Classroom technology important, but costly

If you've read the other stories in the Tuition Ignition stories, you'll notice that we've scrutinized the reasons why colleges and universities have raised tuition beyond the means of students and their families to keep up. Yet if the places are laboratories of learning, they also need to spend, too: Money needs to be put aside to remodel and innovate the classroom experience.

The huge push to incorporate technology in the classroom reaches beyond colleges or universities. And while computer labs are everywhere, it's troubling to see so little use of technology in the classroom when every other person has a smart phone these days. Kids are growing up on technology, so why not teach them with that technology?

Unfortunately, incorporating technology comes at an enormous cost. The Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) recently announced that it would provide each incoming freshman an iPad. You may be thinking that is a little excessive, or an expensive marketing tool, and for many other colleges such as Seton Hall University or George Fox University it appears that way. Despite costing the university $250,000, IIT justifies the give-away by pointing to its new mobile application course, and stresses the purchase of the iPad (at $499) will not raise tuition. But if it doesn't come from a tuition increase, where will the money come from?

Many non-college school boards are using gifts. Schools in Gaston County, N.C., for example, are investing a recent $2 million gift into purchasing SMART boards for its classrooms. Other school boards are just biting the bullet; in Norman, Okla.; the school board just approved a $7.9 million contract with Panasonic to install 1,000 SMART boards, money which more than likely comes from taxpayers.

The University of Illinois in Chicago has its own version of the SMART boards, called the EVL classroom, at a cost of $100,000. Besides the use of interactive walls or boards, universities have altered the traditional classroom lecture experience to create "the classroom of the future."

While "the classroom of the future" sounds wonderful, with its moving panels, lightweight movable furniture and many power outlets, remodeling classrooms represents an enormous expense. Would upgrades at state universities come from the taxpayer and/or grants from the government? I only ask because the last thing American students need is higher tuition prices and more debt.

One easy place to gather money for the much needed technology overhaul would be from university president's salaries, especially those who make more than $1 million a year. What do university presidents even do that they need to make more far money than the president of the United States?

Another easy way to gather up the cash for these technological overhauls would be to fire teachers who don't know how to use the technology being incorporated, or are just bad at using the technology at hand. The use of laptops and iPads in classrooms has received some backlash as many students have complained it is distracting, but mainly because teachers don't know how to engage students.

Perhaps you may think that "all this technology will alienate the student even further than the college professor." But keep in mind the most crucial technology schools need to implement is interactive. In order for the technology to alienate, it would have to remove the human side of the professor. Classes are not necessarily being taught over the internet -- in fact, teachers are taking their students outside of the classroom with this new technology.

As Ellen Meier explains via The Washington Post, technology in the classroom needs to become a top priority. That said, the cost does not have to come through an increase in tuition.

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