Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Report: Technology "Immersion" In Middle School

Click here to read the report from the 2nd year of the Texas Technology Immersion Pilot program--or, if you prefer, allow me to summarize it for you:

Students and teachers in the program were significantly more comfortable using "technology", principals provided more leadership regarding "technology", and there was stronger parent and community support for "technology". Students in immersion schools seemed to like school better and had fewer discipline problems.

However, there was no significant effect on student self-directed learning, there was a negative effect on student attendance, and there was no significant effect on standardized test scores in reading, writing, or math.

Technology had a positive effect on math achievement for higher achieving students.

Do these results explain or justify further expenditures for "digital schools" and "bookless schools" and for plans in some districts to issue every student a laptop computer? I'm not sure they do.

But this is only one study, right?


Ellen K said...

Technology is the magic wand in the view of Texas education and the state legislature. They think by tossing millions of dollars to purchase computers, monitors, digital projectors and the other bells and whizzers of technology that substandard schools will float up in evaluation and testing scores. The thing is, that they do this, not by increasing state expenditures overall, but by demanding a big slice of the same old pie be designated specifically for technology related expenses. In our district, teachers were required to pass a battery of tests for programs that are not applicable for most of our classes. This next year, we will probably be required to pass level 2 testing, for even more programs that many of us will never use, unless of course we quit teaching and get better paying jobs as administrative assistants. What drives me nuts, although I use projectors, power point and Word quite a bit, is that we are expected to use technology for teaching the majority of the skills. That just doesn't fit into some classes. Try teaching literature using just computer, or art, or drama. But the people in charge of budgets think that by laying out money for machines, over the real need for more teachers, that they are going to create a future generation of "technophiles"-the future engineers. Instead, what I am seeing is students will marginal research and reading skills who would rather do fancy things with type fonts while copying and pasting entire pages of reports without given credit. Most core class teachers will use computer as added spice, but when you get down to brass tacks, they will confide that their students would be better served by having smaller classes, more personal attention and less emphasis on what too often amounts to glorified TV watching. And using computers in most elementary levels is nothing more than the same flash card activities that my mother used in 1955. Think how many more teachers and smaller classes we could have if someone didn't go for the most expensive fix and settled for good old fashion learning.

allenm said...

I just wonder when someone's going to dial in the right combination of whatever magics are required to make technology work in education.

I remember going to a regional convention about the use of computers in education. That was in 1984. Everything about computers has since undergone massive changes but they still aren't useful for education.

I have a feeling that there's some basic misconception about human behavior, human nature, learning, teaching - take your pick - that's rendered computers if not valueless outside the public education system certainly valueless within it.

For the public education system the common benefit of technology - increased productivity - is meaningless. Why pursue a technology that'll reduce your personnel count? It's not like there's a quarterly profit goal to reach. Matter of fact, there's hardly any goals to meet which probably explains part of the attractiveness of edu-crap: it gives the illusion of progress without any of the upsetting consequences of progress.

As the wealthiest nation the world has ever known, we can afford to fund a public education system indifferent to quality or productivity. Not so in the rest of the world. The developing nations that are finally getting some economic traction can't afford to wait for a conventional public education system to emerge so they'll welcome greater efficiency in education. Given the rapidly dropping cost of computers the developing nations might be the birthplace of effective educational technology.

David Foster said...

Ellen is right, the educrats are simply viewing this as another magic wand. And for people who want to avoid doing hard, detailed work, and making changes which are likely to be unpopular, magic wands are always in demand.

Michael Schrage, who knows vastly more about technology and its applications than do most school administrators, has some thoughts here. (Which I sort of think might have posted here before)

The typical school approach to computers is like a factory manager who goes out and buys a bunch of lathes, milling machines, etc, and then waits for them to organize themselves into a rational production process.