education / Internet / rage

Making the Classroom Digital; or, “BYOT”

Recently my sister came home in a tizzy because things are being shook up, y’all. The age of random digitization–a misguided effort to make learning sexy through internet, lulz–is here.

My former high school’s FAQ sheet regarding the upcoming digitization of textbooks is one of the great unintentionally hilarious documents of our time. As is this whole endeavor. In fact, this effort is basically a real-world manifestation of this moment:

internet kid meme

Even First Day on the Internet Kid is shaking his head at this one.

I’m not against digital tools in the classroom by any means. On the contrary, I wish I had gotten more technology-focused education, both in high school and college. It would be one thing if the high school were teaching useful skills like coding or even how to organize an email inbox.

Instead, it is requiring students to bring Chromebooks to school so they can access pdf versions of their textbooks. The same material, but now even worse for your vision! Not to mention that it is hardly fair to ask students to cough up the $250+ for a Chromebook when no one has mentioned any real educational benefit. Reading on a screen is arguably even worse for knowledge retention than handling the printed page–typing notes is definitely not as effective for the memory as handwriting them.

We all remember being in high school, right? It was a magical land of constant comparisons–in terms of clothes, grades, achievements, cars, etc. Do students really need another shiny yardstick with which to measure each other? Do you learn better then your classmate if your dad buys you a Macbook Air? The school doesn’t even apply its rules evenly: no one is technically required to have a digital device, meaning that students who have plenty will now have a device to tote around and prove it. Meanwhile, the potential advantages of standardization also get tossed out the window.

Here are some hot tips from the school district re: the digitization effort:

1) How to access the textbook if you don’t have internet at home? Go to one of the “many” free wifi hotspots the town offers. Choose from:
a) the school library which has about 20 computers (if that) to serve over 1500 students
b) local coffee shops, which have a combined total of maybe 100 seats (this will also greatly increase the town’s adolescent obesity rate, as students will now be forced to drink a mocha frappe a day)
c) the lobby of your local Holiday Inn??? (this is a real suggestion. maybe the board has been watching Gossip Girl and thinks normal high-schoolers hang out in hotel lobbies, drinking martinis and looking at their French III textbooks online)

2) Why does the school recommend a Chromebook?
a) it is “a device for accessing the internet” (this is verbatim from the handout)
b) everyone is on the “same platform” (but…Chrome features can be simply accessed from the web, from many different kinds of devices…)
c) Chrome apps are accessible “24/7” (also verbatim! I can’t make this stuff up. I wonder when someone is going to tell them that the entire internet is available even when you’re asleep)
d) an additional gem: the document touting Chromebooks features a clipart picture of a Samsung laptop. I’m done.

We’ll see how this goes–and how long it takes for students to discover the incognito tab and fall down a Reddit wormhole in the middle of Algebra II.

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