Â With broken desks and water fountains, dirty bathrooms
and overcrowding, Brooklyn Tech
High School does not deserve to be called "high-tech" according to
one New York City teen in a multimedia project he created. Instead, it seems more like low dungeon.
New Yorkers may not necessarily agree with this
negative assessment of one of the city’s most
competitive and tech savvy high schools. However,
it is not only students who see a serious problem with the way that
technology is currently being used in education -- or more accurately, not used.
New York City Councilmember Gale Brewer sees the
Department of Education as lacking vision for integrating technology into the schools. Brewer has made it one of the top missions of her
Technology in Government committee to let the public know that much needs to be done.
Right now, there is little consistency from school to school. Some have computers too outdated to use; others are requesting hundreds of new laptops without really knowing what purpose they will serve. Some principals don't even have an idea what technology capabilities exist in their schools.
Some schools have networks that allow
everyone to send e-mail to one another while others
rely on making photocopies in order to communicate.
Many teachers have better access to technology at home
than they do at school.
But, using technology in the classroom is not merely a
question of buying computers and upgrading
infrastructure. It is also about incorporating
it into the curriculum and training teachers to use it.
This requires completely
rethinking some issues (from redesigning the
physical classrooms to dramatically improving the curriculum).
Brewer's committee held a roundtable discussion last October
in partnership with the Hunter College Graduate
Department of Urban Affairs and Planning’s Digital
Opportunities Team to identify some of the most
innovative uses of technology in education. Since
then, the Hunter team has conducted research on 17 of
the city’s leading such projects.
. The results of the
study will be published by the committee at the end of
While not included in the Hunter team’s research, a
non-profit organization called Digital Clubhouse
recognition for their Digitally Abled Producers
Program, which works with students ages twelve to 18 years
old. The students learn to tell their personal
stories and those of their community by working with
adult mentors to make “mini-movies” about their own
lives. The three-to-five minute movies, which are
like slide-shows, combine voice, images, music and
The students learn to use photo and movie software
while developing digital literacy, work skills,
creativity and self-esteem. "[Through this program]
the students get the kind of special attention and
individual encouragement that just isn't possible in
our overcrowded and under-funded schools," according
to Digital Clubhouse Network mentor Craig Lowy, a
The stories, which were shown at the Soho Apple
computer store in January, deal with some difficult
themes, including racism, the death of a grandparent,
bullying, children with disabilities, drug problems,
illiteracy and family problems. For example, in one
story, "The Perfect Solution," Damali Driskell told of
his isolation as the only black kid at a mostly Jewish
private school. They also include that student at Brooklyn Tech detailing the problems with his school.
In February, a number of digital
stories produced in this program aired as Public
Service Announcements on television channels
BET and The N
for Black History Month.
The Hunter team’s research and the example of the
Digitally Abled Producers Program highlight the
reality that non-profit organizations and experimental
projects are leading the way in terms of integrating
technology into education in New York City. Now it’s
time for the Department of Education to learn from
these projects in order to develop its own
comprehensive vision for technology in the city’s
schools. And, they won’t be able to do it alone. The
agency will have to work with the Department of
order to make sure that parents are also benefiting
from new technology along with their children, and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications in order to realize their vision -- once they
Laura Forlano is a doctoral student studying communication technology policy at Columbia University.
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