Technology In Schools– My Critique

TECHNOLOGY IN SCHOOLS/My Critique  Feb- Mar 2011

Google docs   2009_technology_in_schools_what_research_says.pdf

Table 16, page 36, Reading software, Intervention Programs, K-2. A summary follows. This study had 13 programs rated. Only 3 rated as “positive effects”, 2 rated as mixed, 1 “No Discernable Effects”, and 7 “Potentially Positive” Effects. So, 54% had potentially positive effects, with 3 being called effective and 3 being called ineffective. This could be the normal curve, with 3 at each extreme and about 50% in the middle.

Continuation of Table 16, Pages 37 and 38.

Reading Comprehension K-2 had 3 “No Discernable Effects”.

Early Childhood Math had 1 “Positive Effects”.
Early Childhood Education Oral Language had 2 “No Discernable Effects.”
Early Childhood Education Phonological Processing had 1 “Positive Effects.”
ECE Print Knowledge had 1 “No Discernable Effect”.
Early Math had 1 “No Discernable Effect.”
Elementary ELL English Language had 2 “Potentially Positive” Effects.
“            “    Reading Achievement had 2 “Potentially Positive” Effects and 1 No Discernable Effects.”
Middle School Math had 1”Positive”, 2 Potentially Positives, 2 “Mixed Effects, and 2 “No Discernable Effects. The one “Positive Effects”, in early development, SRA Math was not even in Middle School Math study. Why? On a personal note: In the 6th grade I read SRA readers which, were booklets, but not software. I actually liked the readers.

So we had 3 “Positive Effects”, 6 “Potentially Positive”, 2 “Mixed Effects”, and 8  “No Discernable Effects”. You could say that the 9 Positive/Potentially Positive Effects were more than offset by the 10 mixed/no discernable.

I noticed that there were no Negative Effects? I mean not even the possibility of it, as in, 0 Negative Effects. They were not even considered as a possible outcome.

[The IES Longitudinal Study, in 2009, conclusion would suggest what I am saying that software does not effectively increase learning. To be honest it would appear that both this study and the one I am critiquing here are very limited, in scope. That is, very limited in number of software packages studied and the number of students in the study was small and the short time interval used.]

Page 40 talks about Educational TV for Pre-schoolers. Both the age group and source is outside what I wanted to talk about but. . . . “Decades of research on Children’s television indicated that television can be an effective instructional tool . . ..” It is only ‘can be’?

From the 40 Programs (120 episodes) they evaluated, only 13% met high quality standards, 23% were minimally educational, and 63% were moderately educational. There we go again, with the bell curve, moderately skewed to the negative.

I WOULD NOT CALL EVEN TV A VERY GOOD TOOL FOR EDUCATION, and it has been around for over 50 years, with little more 1 in 10 shows were very educational (where all were supposed to be educational) and about 75% moderately educational, with 50+ years of TV.

An analogy: If TV could be considered a gauge of a technology used for educational purposes, then I would call it bad especially since it has been around for more than 50 years. Whereas, computers and CAI, been around substantially less than that and yet we tout this as something great, something like the research done for the Gates Foundation, that when with nearly a dozen questions, they still said to go full bore, basically, in 2000 or so.

According to their own conclusion, “The research on the effects of technology on learning is emerging, especially for Web 2.0] [Collaborative learning on the WWW—- Examples of Web 2.0 include social networking sites, blogs, wikis, video sharing sites, hosted services, web applications, mashups and folksonomies. Overall, across all uses in all content areas, technology does provide a small, but significant, increase in learning, when implemented with fidelity and accompanied by an appropriate pedagogical shifts.” [How is small significant? It is a contradiction, is it not? If they think that small is significant then I must doubt their conclusions and research. My reading of their tables tells me that it is at best a wash—nothing all of that conclusive. It is at best inconclusive. What good does social networking sites and youtube do toward learning? You learn that some kid got their first zit on social networking sites and they show it to you on youtube. This is education?]


“The reasons cited for the slow rate of integration of technology in schools, vary considerably over time and locale. For many educators the lack of access to up-to-date technology is a major barrier to effect use.” [Again, up-to-date technology is a misnomer. Shortly after you get it, it is outdated. Every 3-5 years, if not more often, you will have to change everything. If parents are clamoring for computers they will clamor for the latest hardware/software. This does not include the stuff that breaks down. The new software will not work with the old hardware and possibly not work with even the new hardware. So you will have problems implementing it every few years or so. This is very good reason not to implement it. It is a bigger headache then just worrying about the newest edition of textbooks. Windows comes out with a new Operating Systems every 3-5 years or so.]

But my main point is that given this limited and contradictory research it is not a compelling reason to use technology in education. I am talking about computers and wireless networks and e-textbooks, etc. If you want a visual aid use a TV and dvd or tape  player, for example, for the whole class to see at once.

Again, the pro-use research is problematic in my opinion. Very little of the software was considered “Positive”, where most were “potentially positive”. This a glowing reason to use it?

I am not saying that CAI (Computer Aided Instruction) does not teach but that it does not teach any more effectively than traditional teaching and does not warrant the monies “invested” in computers, and the like. I am talking about bang for the buck. It may be useful in some circumstances but to use it wholesale is not justified. I’d rather pay teachers more and for more teachers than to pay for computers and their support.

Oh yeah, by the way, this [“research”] only goes up to Middle School. I was more interested in High School and doing wireless internet connections, e-textbooks, and etc for them. Actually so far as this software is concerned, it might be cheaper to get it in the form of a DVD and have the whole class watch it on a TV screen, if it is that helpful. A single TV with DVD player, in some classrooms, has got to be cheaper than laptops for everyone. Again, the internet is not all of that good for doing research. The internet has grown not with facts but with sales/marketing ploys. They are saying buy our product or service because we are the best. Very few white-papers out there. Of course the subject matter is generally way beyond Elementary and Middle Schoolers. And oft times not very helpful for High Schoolers. What I have read would tend to say that whatever ‘gains’ made in Elementary School are lost by Middle School and most definitely lost by High School so it has no long-term benefits.

They say that schools need to find out what software works for them. Yeah, you could keep changing and changing software until you find what works and then the kids change and it does not work again. This is trial and error—hit or miss, guesswork and it can get very expensive after a while. It is, at best, no different than traditional methods (and probably not even that good) and at worst– much, much more expensive.

I mentioned the Bell Curve a couple of times because I would expect to see that same distribution in traditional teaching, essentially the same as with CAI. Therefore, them saying that their distribution represents something good is wrong, when compared to the traditional methods.

“The real potential for technology for improving learning remains largely untapped in schools today.” As did radio 100 years ago and TV 50 years ago. Does that tell you anything? It is not necessary is one possible reason. Our schools are not in trouble because we do not use technology enough; we use it too much. However, the main problem we have is that we try anything and everything. We, as a nation, experiment much too much. We try the latest fad—the latest technology, for example. Computer usage is somewhat important yes. You yourself [Dr. Chavez] have said that maybe 60% of the kids have computers at home, so why do they need them at school? For those who do not, they can learn in college or when they get a job. Libraries have computers with internet connections. Again computers are becoming more user friendly all of the time, that is, easier to learn to use. You need not be a geek like me to use a computer. Dr. Chavez said that parents ask why we don’t have computers in the classroom, presumably because they have them at home. My question to them is why do you feel the need for them there? I grew up watching TV but my parents nor I expected to have TV sets in my schools. Nor radio before. Why do they feel the need to teach kids with computers? Their kids are not machines why have a machine teach?


Just because we can put a computer in every lap does not mean we should.


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