A recent article in the New York Times, about an Arizona school district, has garnered quite a bit of attention and raised questions about the value of technology in the classroom. The article, In Classroom of the Future, Stagnant Scores, addresses the fact that in spite of a significant investments in technology, the Kyrene School District has seen minimal gains on the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS). This article has hit close to home, literally, since I live in the Kyrene district, and figuratively, since I am a proponent of educational technology.
The “elephant in the room”–for proponents of educational technology–is how the success of technology implementation in the classroom is gauged. In the case of this particular article, results on a standardized test are the measure of success or failure. As we are all well aware, there has been much gnashing of teeth related to the merits (or lack thereof) of standardized testing. When educational professionals struggle to be convinced that standardized testing measures what is truly relevant to our students, I think it is a bit presumptuous to make judgements about the “value” of technology based upon these results.
As I read the article, I couldn’t help but think of the idiom, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” Is it even responsible to suggest that we dramatically reduce investment in technology based upon the outcomes of standardized tests? Can there be a legitimate argument that this would be in the best interest of students? Perhaps, the most intriguing quote in the article was provided by Bryan Goodwin, spokesman for Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning:
“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.”
Whether or not it was the intent, this quote emphasizes the importance of good instructional pedagogy–be it technology intensive, or low-tech. It also alludes to the absolute importance of providing teachers with the tools, professional development and observational/planning time necessary to learn effective methods of integrating technology in a way that addresses identified learning objectives. So, is technology a “superman” for public education? Probably not on its own…but it certainly has a role to play. Consider a few of the things I see happening with technology integration in the classroom that are not necessarily measured by standardized tests:
- Problem Solving
- Leveling of the Socio-Economic Playing Field
- Student Ownership
- Student Engagement and Enjoyment
- Parent Support and Satisfaction
In my opinion, student growth will almost always come down to the effectiveness of the classroom teacher. We have to invest in professional development time and resources for staff–something that has not always been a point of emphasis in public education. That being said, failing to provide our students with significant, and meaningful, exposure to technology is an inexcusable injustice. Instead of making a yes or no decision about technology based upon standardized test scores, let’s work to find the appropriate balance between effective pedagogy and technology that allows all students to learn.