The digital age is radically restructuring the face of American education, for better or worse. At this point, there’s no denying the fundamental role that technology plays in the classroom: by the time children enter the school system, technology is already an integral part of their daily lives, and teachers are constantly finding new and innovative ways to incorporate such developments into their lessons. The long-‐term impact of technology in the classroom is the subject of fervent debate. Some argue that increased connectivity invites children to contextualize their education on a broader, worldwide level; suddenly, students have access to virtually unlimited information, and the subsequent possibilities are just as limitless. As Abigail Walthausen, columnist for The Atlantic, argues, integrating technology into education not only prepares students for an increasingly digital workforce, but gives them a way to structure their use of technology in as productive a way as possible. Teachers can demonstrate how social media is not just a cure for boredom, but a way to connect with the with the world outside the classroom. It’s no wonder that President Barack Obama’s ConnectEd program, which pledges to help students prepare to compete in the global economy through increased access to technology, has received such popular appeal. Through support from digital innovators like Microsoft and Verizon, the program’s $750 million will go towards high-‐speed Internet access in classrooms, software and devices such as laptops and tablets, and even teacher training. So what’s not to like? These are resources to which millions of lower income students don’t have access, and they fuel skills that are increasingly important to professional success. The bottom line is that technology can only take students so far. Although making computer training a priority in the classroom can open important doors, the funding that’s going toward iPads and better wifi is needed in other areas even more—most crucially, toward finally prioritizing teacher salaries. The statistics speak for themselves: in the next few years, more than one million teachers are projected to leave their classrooms; over 10,000 of America’s highest-performing teachers leave each year; surveys show that higher salaries are integral to teacher retention; and American teachers make between 67 and 72 percent of what is expected of someone with a bachelor’s degree. As anyone in the education system knows, a student’s success hinges most fundamentally on the dedication and drive from his instructor. Teachers are America’s most powerful tool when it comes to preparing students to thrive in the professional world and compete globally. Technology fluctuates from year to year, but the value of having a high-performing teacher at the helm of a classroom is priceless. Obama’s technology push is admirable and even necessary, but it’s important that America remembers where its real secret weapon lies.
Published on Mar 10, 2014