Sunday, September 4, 2011

Computers Are Not the Panacea: What Is?

The NY Times ran a comprehensive and already controversial story, Sunday, September 3, 2011, on the implementation of technology in schools. A large part of the article, "In Classroom of the Future, Stagnant Scores," addresses a school system in Arizona that has spent a fortune on technology. The article points out that although test scores have not gone up, some would point out that the technology is infusing skills that standardized tests don’t measure. By and large, teachers, administrators, and parents of students in the school system under study are satisfied with the technology, but some are wondering if the school system can afford the expense.

The article raises numerous points, and it should be read in depth and critiqued. Already a profusion of response has occurred with the story just breaking. Discussions on social media sites have been prolific. One excellent response is offered in this article., Future, Stagnant Tests: Pointed Response to NY Times "Grading the Digital School."

Another educator posted this critique: Schools, Technology, Test Scores, and The New York Times. The critique raises six issues not only related to the assertions found in the NYT article, but also pertinent to the general issue of the need to increase the effectiveness of our technology integration. One of the points made is it not the technology per se, but how it is used that results in effective learning. The author, Scott McLeod, also notes that creative and critical thinking aspects of using technology to enhance learning are not easily measured by standardized test (i.e., multiple choice items), which is one of the flaws he sees in using these tests to determine if computer usage improves learning.

Read the NY Times article and the counter responses, and share your thoughts and critique. Perhaps you have read other responses to the NY article and want to share links to them. The discussion will continue in education, and is one that all educators should engage in and keep an open eye to as well as an open mind.

On a related matter, another NY Times piece, What Will Schools Look Like in 10 Years, ends up not so much predicting the future, but more so the here and now. Some comments even cover the past. Access the piece, and read through the opening remarks, from experts in education and technology. Also, read the comments from outside respondents. Where do you fall in this debate? Which positions do you support, and which do you find contrary to your views, and why?

Yes, this is a long post with several links, but it raises issues we face in education and will continue to face. The why, when, how, and what questions must be addressed. Weigh in on the issues after consulting the sources highlighted here.
Image credit: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

1 comment:

Chandler P said...

"Some backers of this idea say standardized tests, the most widely used measure of student performance, don’t capture the breadth of skills that computers can help develop. But they also concede that for now there is no better way to gauge the educational value of expensive technology investments."

Is it possible that the standardized tests used to gauge learning in students are out of date in such a technology centric time? These students are clearly demonstrating applied knowledge in fields that are applicable to the current trends, but are still struggling in reading and math.
This article fails to address two key items for me to believe that it is the technology at fault:

1. How are the teachers presenting the curriculum through the technology? Is it meaningful? Is it relevant?
-Not to condemn the teachers, but good test scores usually reflect good teaching, and if teachers in AZ see technology as a band-aid for bad test scores, the technology would never succeed. It is true that teachers in a technology-centric classroom should go from "sage on a stage to guide on the side", but they need to be cognizant of where the students may be falling behind, and how they can keep them from being distracted by the novelty.

2. Are the standardized tests being administered in traditional paper and pencil format? Would it make a difference if they were administered on a computer with multimedia?
-I feel as though if students are spending their instructional time on a computer, but then have to turn around and take a scantron test, simply the change of format will be enough to skew results. It's feasible to think that the same exact test could yield different results if the students took it on a computer as opposed to paper and pencil, which in itself can cause debilitating test anxiety in some students.

This article was definitely interesting, and raised many issues regarding the availability of funding and how it is being spent, the technology itself, and also raised questions regarding what is really necessary if we are trying to accomplish a truly technology-centric classroom.

I will be interested to see what comes of the secondary vote in November!

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