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Concluding Thoughts

15 December, 2015 - 13:04
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David Pepi and Geofrey Scheurman from the University of Wisconsin (1996) draw three parallels existing between Hans Christian Anderson's (1949) tale, The Emperor's New Clothes, and our headlong rush to maximize the use of computer technology in public school classrooms. Remember the story?

Two charlatans hoodwinked the Emperor and his court by claiming they could weave the most beautify cloth in the world. Interested in keeping them with the gold metals and silk threads they claimed they needed to weave the magnificent cloth. As the weeks passed, the weavers called for more and more gold and silk thread. Instead of using any of the gold or thread for weaving, they squandered the money on themselves. When presenting the "non-existent" clothes to the Emperor, they explained it had magical powers, one of which could be seen by ordinary folks. It took a child, free of the burden of self-doubt to shout, But the Emperor has nothing on at all!!! (Andersen, 1949, p. 41)

Pepi and Scheurman's three parallels to our use of technology in schools are:

  1. Like the Emperor, education has a long history of gravitating toward the latest fashion, often at great cost to the profession and those it serves;
  2. Just as in the weaving of magic cloth, computer technology takes money. With money comes power, and power can corrupt (consider the percentage of money allocated for technology in our operating budgets); and
  3. The lure of computer technology has a magic air about it. Faced with silvery disks with rainbow hues and an abstract highway that makes the yellow brick road seem mundane, the uninitiated may find it hard to question the legitimacy of the movement, much less say no or whoa to it. (p. 230)

Closing this chapter on staff development with a quote from Philip Schlectly's Inventing Better Schools (1997) seems appropriate:

Whether the present demand that our schools be restructured will be positively responded to remains to be seen. But I am confident of one thing: without leaders who will stay the course and without staff developers who understand what leads men and women to the frontier in the first place and what these men and women need to keep on going, all our efforts to reform our schools will fail. (p. 220)