Technology In Education – My Critique

Technology In Education – Why?

Submitted by: Jake Glasgow, Instructional Technology Specialist from Upstate NY

There has been a lot of chatter lately about whether integrating technology into the classroom is having an impact on student learning.  “Where is the data that justifies the millions of dollars spent on technology?”   I urge you to read the September 3rd, 2011 NY Times article by Matt Richtel entitled; “In Classroom of Future, Stagnent Scores.” A fantastic article which thoughtfully pokes at many of the uncertainties regarding technol<o>gy that school districts face today.

Taken  from the above article, “To be sure, test scores can go up or down for many reasons. But to many education experts, something is not adding up — here and across the country. In a nutshell: schools are spending billions on technology, [It is $billions even though you just said $millions.] even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.”

Many say that students can learn content without technology in the classroom, and I don’t disagree. [I am glad about that but why would anyone NOT think that?] We know this to be true because prior to technology in education students still learned and passed tests.  If students can ‘succeed in school’ without  technology, why are we spending so much time, energy, and money to get it into our classrooms?  This is a valid question…but one that raises even more questions. [My point exactly!]

When students were succeeding in school with no technology, we were also living in a world with little technology, and preparing students for life in a world where technology wasn’t a part of their daily lives. [This is a misconception. Technology has been around for over 100 years. Radios and TVs. Since they do use technology in their everyday lives then it is NOT necessary to do it in school. They actually need to unplug, to get away from technology, not to rely on it too much.]

An excerpt from Sir Ken Robinson’s talk, “Changing Education Paradigms.”

“…The problem is they are trying to meet the future by doing what they did in the past. And on the way they are alienating millions of kids who don’t see any purpose in going to school. When we went to school we were kept there with the story, which is if you worked hard and did well and got a college degree you’d have a job. Our kids don’t believe that and they are right not to…” [Teaching with technology will not guarantee, nor generate jobs in the future. Education in and of itself will not guarantee a job, with or without technology.]

When I saw Sir Ken Robinson speak at a recent NYSCATE conference he said something to the effect of, ‘Technology isn’t technology if it already existed when you were born.’  Think about it…. “Wow,” I thought.  Our children are born in to this, and don’t know anything different.  To our children, this is just ‘how it is.’  I am 34 years old and don’t think twice about cordless phones or wireless remotes on televisions, but I bet they were a big deal when they first came out. [Yes they were big. Maybe you ought to question cell phones, etc. I grew up with one black and white TV and did not know about color TV. I did not miss it. I also did not expect to learn with a TV at school. This technology is not how it is. Most of it is not necessary.]

Of course this will have an impact on how we educate our children. This is not like when they allowed calculators to be used in school! [Why? Radios and TVs did not affect the way we educate our kids. Actually it is similar to when they allowed the use of calculators. It means that you do not do computations manually much anymore, as a check of technology. This can and does lead to problems. Some manager once took computer’s word for it—that his company was very profitable but if he had checked it manually then he would have realized that his company was running at a loss. He got fired. We rely too much on technology. Without the ability to do computations manually how do we check to make sure that the computer is right?]

Take a look at this video from the Pearson Foundation entitled “Learning To Change/Changing To Learn: Student Voices.”

Christ. Why are you listening to children? When did children make the curriculum? I am sure that if you had asked a lot people back in the 60s and 70s what they wanted they would have said TVs and radios in school and being on the playground (or heaven forbid in a library). If you listen to them they are talking about the technology and not about the subject matter. I thought that the 60s was the me generation. This generation is now the me generation on steroids. Technology is just a distraction.

What would students just 10 years ago have said if asked how technology has effected their lives and their education? [Again, who cares?]
What will students be saying 10 years from now? [Ditto!]

Dim lights

Why should we include technology in the education of our children?  Here are some very well thought out answers to that question written by John Page.  (John Page is a software designer living in California’s Silicon Valley. He is the author of the free online geometry textbook Math Open Reference – Thanks, John!) [You know that a school district out there (in Silicon Valley) recently decided not to have computers, etc, in the classroom. Finland does not either.]

Reason 1. Expansion of time and place

In a typical high school a student has access to a teacher 40 minutes per day. That means she has access to that teacher 5% of her waking day, and even that time is shared with 25 classmates. She has access to the Internet 100% of the time. That’s 20X better. [The internet is NOT all that good. It is full of personal opinion and sales and marketing advertisements. Even the so-called whitepapers are usually biased. It is these three things that have led to the Internet’s expansion. It is not facts. They have access to the textbook all of the time.]

Technology is no substitute for an inspiring teacher. [I have never needed to be inspired.] However, on-line materials are far more available. Twenty times more. [Why do you need all of this ‘material’? Either it is just saying the same thing over and over and over again, or it is contradictory and therefore it is confusing and frustrating when trying to get answers. A textbook and related materials should be good enough!!!! Grade school should just be for the basics anyway.]

