Refocusing Tech Ed

Every year at registration, hundreds of CHS students stand in what seem like never-ending lines, waiting to collect a paper with their provided Google account name and password printed on it. Students will have this account for the rest of their high school careers, and frequently use it to do work for every class—every class, that is, except for Tech Ed. It is clear that Google is the school’s educational platform of choice. Why, then, does the district require a Tech Ed class that teaches about platforms never used in today’s classroom setting? Since Tech Ed is organized to teach information students do not really use, and since teachers are not always as adept at using new technology, Tech Ed should no longer be required for graduation. Instead, it should be revised and updated to educate teachers on how to integrate technology into their classrooms.

All CUSD student accounts are Google accounts except for Outlook student email, but with Remind and Canvas, Outlook is no longer the main way to communicate. Teachers, even in middle and elementary school, always assign online work through programs like Canvas, Notability, or by sharing Google Docs on Google Drive, not through any of the programs taught in Tech Ed. The Google apps are auto-installed onto CHS iPads for a reason: they are what students are expected to use, and they are, for the most part, what the teachers themselves use. Google Chrome, Sheets, Slides, Docs, and Drive are the universal go-to programs across campus. Teachers ask students to share their work through Google Drive because they know that everybody knows how to use it and has it just a fingertip away. Even when the school sends out administrative material, such as the Link Crew information for freshmen, it does so through Google Sheets. It does not make sense to teach students how to turn in assignments on totally different platforms that nobody uses, and it does not make sense that the district’s preference does not align with its demands.

Tech Ed, a semester-long course that all students are required to take (or test out of) before they graduate, is the one class on campus where students do not use the same technology they are required to use for other classes. Instead, the class puts its focus on outdated programs like Microsoft Word, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint. What the school fails to realize is that by requiring this of students, it is only giving students an extra unnecessary burden to carry on their shoulders and check off their to-do lists.

Tech Ed is not a useful requirement because even if it teaches programs students actually use, they already know how to use them, and they already use them in their everyday lives. In an age where technology is constantly used, it is extremely rare to meet a young person who is not tech-savvy. Most students nowadays have had technology introduced to them at a young age, so they have an easier time picking up on how to use it than older generations, who were not introduced to devices like smartphones until they were middle-aged. The current freshman class (most of whom were born between 2005 and 2006) are basically the same age as the iPhone. Smart devices like this existed and were being used before they learned to talk. It is no secret that these skills are second nature to Gen Z.

While of course there are exceptions, it is largely the teachers who are unfamiliar with the platforms actually used—while the students are the ones forced to learn about programs that sit untouched on the district computers. The majority of the time there is a tech-related question in the classroom, the asker is the teacher and the problem-solver is a student. Most students have dealt with their teacher asking around the classroom for help, or admitting that their students are more reliable and aware when it comes to technology than they are. Perhaps shifting the motive and curriculum of the Tech Ed course to be for teachers would help students and teachers to be on the same page. It might also make life easier for teachers, since they have to use it so much. Teachers are the ones who steer everything that happens in the class, so if they do not have a clear understanding of how the technology works, and they have to rely on the students’ organic knowledge, how can they effectively lead? This could also potentially cut down on the instruction time teachers miss for training days. This is not to suggest that educators cannot learn from their students, or that they have flaws; just that things could run more smoothly if they had mastered using the programs they require their students to know.

In addition to Google being the preferred school platform, the fact that students are already totally tech efficient, and the benefits that would come with refocusing Tech Ed for teachers, students have hectic schedules. They juggle classes, extra-curriculars, and personal matters on a daily basis. Many students are forced to make time for Tech Ed during the summer because they simply don’t have time during the year. Plenty of students have summer assignments already. Stopping this requirement could help to relieve at least a little stress off the students’ backs.