Wednesday, September 07, 2011

In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores

This is an insightful, in-depth article about technology in schools and how (if at all) it affects student learning.  It profiles a district in AZ that has raised taxes and cut back on other areas starting six years ago in order to make a huge investment in technology – yet student achievement hasn't budged while state achievement has risen substantially. 

The class, and the Kyrene School District as a whole, offer what some see as a utopian vision of education's future. Classrooms are decked out with laptops, big interactive screens and software that drills students on every basic subject. Under a ballot initiative approved in 2005, the district has invested roughly $33 million in such technologies.

The digital push here aims to go far beyond gadgets to transform the very nature of the classroom, turning the teacher into a guide instead of a lecturer, wandering among students who learn at their own pace on Internet-connected devices.

"This is such a dynamic class," Ms. Furman says of her 21st-century classroom. "I really hope it works."

Hope and enthusiasm are soaring here. But not test scores.

Since 2005, scores in reading and math have stagnated in Kyrene, even as statewide scores have risen.

To be sure, test scores can go up or down for many reasons. But to many education experts, something is not adding up — here and across the country. In a nutshell: schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.

I think this is a very important cautionary tale.  I haven't studied this area closely, but from what I have read, my general view is that technology, like a SmartBoard, for example, in the hands of good teachers is critically important, but in the hands of ineffective teachers won't make a difference; technology used across a school or network/district to track how students are doing and identify problem areas is critical; and technology in the hands of students is a huge question mark for me.  I think playing video games, texting, etc. – which is how most kids use technology today – rots minds and incorporating similar things into the school days in an attempt "to meet students where they're at" is nuts.  I think cell phones, iPhones, iPads and the like should be banned from every school (unless, I suppose, an iPad is specifically programmed for only academic stuff).  Call me old school, but I think schools should, in general, be an ESCAPE from the mostly mindless technology that pervades our society.  I'd welcome comments and research on this topic.  Also, I recall sending out an email a year or two ago about a study in an Eastern European country (Romania?) that tracked students who got laptops and it found that it HURT the academic performance of weaker students because they used it to play games and thus did even less homework.  If anyone recalls that email or study, please let me know.vv


Grading the Digital School

In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores

Published: September 3, 2011

 Subscribe in a reader