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Education, luxury and necessity February 1, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Politics, Technology.
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Bill Gates addressed the Scottish Parliament today, announcing an expansion of Microsoft’s Innovative Schools Inititiative. One of the things he pointed out was the challenge of keeping up with the kids.

Microsoft is backing several educational programs aimed at integrating technologies into classrooms that some young people may already be encountering outside of school. Teachers may have trouble keeping up with students who are already using devices such as the Xbox Live gaming system at their homes, Gates said.

“When they [students] come back into the classroom and there’s a chalkboard there, that teacher has a hard time living up to the level of drama and richness,” he said.

This is true of course and it is a good thing to enable schools and teachers to keep the attention of students who are used to technology.

But what about those who don’t have technology at home? Are they disadvantaged compared to those who do? Is access to computers to do research at a public library as good as having that resource at home where it can be hoped that some parental supervision and involvement can be found?

In today’s world a computer at home and high speed internet access is considered a luxury. I am not advocating for some kind of new program to bring computers into every home and hook them up to the Internet. But I am speculating that as more and more is expected to be done at home on the part of children and families for the sake of education this might change. There are already colleges that demand students have computers. Is it possible the same might happen at the high school level someday? How would it be implemented if it did? Just speculating. After all, my favorite reading material is often called speculative fiction.

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