

Technology as a Tyrant

Dictionary.com offers one definition of a tyrant as, “a tyrannical or compulsory influence.” Wow! Think cellphone, e-mail, Skype, compulsive checking of forums, chat rooms, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and all the other current flavors of Turkish delight known as technology. These things can be toys (relatively harmless except for what they might be replacing), they can be tools, or they can become tyrants. When deeply engrained into our work or social structure, they change from being puppies or work dogs and become pit bulls that can bite and clamp down so that it is very difficult to dislodge them. I used to be able to keep up with the demands of my job. Once upon a time I actually had a little time that I could budget weekly that was “walk around and get to know everyone better” time. No more. Now I am constantly juggling attention among appointments, drop-in unannounced visitors, snail mail, phone calls with the pink reminders, cell phone calls, and e-mail. I can never get one caught up without intrusions from all of the others. The first four were barely manageable, with cell and e-mail added, I’m no longer in control, the pit bull is. So, what happened?

How Did We Get Like This?

Okay. Here is the crux of this article. Technology is on a different evolutionary rate than us humans. It reproduces faster than mice and changes species with each generation. We were enticed, and continue to be enticed, by technology due to its seductive dark side. It beckons to the seven year old inside and draws us in. As a tool, technology is embraced and embedded into our lives, seemingly as a partner, one called alongside of us to help us. But, without an understanding of the evolutionary path of technology, we do not control its place in our lives. It becomes a tyrant that bullies us and pulls us around on its lease instead of the other way around. Because of the initial seductive nature of technology, we don’t easily see that it will tend to take us to where we don’t want to go and make us pay more than we first thought we were willing to pay. So, what shall we then do?

What We Must Do

I’m not offering a plan but an approach. The approach depends upon fully understanding what has gotten a grip on us. I suggest the following critical pieces for beginning to manage technology and protect our humanity:

  • Clearly see that technology is seductive and separate out and control the childish reactions to the initial toy aspects of new technology. Gratification can be delayed (an adult response) and toys can be both played with and put away.
  • Think through both intended and unintended consequences of bringing a shiny, new technology toy into your life. What is it replacing? How will you control it so it doesn’t put you on a leash?
  • Do not assume that a new technology tool is better than an older one that worked well for you in the past. I have a colleague who keeps in a pocket a little list of things to do, thoughts, and insights. His pen and paper list worked a lot better than my PDA when when my technology tool lost both primary and backup batteries and I lost passwords to multiple accounts and forums. Which is better?
  • Many new technology tools cannot be avoided. However, they can be managed. Think of ways to limit their use and how to communicate your policies for your use to your colleagues, family, and friends. For example, I check my email once a day and make it clear to my colleagues that I am not sitting at my computer all day waiting for the chime (evidently, they are).
  • Finally, pay attention to the things that technology tends to replace and redouble your effort to work on relationships so you have no regrets.

To rewrite a common adage, no one’s last words are likely to be, “I wish I had purchased the 60″ HD instead of the 54”.

Modern Science and Technology and the Challenges of Third World Countries

We live in a highly sophisticated world where everything is almost achievable. There would probably have been no changes between the world of today and that of three centuries ago if necessity and serendipitous discoveries had not driven men to achieve great things. Science and technology have had huge positive effects on every society. The world today has gone digital, even human thought. Our world has been reduced to a global village and is better for it.

The benefits of science and technology far outweigh every perceived shortcoming. Some of the biggest effects of technology are in the area of communication; through the internet and mobile phones. There is advancement of communication and expansions of economic commerce. Today we hear of information and communication technology (ICT). Any institution worth its name must have it in place to be really outstanding. Information technology has become boosted in today’s generation; from the field of communication, business, education, and down to the entertainment industry. Through information technology, work performances are boosted with less effort and greater productivity by using various operations. Without computers or the internet, it will be difficult for people all over the world to get their questions answered. One may use the internet to locate a wealth of information with which to answer an essay question that may have been assigned at school, communicate with people, conduct transactions, access news, buy and advertise goods. The list is endless.

