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Editorial: Technology tantrum

Craig Pierce easily won re-election last year to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, but that doesn’t mean he speaks for everyone in the county. Pierce’s chastisement of teachers Monday for taking the supposedly easy way by embracing technology was a real curiosity, one that will leave education supporters wondering what bee got under the honorable commissioner’s bonnet.   

Bless his heart.

Teachers are not universally dedicated, just as commissioners are not universally logical. But the presence of iPads or Mac Books in the classroom does not determine the quality of instruction students receive, or the lack thereof.

GreatSchools, a national nonprofit aimed at empowering parents, says great teachers:

• Set high expectations for all students.

• Have clear, written-out objectives.

• Are prepared and organized.

• Engage students and get them to look at issues in a variety of ways.

• Form strong relationships with their students and show that they care about them as people.

• Are masters of their subject matter.

• Communicate frequently with parents.

You’ll notice that computer use is absent from the list. Technology does not determine which teachers are great and which should get the boot. Rather, tablets and laptops are merely tools to aid education, much like textbooks, pencils and paper. They can be abused; of that there is no doubt. But no one ever suggested taking notebook paper out of the classroom because kids spent too much time making paper airplanes, playing desktop football or passing gossipy notes.

Meanwhile, computers have become integral to business, education and — for a growing number of people — daily life.

Reasonable people can debate what brand of technology best serves students and the public purse. A growing number of systems are using Google Chromebooks, which are less expensive than the Apple products the Rowan-Salisbury School System uses. But, as the system learned the hard way in the first year of its one-to-one digital conversion, there’s a lot more to using computers in the classroom than choosing the devices. Even more important is selecting educational software and training teachers to use it. Switching vendors requires research well beyond the price of the computers.   

Time flies, and so does computer technology. It would make sense for the schools to start thinking now about what happens at the end of the three-year, $14.5 million Apple contract the system is signing now.

Meanwhile, teachers should know that people in our community hold them and their work in high regard. If a finger is to be pointed at anyone, it’s toward people who underestimate the value of education. That, unfortunately, has been part of Rowan County’s past. We cannot afford to let it taint our future.

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