There is a debate on the possibility of teachers one day being replaced by computers. However, while the presence of technology in classrooms is increasing rapidly, teachers provide an irreplaceable role to the modern classroom. Similarly, computers and other devices are becoming irreplaceable tools to teaching in modern classrooms. Smart boards, projectors, cameras, and more become ever increasingly common in school districts that have the budget to afford it.
Incorporating technology into lesson plans effectively is the core of blended learning, but at what point does the classroom become so fully integrated with electronic devices that they begin to impede the way students are learning? Do students perform better with more or less devices at their disposal? Do math and science classes warrant more technology in their rooms than, say, a history or foreign language class? How can schools decide between what they need to help their students as opposed to only distracting them?
Success stories that involve incorporating technology and education often require a competent team of staff and consultants who are able to take their ideas from paper and into the classroom. At Elmhurst Community Prep, a middle school in East Oakland, Principal Betlach dreamed of kids learning more with special classroom software and teachers having more time to do better work. He hired consulting firm startup Junyo to help establish a system where students would use online programs that could help teachers pinpoint areas that required intervention. Unfortunately, the project didn’t succeed due to continuous changes in the technology plans, inadequate network capacity, and an understaffed startup. Money was wasted and the school was left with an unfinished product that no longer receives technical support.
However, less than two miles away was an elementary school called Encompass Academy that worked with Junyo with positive results. Junyo was able to help Encompass Academy with providing the proper classroom software and also what kind of professional development to offer teachers. Was it Principal Betlach that failed to successfully incorporate technology into his classrooms or was it Junyo that was unable to meet the schools’ demands? While the final jurisdiction remains uncertain, cases like these where school legislators are eager to jump onto the Blended Learning Bandwagon can result in significant waste of the school’s budget. Each school will have different needs and it can be difficult for a company, especially a startup, to successfully support each one.