Over the years, I have been blessed to have a very wonderful mentor, Dr. George Bovino. Dr. Bovino is the Assistant Principal at the North Salem Middle/High School. I first met George when my children began their religious education (CCD) at St. James the Apostle in Carmel, NY. George has overseen the program for many years, and it is considered a model throughout the Archdiocese of New York.
Little did I know that volunteering to teach CCD in the fall of 2000 would have such a profound change upon my life. All of a sudden, my managerial job and the boorish corporate dribble started to be a noose around my neck, suffocating every creative bone in my body. The only thing that made sense was teaching children. As early as 2001 (even before 9/11), I started planning my escape from corporate suicide into teaching.
When I began teaching, I wanted to take my experience with computers and model it into a career. Voila! Instructional Technology! And George was there again … his school was a model for the integration of technology. But something else was starting to happen … and in a flash of brilliance as bright as the shine on the bald head of my former boss, the best teaching is where the need is the greatest. I wanted to work in the NYC school system in one its poorer schools.
It hasn’t worked out that way so far because The Greek American Institute is not a poor school. Many families struggle financially to send their children to us, but we are able to meet everyone's needs pretty well. My dear fiancée, on the other hand, is teaching in a very poor NYC public school, so I feel like a stakeholder in the process.
That leads me to my question: Why can't we meet the technology needs of every student? Why can't every student have equal access to technology?
At this time, technology is the current form of discrimination, the new barrier between the have's and the have-not's. More than anything that has happened in the last 40 years of the battle for equal opportunity, technology stands to level the playing field. Imagine if every student could go on line for research or tutoring or for help with their homework? Imagine if teachers could post podcasts of their lessons or make homework assignments available online? Imagine if lessons taught in English could be translated to Spanish (or, for that matter, any language)?
We have seen how assistive technology is helping students with physical challenges and learning issues to become an important part of inclusive classrooms. The same would hold true for the students who are denied access to technology now because of economic, social or cultural disadvantages and biases. It almost seems silly to have to justify a need for computers and technology for every student. In this day and age, children who go to school with access to technology is comparable to children in the 1960’s going to a school without pencils, books and teachers.
I recently read an article that told how EarthLink will provide 10,000 computers, training and high-speed access for poor children in Philadelphia as part of building a Wi-Fi network for the city. Bravo to all parties! That is called “getting it done” for the kids who need it.
Meanwhile, back here in NYC, my fiancée’s 5th Grade class has one computer. In the richest city in the world with the most expensive real estate, food, taxes and every gaudy piece of flamboyance, a fifth-grade class has one computer. To quote W.C. Fields, “On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.” So would a few hundred poor kids that could use some access to technology.