No. 118 (essentialsaltes) wrote,
No. 118

Electronic Hornbook

Jim van Pelt linked to a NYT story about a North Carolina school district that has had great academic success after adopting a laptops-for-every-student plan.

I've long been skeptical of the technology-in-the-classroom bandwagon, primarily because once the administrators order it, and the district pays for it, and widgets show up in the classrooms, everyone seems to think they've done their job, everyone congratulates themselves on having put technology in the classroom, and knowledge will now somehow magically appear in children's heads through some sort of osmosis, by being in proximity to technology.

But in this case, it looks like they've done something pretty ambitious:
“This is not about the technology,” Mark Edwards, superintendent of Mooresville Graded School District, would tell the visitors later over lunch. “It’s not about the box. It’s about changing the culture of instruction — preparing students for their future, not our past.”

Chatroom discussions, individualized learning modules for math, abandoning lecturing the room for a more individualized curriculum... they seem to be setting up a new paradigm for teaching. And graduation rates and test scores are up.

And yet, I still have my suspicions. One cynical thought is that the district laid off 10% of their teachers to pay for all this. How much does a school improve if you can get rid of your crappiest 10% of teachers (and don't even replace them)? And the focus on the state proficiency tests is worrisome. I can easily imagine developing training programs that are really really good at teaching to the test, but don't address all the other parts of education that we hope we're teaching. Of course, that's not a problem that's specific to technology... all schools are anxious about those test results now that it may affect funding.

Nevertheless, it'll be an interesting experiment to keep following and emulating in other schools, and I think it's at least aimed in the right direction of how to truly incorporate technology in education, and development along this path is what will lead us ultimately to a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer: a Propædeutic Enchiridion from The Diamond Age.
Tags: book, education, news, skepticism

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