Technology plus imagination

In Classroom of the Future, Stagnant Scores, a Sept. 4 New York Times story, has set off a debate on the role of technology in teaching.

“Unimaginative uses of technology” won’t help kids learn, responds John Merrow of Learning Matters.

One teacher gave a true-false quiz but handed out wireless clickers for students to record their answers. In other classes, kids were playing a math game (“Alien Addition”) and an interactive spelling game, while other students were videotaping a skit that they could as easily have simply performed for the class.

In the so-called “classroom of the future,” technology was used to entertain or deliver information more efficiently, Merrow complains. Students weren’t encouraged to follow their own interests or connect with others outside the classroom.

Here’s a Learning Matters report that asks on a digital classroom in North Carolina.

Dangerously Irrelevant summarizes the pushback against the Times piece, concluding:

We have schools and classrooms that are still doing what they’ve always done, but with some additional infrequent and marginal uses of new learning tools. We have educators who don’t really know how to use the tools very well and who also have little access to those tools, reliable IT support, and/or regular integration assistance. For some reason we expect changes in certain learning outcomes to occur anyway, despite these environmental factors and despite the fact that those outcomes may not be what the schools were striving for in the first place. And, if we don’t see those outcomes, we’re going to claim it’s the fault of the technologies themselves rather than human and system factors and then we’re going to claim that traditional analog learning environments are just fine in a digital, global world.

So far, computer-aided instruction hasn’t improved reading or math performance, writes Robert Slavin on Ed Week‘s new Sputnik blog. Yet he believes “outstanding, sustainable improvements in daily teaching are going to depend on the extraordinary capabilities of technology.”

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  1. Michael E. Lopez says:

    … and then we’re going to claim that traditional analog learning environments are just fine in a digital, global world.

    Which is bad… if it’s false.

    Not so bad if it’s true, though, is it?

  2. technology for the sake of technology is not what is needed in class rooms. The discovery of technology should be in reverse order. What is the pain area in class rooms? If we ask this question, and then search for technology to address that pain area, then that technology would be more successful. Would love to see a list of technology in classrooms and then what pain do they address, debate.


  3. Lightly Seasoned says:

    Well, the biggest pain is usually a clutch of students who act out. I’ve always thought the best solution would be electrifying the desks so I could zap the little boogers…. oops, that’s probably not what you meant …

    The most effective classroom technology I have is a novel and a circle. Sitting students so they have eye contact with each other and asking them to discuss a novel and figure it out with each other is the best reading and analytical thinking method I’ve ever used. I’ve used blogs and wikis and nings and you name it for the same basic lesson, but nothing is as engaging as sitting in that circle.

    Why don’t we get students to connect with each other in the classroom before we ask them to connect outside the room. They know how to do the latter — name a kid who doesn’t know how to go to some web site to chat about her favorite video game or television show — then think about how many people you know who can be productive in a meeting.