The advancement of Science and technology allow mass communication today so that we not only have the television, radio and newspaper, but even mobile phones which renders a multipurpose service; from long distance calls, listening to radio and music, playing games, taking pictures, recording voice and video, and browsing the internet. The benefits we obtain as a result of services from ICT have become widespread in our generation today. It improves the productive level of individuals and workers because People’s knowledge of life beyond the area they lived in is now unlimited. This idea of mass communication also profoundly affects politics as leaders now have many ways they talk directly to the people. Apart from going on air to use radio or television, politicians resort to the social media for some of their political comments and campaign. Information about protests and revolutions are being circulated online, especially through social media. This has caused political upheavals and resulted in change of government in most countries today.

Furthermore, current global issues are much more accessible to the public. Communication has been brought also to the next level because one can find new ways to be able to communicate with loved ones at home.

Science and technology expand society’s knowledge. Science helps humans gain increased understanding of how the world works, while technology helps scientists make these discoveries. Learning has maximized because of different media that are being developed which are all interactive and which bring learning experiences to the next level. Businesses have grown and expanded because of breakthroughs in advertising.

Modern technology has changed the way many companies produce their goods and handle their business. The idea and use of video and web conferencing, for instance, has helped companies remove geographical barriers and given them the opportunity to reach out to employees and clients through out the world. In today’s economy, it has helped companies reduce the cost and inconveniences of travelling, allowing them to meet as often as they could like without having to worry about finding the budget to settle it. Modern technology helps companies reduce their carbon footprint and become green due to the fact that almost anything can be done from a computer.

There have been advances in medical care through the development of science and technology. Advances in medical technology have contributed immensely in extending the life span of people. People with disabilities or health problems are now more and more able to live closer to normal lives. This is because science contributes to developing medications to enhance health as well as technology such as mobile chairs and even electronics that monitor current body levels. Most devices used by the physically challenged people are customized and user friendly.

Science and technology increase road safety. Nowadays, law enforcement officers use Laser technology to detect when automobiles are exceeding speed limits. Technology has led to the development of modern machines such as cars and motorcycles which allow us to be mobile and travel freely and airplanes which travel at a supersonic speed.

Another machine, the air- conditioner, provides cool comfort, especially during hot weather. In offices where dress codes exist, people can afford to wear suits without being worried about the weather. It guarantees convenience even when the climate says otherwise.

Moreover, present day factories have modern facilities like machines and soft ware that facilitate production. These machines work with greater speed and perfection incomparable with human skills. These machines have enabled markets to have surplus products all over the world. For the soft ware, they make it possible for machines to be programmed, for production to be regulated, to monitor the progress being recorded and so on.

Modern technology indeed has been great. For third world countries, however, it has been challenging, especially the area of production. Only consuming and not been able to manufacture does not favour any country when it comes to balance of trade. The most sensitive parts of technology are the theoretical or conceptual parts and technical parts. These are the backbone of technological development anywhere in the world. Without the ideas, there will not be technology. Third world counties need to go back to the basics, that is, to the primitive. There must be meeting ground for tradition and modern technological invention. Third world countries engage in import substitution strategy where they import half finished goods and complete the tail end of the production process domestically. Third world countries started wrongly. They started with climbing the ladder from the top which is very wrong and difficult. They thought that being able to purchase and operate modern technological products qualifies for advancement in science and technological development. This makes third world countries to be a dependent system because working in the factories are routine work and this inevitably links to the issue of the idea of technology transfer. They should seek for technological transfer, but the problem is that no nation is ready to transfer her hard earned technological knowledge to any other nation for some certain reasons which drive nations into competition; world politics and economic prowess. That is the struggle to lead or dominate other nations technologically, economically and politically. Be the first to invent new gadgets and latest electronics including those used in modern warfare, use other nations as market for finished goods, and to have a strong voice and be able to influence other countries. They should consider embarking on technological espionage so as to acquire the rudiments for technological development if they must liberate themselves from the shackles of technological domination.

In conclusion, it’s not until third world countries begin to put embargo on the importation of certain electronics and mechanical goods that the necessity to be creative would replace the habit of consuming foreign products. Countries like Thailand, Burma, Brazil, and South Africa and so on, should be emulated. These countries experienced colonialism yet they did not allow it to overwhelm their creative prowess. Industry and determination saw them emerge as economic giants in the world today. Third world countries should emulate them by carrying out proper feasibility studies to ascertain which technology will suit their country; giving more financial boost to this area, training people to become experts; motivating and encouraging individuals who are naturally endowed and technologically inclined to display their bests of talents. These measures if strictly adhered to will go a long way to help the advancement of these countries in the area of science and technology. If these countries must achieve greatness before the next decade, they have to make conscious and unrelenting efforts. The time starts now! The more they delay, the more backward they become.

