A lot of people are talking about the article that was in the NY Times that made the argument that millions of dollars spent on technology did not improve “learning.” I put learning in quotes because as many people have pointed out, “learning” in this case equals test scores. Test scores remained flat. Whether real learning occurred might take a few years to figure out.
It’s part of my job to “integrate” technology into our curriculum. Really, I’m just there to help teachers do that by pointing out possibilities and working with them to redevelop lessons, etc. But I’m actually kind of down on technology for technology’s sake, which is what I’ve seen happening in many places, and what I’ve seen advocated by some of the people whose blogs and Twitter feeds I follow. I teach the “technology” classes at our school, but I refuse to teach PowerPoint and Excel and all those applications. I am application agnostic in my approach. I’ve been shifting the curriculum gradually toward a computing/computer science curriculum. This is a trend I’ve seen in other places, and one that I think is really important.
Instead what I encourage is for teachers to have students use presentation, spreadsheet, image editing, video editing, and other applications within the context of their classes. And don’t focus on the tool! Let students use whatever is at hand, while making sure the school also provides options. So, for example, an English teacher has her students do a multimedia essay. I come in and together we talk about strategies for putting together multimedia vs. a regular essay. I also talk about what’s available to them in terms of tools. There are free tools online, things the school provides, and many students have their own computers with things like iMovie. The focus is on learning to compose differently, not to learn the ins and outs of an application that may or may not be around in 10 years.
I do the same with math and spreadsheets and special graphing software and even scale drawing tools. Basically, teachers simply remain open to the possibilities that technology has to connect their students to the material.
We are in the process of evaluating several technology initiatives, and I have to say that I’m the cautious one for once. I just want us to not throw money at something that might be better solved by a reevaluation of curriculum. Or we should do things on a smaller scale. And then there are other areas where I think even more money needs to go.
I’m very lucky in that I’m surrounded by really smart people who are completely open to incorporating technology into their curriculum. They don’t have a knee-jerk anti-technology reaction either. They’re very thoughtful about their use of technology. It makes my job a little easier, and, I think, helps our students be thoughtful about their own use of technology.
- Technology Is It Worth It? (rangeredtech.wordpress.com)
- Grading the Digital School: Technology in Schools Faces Questions on Value (nytimes.com)