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The Dollar Value Debate

     An Inappropriate Focus

 

Currently there is a growing debate about the effect on learning of the dollars we are spending on ICT in our schools. The question and debate is flawed because either the motive or the focus is inappropriate.

 

Do we tally up the amount spent on buildings and ask how they have affected learning? No.

 

Do we tally up the amount spent on library books over the years and ask how they have affected learning?  No.

 

Do we tally up the salary of the principal and teachers over the years and ask how the have affected learning? No.

 

Do we tally up the amount of money spent on art supplies and challenge the resultant change in the artistic abilities of our pupils? No.

 

Why not?

 

Simply, because all these are accepted as an absolutely normal and unavoidable cost of providing an educational environment. If they were challenged in the same manner as ICT based expenditure is challenged, the result would be the same. We would sit back and scratch our heads and reluctantly come to the same conclusion: in reality we can not separate out one factor of the complex inter-related aspects of a learning environment or process and categorically define its effect on learning. The simple reason for this difficulty is that all the factors inter-relate and will vary from pupil to pupil, teacher to teacher and school to school.

 

The ultimate answer lies not in the amount of money spent on hardware, software, wires and gadgets. The answer lies in the interaction, mind to mind, of teacher and pupil, pupil and pupil, parent and child, child and adult, it lies in the deepening and sharing of understanding, in the gaining of knowledge and the growth of wisdom in the individual.

I really feel the question cannot be answered, and in light of that, we need to address the issue or motivation that underlies the question.

 

I would pose a question in return, “Who asks and why do they ask?”

Some ask because they have a differing agenda that requires funding.

Some possibly ask simply to be difficult or for their own political motivation.

Some ask because they really care about the learning opportunities being provided and the learning that is taking place for our pupils.

 

If there are opposing spending agendas then they need to be discussed and evaluated openly, but be fair, ask answerable questions to challenge the differing viewpoints.

 

If the motivation is political, take it to the political arena for that is where it belongs.

 

If the motivation is educational then we must accept that technology has become an integral weave in the fabric of our society, and therefore should now be an integral weave in the fabric of education. What we need to focus on is using the best thread possible as we create the learning opportunities that make up the educational fabric of learning.

 

The strategy should be:

  • Accept that our pupils need to acquire a collection of technical and critical skills

  • Define those skills

  • Acquire the technologies to enhance the delivery of those skills in each classroom and for each pupil

  • Provide the professional development to our teachers to effectively and competently deliver the best possible opportunities to facilitate the learning we have defined as valuable

  • Work hard at identifying the other factors that would limit learning and do what we can to minimise them.

This is where we should be spending our valuable time and energy, not in the pursuit of an answer to an unanswerable question.