If Technology Is Effective in the Classroom – Why Do Some Students Dislike It So Much?

The effectiveness of technology use in the classroom has become a controversial issue. While many teachers and students feel that it’s best to use technology because it enhances teaching many others feel that it causes too many challenges and that it is a waste of time. If technology is as effective in the classroom as many teachers believe it to be; why do some students dislike it so much?

In order to objectively respond to this question, 3 articles were examined. 2 out of the 3 relate how the use of technology in the classroom frustrates students while the last one translates the thoughts of students who feel that technology in the classroom has responded to their need. So the issue is not that technology is not effective but rather that some teachers need to be mindful about technology use in the classroom and others need to be trained in order to properly use technology to teach so that students do not view technology as obstruction learning but as an enhancing tool.

After summarizing the 3 articles that have been reviewed we will be able to prove that there are 2 groups of students who claim to dislike technology in the classroom: Those who are improperly exposed to it by their teacher and those who did not give themselves enough time to familiarize themselves with it. We will then be able to get to the logical conclusion that those same students would appreciate the value of technology in the classroom if their teachers used it properly. Let us first summarize the articles that we are referring to.

The article “When good technology means bad teaching related that many students feel that teachers and professor use technology as a way to show off. Students complain of technology making their teachers “less effective than they would be if they stuck to a lecture at the chalkboard” (Young) other problems related by students include teachers wasting class time to teach about a web tool or to flab with a projector or software. When teachers are unfamiliar with the technological tools, they are likely to waist more time trying to use them the technological software that is used the most according to students is PowerPoint. Students complain that teachers use it instead of their lesson plan. Many students explain that it makes understanding more difficult “I call it PowerPoint abuse” (Young). Professors also post their PowerPoint Presentation to the school board before and after class and this encourages students to miss more classes.

Another problem reported in the article with the use of technology in the classrooms is that many schools spend time to train their staff about how to use a particular technology but it does not train them on “strategies to use them well” (Young). The writer believed that schools should also give small monetary incentives to teachers and professors to attend workshops.

In an interview made with 13 students, “some gave their teacher a failing when it came to using Power Point, Course Management systems and other classroom technology” (Young ) some of the complains were again about the misuse of PowerPoint’s and the fact that instructors use it to recite what’s on the scale. Another complaint was that teachers who are unfamiliar with technology often waste class time as they spend more time troubleshooting than teaching. The last complain mentioned is that some teachers require students to comment on online chat rooms weekly but that they do not monitor the outcome or never make reference to the discussion in class.

Similarly, the article “I’m not a computer person” (Lohnes 2013) speaks to the fact that students expectations as far as technology is concerned is very different. In a study done with 34 undergraduate university students, they advise that technology is an integral part of a university students life because they have to do must everything online from applying for college or university, searching and registering for classes, pay tuition and that in addition to being integrated in the administration, etc. technology is also widely used to teach and is valued by higher education.

Those students, however, feel that technology poses a barrier to success as they struggle to align with the ways in which the institution values technology.” A student explains that technology is used in her freshman year to turn in assignments, participate in discussion boards and blogs, emailing the professor, viewing grades and for a wide range of other administrative task including tracking the next school bus. This particular student whose name is Nichole says that she does not own a laptop but shares a family computer. She has a younger brother who also uses the computer to complete his school work so she consequently has to stay up late to complete assignments. She states “technology and I? We never had that connection” (Lohnes). Nichole dislikes the fact that her college requests that she had more contact with technology than she is conformable with. Nonetheless, she explains that as she started doing those school online assignments so frequently she came to realize that they were not that bad.

One of her issues though with technology is that she had come from Puerto Rico about a year prior entering college and that she never had to use the computer so much there. The articles relates that other college students like Nichole have admitted that they are “reluctant technology users” (Lohnes) The article wants to explain, in essence, that although most people would expect that college students prefer technology and are already familiar with it,” that assumption is faulty” (Lohnes).

