Friday, June 22, 2007

Is there an upside to having less access to computers?

**This posting is not an attack on the great Ms. Bracey as I respect her work and know that her heart is always in the right place. I also don't disagree that a digital divide exists.

Read this blog posting from Bonnie Bracey of the Thornburg Center. She points to severals groups who are touting the importance of the STEM initiatives and that there is still a digital divide that needs to be addressed.

Click here to read it.

There are studies out there that suggest that increased contact with computers at home actually correlates to lower standardized test scores. Many studies that look hard at computing in schools and standardized test scores show no significant correlation. This, btw, after major monetary investments in ed tech. When you consider these facts, you have to wonder whether additional computing resources will have the desired effect. My point is I think that initiative should be StEM with a little T. Let's get more SEM going on.

I know, I know, you'll now send me the handful of meta-studies that show that tech can this and that, but look at data at the local school district level. Look at the pernicious achievement gap. For the cost of ed tech it should be worth it's salt.

You're going to hate me, but why not funnel the money to StEM things like, working science labs in middle schools and high schools? Maybe increasing the funds for math and science staff development would be a better use? Why not institute classes in logic and programming rather than teaching word processing and powerpoint? Why not use the money for after school programs for mentoring and tutoring kids?

You must know by now that all of this crud about "preparing kids for a digital society" drives me crazy. What any society needs is a generation of people who can think! Until there is a clear and statistically significant correlation between the ways technology is being used in a typical (i.e. not a NASA sponsored school or one that is located the campus of an Ivy League university) inner city school and an increase in a kids ability to think I am going to continue to cringe at these catch phrases.

Go to an average school and see how technology is being used. Ask yourself the following questions:

1) Does this represent a higher order use of the technology?
2) Does this lesson integrate with the curriculum?
3) Would I want my child or grandchild sitting in this classroom right now?

Honestly, if you give me a well prepared student I'll teach them most of Microsoft office in a very short period of time. Don't EVEN get me started on the whole touch typing thing. I can't wait until voice recognition turns that into the buggy whip, that it already is. Also, if I see another PowerPoint presentation with watered down knowledge on it I'm gonna hurl!

OK, OK, I agree that when ed tech is used well it can make a difference but way too often it doesn't. IMHO, this is generally due to a lack of local ed tech leadership or to the application of a pitiful set of lower order thinking skills tools to a group of students. (usually due to some district level deal from some corporate boheamoth.)

I have had way too much coffee, but, I am particularly sensitive to these issues as the father of a 15 and 10 year old. Believe me, I know of what I speak. I actually spend time in real schools and have a real investment in seeing things done right...and soon!

My gosh it is 2007! We've been saying these things since HyperCard was hip!!!

Have at me on this one.

Jim :-)

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