Computers in the Classroom: Good or Bad?
Tech companies have been pouring their products into K-12 schools for nearly 20 years now. The colorful clamshell iBook and the equally gaudy iMac kicked off the invasion in 1999. The state of Maine has spent $200 million since 2000 to put a laptop in the hands of every student. Minnesota schools, likewise, have ensured that every student has access to a modern computer at school, and in many school districts kids get take-home laptops and tablets. But is it working? Read on...
Has Ed Tech Improved Student Performance?
Educators and technologists have touted technology as the key to substantially increasing student performance. They’ve had long enough to show some results; let’s see what they are.
Oh, dear… “Maine has yet to see any measurable increases on statewide standardized test scores,” according to a recent NPR report. “Meanwhile, student scores on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, or MCAs, which are given each year in English, mathematics and science, have largely remained stagnant,” according the Twin Cities Pioneer-Press.
Furthermore, tech has not done much to close the wide achievement gap between low-income minority students and their more affluent classmates. Socioeconomic background remains the strongest predictor of academic performance.
Meanwhile, computers and the Internet have spawned new classroom problems. Teachers report rampant copy-paste plagiarism, which does nothing to hone critical thinking skills. Early p0rn problems seem to have been tamed (except on some teachers’ laptops). But students still play online and local games in class. Some of the brighter ones learn to use school-issued computers to hack into school networks and change grades.
Perhaps tech has been used incorrectly in classrooms, proponents argue. Simply “computerizing” the same old processes did not significantly increase worker productivity in the late 80s and early 90s, when businesses jumped on the personal-computer bandwagon. But when new processes were developed that took advantage of the properties that distinguish computer networks from paper-shuffling systems, productivity exploded between 1995 and 2000. The same epiphany may fulfill the promises made to educators, parents, and students.
Are We Measuring the Wrong Thing?
Learning how to use a word processor, make a spreadsheet, or create a Powerpoint presentation might not make kids "smarter." Picking up some basic programming knowledge might not help them perform better on standardized tests. But those skills are certainly important in many workplaces.
Many people question whether standardized tests can even measure the differences that tech makes in the classroom experience. “Why is everything based on test scores?” said Jay Haugen, superintendent of Farmington schools, one of the first Twin Cities districts to provide every student with an Apple iPad. “The whole idea is having students who are finding their spark and their passion and creating their own learning pathways.”
Training teachers to think outside of the pencil-and-paper box is one of the key things school districts can do to improve the effectiveness of classroom tech. But teachers don’t have much time left for “professional development” after a long day of classes, tutoring, and grading papers. Cash-strapped states have cut back on teacher training, too, leaving them to figure out subtle features of technology on their own.
In summary, the classroom tech movement has not produced significant improvements in the standardized test scores by which students, teachers, and schools live or die. But true believers counsel even more patience, saying the revolution must begin with teachers.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 21 Aug 2017
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Computers in the Classroom: Good or Bad? (Posted: 21 Aug 2017)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved