Chance News 77
What is the payoff for high tech education
In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores by Matt Richtel, The New York Times, September 3, 2011.
Technology has changed how we teach our children.
Amy Furman, a seventh-grade English teacher here, roams among 31 students sitting at their desks or in clumps on the floor. They’re studying Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” — but not in any traditional way. In this technology-centric classroom, students are bent over laptops, some blogging or building Facebook pages from the perspective of Shakespeare’s characters. One student compiles a song list from the Internet, picking a tune by the rapper Kanye West to express the emotions of Shakespeare’s lovelorn Silvius.
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.
These technology upgrades arebeing implemented in many other school districts. The problem is that all this investment in technology does not appear to have any pay off.
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.
The backers of this new technology alternate between fighting
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.
“The data is pretty weak. It’s very difficult when we’re pressed to come up with convincing data,” said Tom Vander Ark, the former executive director for education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and an investor in educational technology companies. When it comes to showing results, he said, “We better put up or shut up.”
and relying on intuition
“My gut is telling me we’ve had growth,” said David K. Schauer, the superintendent here. “But we have to have some measure that is valid, and we don’t have that.”
1. Why is it difficult to get valid data to measure the impact of technology upgrades?
2. Should technology upgrades wait until there is quantitative proof of its value?