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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

The Junk Yard

If Websites are Coney Island, Then Schools are Demolition Derby

Did you catch the NEA/NFT report on teachers and technology? The report is about how teachers don’t get enough training to use the technology in the schools. As a result, they tend to use computers for administrative tasks or to send kids out to do research, not as part of their teaching. But there was a curious bit within it — the classrooms that seem to have the most computers available for students and teachers are in elementary schools. And the older and less functional the equipment a school has, the less teachers use it. 

So the less kids are able to read, the less they are able to make use of the multimedia capacities of computers, the less use they can make of the digital world, the more machines they have available. Computers are bulky toys. And then as the kids get older and are used to using computers at home, in the library, they enter the demolition derby — the erratic mixture of new and old, functioning and non functioning, equipment that their teachers find too frustrating and mystifying to use. 

You all are out there — is this picture true? I know there are great schools that don’t fit this model, but how many do? Because this fits perfectly with the problem of the web. We have spent all kinds of money fitting schools with machines, but don’t have the money to update them. We have silent machines matched with the teachers least likely to use them, and battered machines teachers avoid. It is great to see that Stanford and other smart universities are training the next generation of educational technologists, but since there is no logic to what equipment a school has or what training the teachers have been through we almost guarantee a new digital divide. Not between those who have machines and those who don’t, but between new, functioning, well-distributed computers and junk yards.

We need to pause, sit down together as educators, scholars, educational technologists, administrators and figure out what we want computers to do in schools, and then plan together to make that happen. Every district, every school, should have a road map matching grades, teachers, equipment, training, and software — doesn’t that make sense?


  1. Marc — It does make sense. It is frustrating, coming from a teacher who had 4 computers in her classroom and hoped that 2 of the four would function well on any given day. The kids, middle school/high school for me, get frustrated and don’t even try. It really cripples what can be done or expected of students when the equipment available for them is so dated and in disrepair. It is an area that is talked about a lot, technology that is, but with budgets being what they are, I don’t see a way for our local district to change anything.