Which technology? Used how?

Does technology improve schools? That’s asking the wrong question, writes Jonathan Schorr of NewSchools Venture Fund in response to last week’s New York Times story, In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores. What kind of technology? Used how?

. . . as a nation, we have spent billions of dollars on technology that has reinforced, rather than transforming, traditional models of schooling. But taking the average of thousands of computer labs where kids learn to type their essays in Microsoft Word is very different from declaring the “classroom of the future” a failed experiment. It tells us as little as the average Yelp score of all the restaurants in town.

As a guide to the future, the better question is, are there models that make innovative use of technology and offer transformative potential? The answer is an emphatic yes . . .

“Bolting technology solutions on today’s existing education system is a bad strategy for improving student learning,” writes Michael Horn on Education Next.

The United States has wasted well over $60 billion “cramming” technology in schools in this way to little effect over the past couple decades—and predictably so, according to our research. That some schools continue to do this is unfortunate—particularly in tough budget times—and is worth reporting.

. . . Technology has the potential to transform the education system—not by using technology for technology’s sake through PowerPoint or multimedia at the expense of math and reading or something like that—but instead as a vehicle to individualize learning for students working to master such things as math and reading, thereby creating a student-centric system as opposed to today’s lockstep and monolithic one.

Upgrading technology first and asking questions later about how it will help students learn is foolish, adds Horn. And common.

Online learning can make a huge difference, argues Tom Vander Ark, who’s a big fan of blended learning and personlized online learning.

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  1. Roger Sweeny says:

    Technology has the potential to revolutionize learning for students who 1) really want to learn the material, and 2) can work on their own at their own pace.

    Alas … Most students are not at school because they have a great desire to learn what the school is offering. This is not going to change if the school offers that information as self-paced distance learning.

    Even students who genuinely want to learn find it difficult to put in the effort if a peer group isn’t doing it with them.

  2. Does anyone think these gentlemen would be bashing the investment in technology if scores had showed an improvement?

    By the way, Michael Horn praises the Carpe Diem schools in his Education Next opinion piece. Yet a little Googling came up with:


    “In spring 2010, the company that administers the AIMS test, Pearson Education, flagged Carpe Diem’s sophomore AIMS reading test for having a higher-than-average number of erasure marks. Flagging means the state gets an alert. Pearson’s report said a group of 27 Carpe Diem students who took the AIMS reading test had a total number of wrong-to-right erasure marks seven times as high as the state average. The state has no plans to step up monitoring during the spring tests.”

    Given the recent scandals in Atlanta and Philadelphia, I’d argue that higher than expected scores, when coupled with higher than average erasures, warrant caution. Could we please not rush to jump onto the next bandwagon?