Sunday, March 1, 2009

Movie Response: Prompt #4

This film highlighted the importance of computers and technology as tools in education. The film focused on three high schools, each varying in terms of emphasis and access to technology. First, Travis High School in Austin, Texas was shown. Upon introduction to this high school, the audience quickly learns of the significant presence of gangs and graffiti. Only 1/4 of the student population graduates from high school. With this high school, the digital divide was discussed in the sense that by not offering students access to technology/computers, it will negatively affect their ability to look and obtain jobs. Access to computers/technology is what would allow them to be competitive in the job market and without it, they have an unfair disadvantage against those who could afford computers and have been exposed to them all of their lives. It was mentioned that only 1 in 12 students attending Travis High School would have a chance to access computers sometime in the first twelve grades. I think that this environment is right to be worried about a digital divide, when some students are working forty hours a week just to save up for a computer. If the school system was able to offer more computers and access to technology, students could be spending less time working and more time studying to enhance their chances of graduating high school, or for those who are working, they could be saving money for college or their life after high school. Additionally, if programs using computers and technology were offered, it may increase the chance for students to stay in school. When we talked about libraries in the beginning of the semester, it was mentioned that when cities put more money into libraries to provide them with access to resources, it makes people living there feel more valuable. In this case, if the school system put more money into tools like computers, perhaps students would feel that their time in high school is being well spent and would have less of a desire to drop out. Also, if high school was offering them something that they would probably not have access to in any other place (computers) that would also be an incentive to continue going.


In Technology High School, the circumstances were much different. They were able to provide a computer for each student and emphasized that their school work should work towards a plan for the future (something, they mention, that is not stressed in regular high school). Here, technology was expressed in terms of being important to the students' futures because jobs constantly require new skills. They talk about how skills become obsolete so quickly in technological fields and the only way to keep up would be to have constant access to computers and updated software. What was especially interesting about Technology High School was that they believed you needed more than just technological know how, they said you must have problem solving skills, critical thinking, and teamwork/group skills. They applied this by providing students with assignments that would have to use all of these skills and tested students, not using multiple choice exams, but by having them apply their knowledge to problem sets etc. Technology High School also only had an online library, they did not provide their students books. I do not think this is a direct disadvantage to the students there because it forces them to enhance their online research skills which is necessary in the work force and in college.


Lastly, in Monta Vista High School, so much of the focus was on technology that some students exclaimed that other concentrations, such as English, were very weak as a result. Personally, having attended a magnet high school that concentrated very much on technology, math, and science, I have first hand experience of receiving an education that lacks in English, History, and Foreign Language. Although I took four years of English, three of History, and four of Spanish during my high school years, these classes were never taken as seriously as my math and sciences. I believe that this is a downfall of high schools like the one I attended and like Monta Vista because they are not offering students a well-rounded education. In the workforce, it will of course be an advantage if students are well-versed at using computers, yet it will be a noticeable disadvantage for them to have weaker English Skills. For example, in order to obtain a job, many employers ask for a cover letter and resume. Without strong writing skills, a student's cover letter or resume may not stand out amongst a pile of other individuals, and they will never get a chance to use their valuable computer skills. In almost any industry, strong writing skills are called on for reports, correspondences, work summaries, and more. So to have an education that does not emphasize the importance of writing and English, is definitely something that may have negative implications in the future. Furthermore, it was mentioned that Monta Vista High School had such high costs for the technology they offer students, that they had less money for other spending such as staff. This can also be a disadvantage if this means they will have less funding for extra curricular activities and other programs to offer students. Although these are not necessary aspects of an education, it helps students be well-rounded and grow both socially and mentally.  Skills gained from organization and clubs may be the ones that end up helping students the most in college or the workforce and thus should not be easily cast aside for excessive technology.


Another unique element of Monta Vista High School was that they conducted a high school education in terms of a 'training force for corporate business'. This definitely serves as an asset for students in terms of necessary skills (like Technology High School mentioned) such as critical thinking, teamwork, and applying their knowledge in various ways. Although, if many students graduate and go onto to college, they may not be prepared for a University atmosphere where they have to be incredibly independent, have strong time management skills, and study for tests made up of multiple choice questions.


  1. Interesting points. I wonder how you feel about your magnet school experience now. Are you planning on pursuing studies in the sciences or in math at the college level, or are you now somewhat turned off, so to speak, to these disciplines?

  2. My program in high school was for the "Advancement of Science and Technology". I took three years of chemistry, physics, and biology.. (in addition to CORE requirements and electives) and although I liked some of my experiences in the classes, I could probably never concentrate my studies to the field of science again. I gained a lot by going to such a school but the level of competition and academic intensity intimidated me and definitely tainted my four years there. I also wish they had offered stronger classes in humanities.