On the other hand, the article “What Screenagers Say About… ” High school age students were asked about what they thought of technology but most expressed liking it. One of them said about PowerPoint: “My history teacher did a good job with Power Points. He would put them online, which made for really great reviews.” (Screneagers, 2011) Others expressed how technology was really who they are and that teachers should understand for example that when they text in class, they are not being rude but that they have gotten used to multi tasking. Another student invites teachers to not be afraid of technology “Teachers shouldn’t be afraid of technology. Understand that it’s how we live our lives. So don’t just push it out. Learn to cope with us and how we work.” (Screenagers, 2011)

Another student however, expressed how she prefers simpler technology that her teacher is comfortable with rather than high tech that the teacher does not manipulate well “The most important thing for teachers is to be comfortable with what they’re using. It doesn’t have to be super high tech. My math teacher used a projector, and it was one of my favorite classes. Then I would go to this other class where the teacher used Power Points and the SMART board, but I didn’t get any more out of it because she wasn’t comfortable with the technology” (Screenagers, 2011) Students spoke about their appreciation for virtually all types of technology used in the classroom. Another said “One of my teachers used Skype. That’s face-to-face interaction. If I had a problem with some math problem I was working on, I could take a picture of it and put it on the Skype screen. She could see where I was making my mistake. It really helped.” (Screenagers, 2011) The bottom line is that those high school students wanted to let teachers know that they really like technology and that it is already a great part of their daily routine but that it had to be used properly in order for them to enjoy it.

Similarly, they summarize a few things that they dislike as well. Among the list, they said: reading on the computer, paying a lot for an online textbook and the fact that they often forget everything else when they get caught up with using technology.

Nonetheless, they had much more positive things they liked in technology like for example that some teachers would text a question for them to think about before class, so if they do not know they answer, they would communicate with classmates to discuss the possibility for the answer before class. This allows them to go to class prepared. They also like using Skype, emailing their teachers instead of going to speak to them in person. They also enjoy discussion boards. The advice they would like to convey to their teachers is to make sure that they are comfortable with whatever technological tools they are using, to give them more freedom to use the good sites and those in the middle range when they are surfing the net using school computers and to understand that technology is part of their lives.

After summarizing those articles, we can see that the students mentioned in Youngs, 2004 dislike technology because their experience with it was not satisfactory. In other terms, a group of students dislike technology because some teachers are not mindful about technology use or they need additional training. For example, some students are frustrated because they feel that instructors waist their time when they are not properly trained to use the technological tools. Others disliked the fact that some teachers had PowerPoint presentations which were either not meaningful or they would just read whatever they wrote and add no additional comments. Those examples are called “bad teaching (Young, 2004) and they are in fact terrible examples that teachers should not follow because technology is not meant to help teachers do the least work or to adopt poor teaching practices. Somme students related that PowerPoint was widely used by teachers so they even call it PowerPoint abuse.

I can relate to what is being expressed by those students. I observed a Teaching Assistant teach a grammar class recently. He purchased a device to allow him to monitor the screen without touching the computer. He was able to walk throughout the class while changing slides. It all looked so impressive but despite all of this show, students were left so confused at the end of the lesson. When they asked questions, he went back to the slide that had the grammar rule and read it over to the class. The PowerPoint was a duplication of the textbook chapter. The same examples of the book were used. At the end of the course, he felt that he had done a great PowerPoint when in fact, it was not meaningful. It was a copy/paste project from the text book to the screen. This example shows that we need to use common sense when using technology. When teaching grammar, a teacher has to be able to come up with examples other than those in the book, you have to write on the board, have student practice what they have learned. PowerPoint use was a real bad idea, in my opinion, for teaching this course. It was just not the right technological tool for the lesson.

Students in that class may decide that they hate Power Points because it confuses them more while the issue is not with the use of PowerPoint but instead with the teacher’s poor choice of technology. The point I also want to make here is that teachers may sometimes be unaware of their improper use of technology. This is why, as educators, we sometimes need to ask students for their feedback so we may make corrections where needed.

