Rising gas prices change the school experience
For students, a new school year means adapting to new things—a new grade, new teachers, new classrooms, and new subjects. But this year, there could be one more thing to learn to deal with: the elimination of school fieldtrips.
Like peanut butter sandwiches in lunch bags, school fieldtrips are going the way of the dodo. However, the death of fieldtrips has nothing to do with food allergies or even with the safety of students. School boards across the US are considering banning—or have already banned—fieldtrips due to rising gas prices.
For most schools districts, a virtual fleet of yellow school buses are involved in transporting students to and from the classroom. Schools have a hard enough time coping with funding issues and budget problems without an even bigger portion of their meager budgets going to cover the cost of school buses for extracurricular fieldtrips.
Funding issues have already hit schools hard resulting in decreased numbers of teachers, lower salaries, and crowded classrooms. As well, athletics and extracurricular programs are getting the axe.
A survey of school boards by the American Association of School Administrators shows that ninety-nine percent of schools surveyed felt that rising gas prices had an impact on their school.
Some school boards are even considering switching to a four-day school week to help deal with the rising cost of fuel. A shorter school week would decrease fuel costs associated with transportation, heating and cooling, and energy consumption.
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Are wired classrooms changing the way that students learn?
Chalkboards, one room school houses, apples for the teacher, walking to school, using both sides of the paper, desks with flip open tops, writing with pencils right down to the nub…there is something in the air during back to school time that prompts nostalgic thoughts of academia.
All those images of schooldays persist as icons of academia, even though not a single one of the items in the list above is used in a modern classroom—they are nothing more than relics, quaint memories from educational history.
My, how education has changed! Now the chalkboard is nothing more than a relic of classrooms past. Today’s classrooms are wired, interactive, and media-rich. Gone are the chalkboards and the notebooks; in their places are digital displays and laptops.
But have these new technological teaching tools helped or hindered the way that kids learn in the classroom? Multi-media visual tools have certainly improved the scope of a teacher’s lesson preparation and delivery. Teachers can teach a lesson all while showing resources, three-dimensional mind maps, color images, video clips and every possible resource available to help drive home the message of the lesson. But, has technology in the classroom limited the scope of how far a student’s brain has to stretch to understand that lesson?
Is too much technology doing the hard work for students—the visualizing, the imagining? Is it making it so that students don’t have to rely on their brains to make the necessary connections? They don’t have to fill in the gaps or do the mental legwork to understand so that they can have the “A-Ha!” moments of true understanding. They don’t have to extend their mental capacities beyond what they see in front of them, because it was all there for them, all laid out in full-color and pretty pictures. Why remember the answer when you can just Google it?
Consider classrooms of the past: with little or no high tech tools, great thinkers made important intellectual leaps using nothing but brain power…no word processors to fill in words as they typed great dissertations, no spell check, no computers to help them fill in the gaps. If they could accomplish these tasks with no help, shouldn’t today’s students be able to as well?
The irony here is that chalkboards, in their day, actually revolutionized the classroom. They made it possible for the teacher to teach multiple students at once using visual aids. It was the first time teachers could write a message and have all students see it.
Chalkboards haven’t disappeared from classrooms just yet. They are still there at the front of many classrooms—sometimes hidden behind projector screens—a quaint reminder of the way things used to be.
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