Posted by: crudbasher | October 17, 2011

The Illusion Of Progress

(cc) squacco

I like this article about technology in schools. (H/T The author asks if we have realistic exceptions for introducing technology into the classroom. I agree that is a very valid question. Let me take a crack at it.

Put yourself in the shoes of a politician. You need to get reelected so you have to make your citizens happy. One of the things that really ticks them off is feeling their children aren’t getting educated. So how do you fix that? Well, as a politician you can’t get into the classroom and teach kids directly so what can you do? Oh yeah, you have control of the money.

You see, everyone has metrics to evaluate things. Teachers use grades. Higher grades means kids are progressing. With politicians, spending more money means things get better. So how do you spend that money? Well you can pay teachers more of course or you can buy technology. Here’s the catch though. If a parent visits the classroom, they won’t see the teacher making more money. It’s invisible. (It’s also not proven to be effective but that’s irrelevant to the politician) However, if you can buy some computers or interactive whiteboards then people can see it.

Schools exist for many reasons but I submit that getting kids to learn is not the first priority. Here is what I see as the real purposes.

1. Provide babysitting for parents so both can work. This raises household income, permitting great consumerism. Parents can rationalize this as long as they think it’s for their children’s good.

2. Provide employment for many unionized workers. This provides a huge flow of money to some politicians.

3. Teach students to be citizens. This requires submission to authority and curbing of tendencies to ask questions.

Yes yes I know it’s a cynical view of things! Maybe I’m grumpy today. 😉 Having said all of that, there are some really great dedicated people in the school system. I know lots of them and I know their #1 priority is to get their students to learn as much as they can. I don’t think they are the ones in charge though.

(cc) Curtis Greagory Perry

Throwing technology into the classroom is like putting new tires on a junker car. It’s not going to change much. Still, computers and whiteboards provide the illusion of progress, which is what the people in charge want.

In the last 30 years spending for education in the US has doubled when accounted for inflation. Test scores have stayed flat.

Oh, one more thing.

This quote is interesting:

In the wealthiest country in the world, it would be nice to think that school districts like Kyrene shouldn’t have to choose between technology and teachers.

This is a myth. The US debt is 14.8 Trillion dollars (~100% of GDP). Our unfunded liabilities with pensions, Social Security and medical care is closer to 120 Trillion dollars. We are the most broke nation in the history of the planet. The are always choices to be made.

So, anyone have a different take on it? I’d love to talk about it in the comments!

  • issues with using technology in school correctly

    tags: education technology pedagogy laptops textbook nell

    • Does the use of textbooks lead to better student achievement [2]? Somebody should do the research. Schools nationwide are spending billions of dollars each year on textbooks, with no clear evidence they improve test scores—and stakeholders deserve some answers.

      I’m being facetious, of course. Textbooks are simply tools that educators use in their instruction, and few people would suggest that textbooks—by themselves—hold some larger power over whether students learn.

      But if we wouldn’t expect this of textbooks, then why should we expect it of educational technology?

    • Outside of school, students are plugging in and taking charge of their own learning, as the results from Project Tomorrow’s annual Speak Up survey have shown [6]. But when students arrive at school for their formal education, many have to power down and revert to a style of learning that arose when the goal of public education was to prepare them for industrial-era jobs.
    • California’s Santa Ana School District, for example, credits a software program [7] called DataDirector—which enables teachers to assess students’ skills, analyze the results, and deliver follow-up support that is customized to each student’s needs—with helping to raise the achievement of its ethnically diverse students. And West Seattle Elementary School special-education teacher Elizabeth Raymond attributes an average 40-point gain in her students’ math scores last year to their use of an adaptive software program [8] called DreamBox Learning.

      These are just two of the countless ed-tech success stories we’ve reported in the recent past. Still, the Times story is correct in noting the scarcity of scientifically valid evidence that proves technology’s pedagogical value without a doubt.

    • technology doesn’t exist in a vacuum. For technology to have an impact on student achievement, schools also need sound teaching, strong leadership, fidelity of use, and a supportive culture, among other things.
    • Among schools with one-to-one computing programs, 70 percent reported their students’ achievement scores on high-stakes tests were on the rise. But this figure was 85 percent for schools that employed certain strategies for success, including the use of electronic formative assessments on a regular basis, frequent collaboration of teachers in professional learning communities, and—most importantly—strong principal and school district leadership.
    • For advocates of educational technology, Domenech’s argument is compelling. In the wealthiest country in the world, it would be nice to think that school districts like Kyrene shouldn’t have to choose between technology and teachers. It would be nice to think they could afford both.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.



  1. […] get better. So how do you spend that money. Well you can pay teachers more of course or you can buy Technology. Here’s the catch though. If a parent visits the classroom, they won’t see the teacher […]

  2. […] an arbitrary measurement and are really subjective. I would tend to agree. However, as I have mentioned previously, assessment where I think the most opportunity for disruptive innovation […]

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