We can then conclude that those students dislike technology as a result of improper technological use by teachers, and also because many teachers do not attend workshops or training sessions to help them obtain a broader knowledge of technology since they are so busy. Like suggest (Youngs, 2004) and (Lohnes, 2012), those same busy teachers would have attended those trainings if there were given an incentive. In the article “Technology Standards in a Third-Grade Classroom” (Kovalik, 2001), it is related how a study done on a 3rd grade class of 25 showed that students were properly using technology. There is no indication that those students dislike using technology. The article also mentioned how the teachers were highly trained because the Ohio board pays incentive to teachers to participate in technology training which teaching them not only how to use technology by teaches them strategies on when to use them.

Boards from other states should consider doing the same thing to ensure that their teachers are responding to the technological need of their students and that they are teaching them according to the standards. The Ohio school mentioned above met the standards as far as technology is concerned because of the technology coaching received by the teachers. If teachers learn how to properly use technology in the classroom, it will be a less frustrating experience for them and for the student who will less likely dislike technology since it will meet its purpose to enhance teaching.

The other groups of students who dislike technology are those who were not exposed to it for long enough. The College Freshman, Nichole advises that she was not exposed to so much technology while she was in high school in her home country; consequently, it seemed to be a burden to her to have to need a computer to complete most of her school assignments but also to interact with her classmate via a discussion board. What is interesting though is that even though she claimed to dislike technology so much, she advised that once she started to spend so much time using it, she realizes that it is not so bad. Even though it is likely that some people do not like the telephone and texting so much, the computer and some website have become part of most people daily routine. In Nichole’s case, she does not own a laptop and has to wait for her turn to use the family computer which means that she has no attachment to this media because her use of it is controlled. However, once she gets to own her own computer, it is a guaranteed that her view of technology will change.

I returned to school after about 12 years. When I was in college the 1st time around, nothing was electronic but when I contacted USF to apply, they told me that everything was online. At first, I asked why everything was online but once I got used to it, I started to understand the value of having the convenience to do a lot of things without having to live my home.

Therefore, Nichole will certainly not continue to dislike technology that much once she gets more familiar and more attached to it. The fact is that she stated that she started to realize that it was not that bad once she started doing so many assignments. She came to the conclusion that the computer was not yet a friend but that it was no longer an enemy; it became to her an acquaintance.

With this understanding, depending on the background of some ELL students and depending on whether or not they were exposed to technology in their home country, they may not like technology at first but this should not be a sign that they will never come to appreciated it. As teacher, we will need to allow them time to familiarize themselves with it while we continue to properly use it so that we do not advocate against it or involuntary send missed information about its true value.

On the other hand, the last article testifies to the fact that the new generation is technology driven and that when used properly, they benefits from it in the classroom, there are several examples of how teachers originally used technology to teach which are appreciated by students. What should the conclusion be then?

We have proven that technology use is effective in the classroom but that teachers need to take some actions in order to make this tool useful to students. It is necessary that they received some training if they lack it, and like a student suggested in the Screenager article, they should refrain from using complicated tools if they are not sure about how to use them. It’s best to properly use something much simpler that they are familiar with like a high school student suggested.

In addition, it is important for teachers to screen the countless technological tools and to research them before introducing them to their teaching. Should they test some that do not work well, they have to stop using them and seek one that is more appropriate. Most importantly, technology is not always the answer this is why teachers should be balanced when using it. If it is required that we use the board and chalks to help students better understand, this is what we should do. Doing so, we will ensure that more students appreciate the use of technology in the classroom for what it is worth.

Work Cited

Kovalik, Cindy, Lynn Smolen, and Jazmine Toddy. “Technology Standards In A Third-Grade Classroom.”
Journal Of Research On Computing In Education 33.5 (2001): 1-17. Academic Search Premier.
Web. 9 Aug. 2013

Lohnes Watulak, Sarah. “‘I’m Not a Computer Person’: Negotiating Participation in Academic
Discourses.” British Journal Of Educational Technology 43.1(2012):109-118. OmniFile Full Text
Mega (H.W.Wilson). Web.9Aug. 2013.

Young, Jeffrey R. “When Good Technology Means Bad Teaching” Chronicle Of Higher Education
51.12(2004): A31-A31. Academic Search Premier. Web.9Aug.2013.

What Screenagers Say About… (2011). Educational Leadership, 68(5), 44-46 Wed. 9 Aug.2013.

By

NICK MYRCA MALEBRANCHE- GAUTHIER

Subject: Classroom Technology
8/9/13