“We don’t have a lot of proof that this works,” said Neah Lohr, the former director of the informational media and technology team for the state Department of Public Instruction. “Certainly students like the technology. That’s not the question.”
Research results are mixed. But most studies conclude that for computers and other technology to have much effect on student performance, a number of conditions are necessary: Teachers have to be technologically adept; classroom assignments have to allow for exploration; and curricula have to abandon breadth for depth.
Although schools have made changes in some of those areas, particularly increasing teachers’ technical proficiency, the predominant uses of computers remain word processing, heavily filtered Internet searches and the occasional PowerPoint presentation. In addition, with pressure rising to improve test scores, more schools have embraced skill-drilling software that contributes little to long-term student learning, observers say.
My view is that technology is simply another tool that may be part of a successful learning process. Critical thinking, rigor and general inquisitiveness are far more important than learning Word 2003 (which will be obsolete by the time our students reach the workforce). Successful technologists are capable of learning and using any tool. I was reminded of our priorities yesterday while visiting Sun Prairie’s CornFest: a teen could not make change (1.50 change was given for a 2.50 purchase from a $5.00 bill). More posts on this subject.