Firing Map-Buying Teachers

This morning I saw the above slide created by Dr. Scott McLeod decrying spending money on maps and globes in this technologically enhanced world. Any of you who have spent any time reading this blog know that I am entirely a proponent of using technology in the classroom. Even in my science classroom Google Earth is a staple tool. However, the sentiment in the slide is one I cannot support, and one with which I, in fact, whole-heartedly disagree.

There are situations where a physical map or globe is an inherently better tool than a digital representation of either tool. First of all, there is something to be said for a quick, snapshot overview of the entire world. Being able to quickly point out the locations of events in world history without having to fire up Google Earth or an LCD projector is advantageous.

Similarly, should a teacher who purchases posters for their classroom wall be fired? There are tons of images available online that could be cycled through in a slideshow after all. Sometimes in a classroom, student’s minds wander. *GASP* I know this may come as a surprise to many of you out there, but it happens. If their minds are going to wander to the other places, why not fill that classroom space with educational material for them to browse? If that material includes a map of the world, so be it.

Perhaps the argument is intended to imply that spending $100 on a map was a waste of taxpayer funding when digital tools could be used for free. This is of course assuming all classrooms are equipped with a computer connected to the Internet, a projector to make the best use of Google Earth, and the bandwidth to support the use of the tools. Should those tools be available in every classroom? Absolutely! Are they? No. So we should fire a teacher who is trying to make do with the funding that is available in their situation? In a world where we are already struggling to fill classrooms with qualified teachers?

Perhaps the argument could use some re-framing.  Perhaps any teacher who ignores digital tools like Google Earth, GPS, GIS, etc should be fired.  Though I think we are still dealing with a huge percentage of teachers that are unaware of the power these tools hold for education.  If we were to fire every teacher, administrator, district personnel member, or University faculty member who ever used money to purchase something that was less than the best available, would there be enough people around to have schools?

Dr. McLeod follows up in the comments section with this:

[E]very penny you spend on the old paradigm is one less that gets spent on the hardware and/or software necessary to prepare students for real-world, relevant, authentic digital mapping and geography. I don’t think public schools should be spending their money on old paradigms. So I stand by my slide

While I agree that purchasing old model tools does take away from the funding that could be going to newer tools, I’m brought right back to my post a couple of days ago about textbooks.  They are another “old model” tool that the Legislature in our state has suggested are unnecessary and has begun to push for the return of that funding as a stop-gap budget shortfall measure.  Let’s be realistic, how much money is spent on maps and globes?  If there is a ton being spent, why are the companies asking $100 for a world map?  The maps in my current school were most likely purchased when the school was built 22 years ago.  Spending $100 on a tool that can have a 22 year lifespan (albeit outdated for a large portion of that lifespan) is not a poor investment of public funds by any means.

I encourage all of you to head over to Dangerously Irrelevant and read through the comments to this post.

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