But I can’t help it. My focus has always been on what is going on in the classroom, rather than the principal’s office or the school board meeting room or the exhibition floors of all those education conferences that look like software fairs. In the classes I visit, plenty of students are working on computers. I am happy they are mastering the essential tools of modern life. But I wish there were more evidence that those hours tapping keyboards are making them better at reading, writing and math.
I used to get considerable pleasure from debunking school computer miracle stories. One of my proudest moments in the 1990s was a story about a New Jersey middle school hailed by President Clinton for its sharp increase in achievement scores after computers were installed. I visited the school, talked to the teachers, checked the arrival date of the new technology and discovered that the test scores had gone up before the computers got there. The real heroes were a very energetic principal, a great faculty and an innovative curriculum.