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Journal of No. 118

February 24th, 2012

Update and backdate on technology in the classroom @ 03:47 pm


I bumped into a blathering Salon article that referenced a far more informative NYT article from last September.

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.

“In places where we’ve had a large implementing of technology and scores are flat, I see that as great,” she said. “Test scores are the same, but look at all the other things students are doing: learning to use the Internet to research, learning to organize their work, learning to use professional writing tools, learning to collaborate with others.”

“Rather than being a cure-all or silver bullet, one-to-one laptop programs may simply amplify what’s already occurring — for better or worse,” wrote Bryan Goodwin, spokesman for Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning, a nonpartisan group that did the study, in an essay. Good teachers, he said, can make good use of computers, while bad teachers won’t, and they and their students could wind up becoming distracted by the technology.
[This keys in to one of the things I wondered about in the previous thread -- that school district laid off 10% of its teachers... presumably not the best 10% either. How much improvement do you get if you just do that?]

Last summer, the district paid $500,000 to CCS to replace ceiling-hung projectors in 400 classrooms. The alternative was to spend $100,000 to replace their aging bulbs, which Mr. Share said were growing dimmer, causing teachers to sometimes have to turn down the lights to see a crisp image.

Mr. Dunham said the purchase made sense because new was better. “I could take a used car down to the mechanic and get it all fixed up and still have a used car.”

But Ms. Kirchoff, the president of the teachers’ association, is furious. “My projector works just fine,” she said. “Give me Kleenex, Kleenex, Kleenex!”
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Date:February 24th, 2012 10:29 pm (UTC)
“I could take a used car down to the mechanic and get it all fixed up and still have a used car.”

So instead I'll spend five times as much on a new car. Yay! Of course now I can't afford to pay rent or buy food. Because I spent all my money on a new car.

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Date:February 25th, 2012 07:14 pm (UTC)
It's so aggravating to see this. Throwing technology into a classroom and expecting magic to happen is stupid. Tech can bring two advantages to the classroom:

* It can monitor a kid's pace more closely than a teacher can. A teacher can't stop and go back for every kid that is having trouble grasping an idea; a tablet app could keep reviewing the material for a particular kid until he gets it, OR skip ahead for a kid who picks it up faster than the rest of the class so he doesn't get bored.

* You can do something right once and replicate it over and over again. Right now, if a really great teacher gives a really great lecture on the causes of the Civil War, maybe thirty kids get the advantage of that. The kids next door with the mediocre teacher don't. But if you turn that into a video and make it available through a tablet, every kid could watch that really great lecture. (Not to mention that the kid could watch it at another time if he was not in class that day.)

These are the blindingly obvious uses of technology in the classroom, but there's no indication that the Kyrene district is doing anything to gain these advantages - they're just shoveling expensive laptops and projectors at students and expecting some sort of alchemical process to diffuse knowledge into the kids' brains.
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Date:February 27th, 2012 02:57 pm (UTC)
This reminds me of an e-slap fight Tim got into with a mutual friend over the XO laptop. Our friend thought that the XO was going to solve all the problems in developing countries, or something. When Tim pointed out some flaws in his argument-- like, what about getting electricity and an infrastructure to actually run the fucking things first?-- our friend threw a hissy fit and later ranted to me that Tim was "toxic."

Journal of No. 118