Using the “textbook plus classroom” approach, the places where learning can occur are limited. On the other hand, a wireless laptop has access to the teacher’s course material and the entire Internet almost anywhere. This is also a vastly larger resource than can be practically carried on paper in a backpack. [Now they are not. You have home, libraries, ask a question anywhere from nearly anyone. You can bring your textbook anywhere and do not have to internet access.]

Bottom line: information technology allows learning anywhere, anytime; not just in one particular classroom for forty minutes a day. [It is called homework. It allows surfing the web, not necessarily learning. Surfing the web in and of itself is NOT learning the subject!]

Reason 2. Depth of Understanding

Interactive simulations and illustrations can produce a much greater depth of understanding of a concept. When virtual manipulatives are used in a classroom setting they can go far beyond chalk and talk. Using a projector, the teacher can conduct onscreen investigations and demonstrate concepts far more easily than with just words and arm-waving. [When does a teacher wave their arms?] For example see Subtended Angles. [Yes an overhead projector and foils or a vcr/dvd player and a tv set. Computers and access to the Internet are not necessary.]

Because the students have access to the same tools over the web, they can reinforce the ideas by experimenting with the simulations themselves, any time, any where. [Yes simulations are not necessary. They teach, at best, a  pseudo science or math. They also keep the children from using their imaginations. Imagination is one thing a scientist and mathematician needs to succeed. To see things intuitively, is important. We’ve never needed simulations before. How many simulations do you honestly think most are going to view on their own?]

Reason 3. Learning vs. Teaching

Technology allows the tables to be turned. Instead of teaching (push), students can be given projects that require them to learn (pull) the necessary material themselves. [Why do they need projects? Teachers no longer teach they facilitate? It used to be you’d read the textbook and come prepared for class, with questions. Teachers generally ask are there any questions?] Key to this is the ability to get the information they need any time anywhere, without being in the physical presence of a teacher. [Yes using traditional methods immediate access is not necessary, again.]  This project-based pull approach makes learning far more interesting for the student. [Yes but what are they learning? Interesting does not necessarily mean they learn any more nor any better. They are learning what they want when they want. When did the student come to be in charge?] I have seen firsthand how students cannot wait to get out of regular classes to go to the after-school robotics project. [Yes with so little teacher time you want to waste it surfing the web? Why do you even have robotics in high school? Bells and whistles? How much about mechanics etc, do they truly learn using robots?]

Reason 4. New media for self-expression

In the old days, students could write in a notebook, and what they wrote was seen only by the teacher. [Usually what I wrote in my notebooks only I saw. It was never intended for public viewing.] Using modern technology they can: Make a PowerPoint presentation, record/edit spoken word, do digital photography, make a video, run a class newspaper, run a web based school radio or TV station, do claymation, compose digital music on a synthesizer, make a website, create a blog. [Again, so what? None of these things educate our children. They spend too much time on the Powerpoint and not enough learning the material. This is just playing at learning. I have had to make only one powerpoint presentation at work, in almost 40 years, a few in graduate school but no powerpoint in high school. These can and should be learned outside of school. Self expression is NOT a goal of school – learning is!!!!]

Reason 5. Collaboration

A vital skill in the new digital world is the ability to work collaboratively on projects with others who may not be physically close. [Again, this is teamwork that is something that need not be taught in high school. Teamwork is not new. Most people are engaged in teamwork without realizing it. Any company uses teamwork without actually teaching it. It is a given in business, but counterproductive in education.]This can best be done using modern computer tools such as the web, email, instant messaging and cell phone. [Again, just because you can does not mean you should.] Rather than laboring alone on homework, [They should labor alone. They must learn it. Standardized tests test the individual and not a team. It is important for them to learn it themselves not a group project.] students can work in small groups wherever they happen to be and at any time. They are doing this already (it used to be called cheating) [Yes it is cheating] – it can now be formalized and taught as a vital skill. Many university projects are undertaken by teams spread around the world. [Teamwork can be learned at work, and will be no matter what gets taught in school. This is college and not grade school.] Students need to be prepared for this. [No they do not. Most do not go to college in the first place. I had some of this in graduate school but not in grade school and that was because my campus was a virtual campus. I did not find it hard to get used to. I learned more by doing it myself.]

Reason 6. Going Global

The worldview of the student can be expanded because of the zero cost of communicating [no such thing as zero cost.] with other people around the globe. The Internet permits free video conferencing which permits interaction in real time with sister schools in other countries. [Forget the time zone difference. They are probably asleep when we are in school.] From an educational viewpoint, what could be more important than understanding other cultures through direct dialog and collaboration? [What can you really learn about another culture that is not in a textbook by talking to someone. It would be far better to go there in person and experience it for yourself. You are just getting someone else’s personal opinion, hearsay as it were.]

Reason 7. Individual pacing and sequence

Students are, of course, all different. Information technologies can permit them to break step with the class and go at a pace and order that suits that student better. Without disrupting the class, they can repeat difficult lessons and explore what they find interesting. With time, it will become more like having a private tutor rather than being lost in a large class. [They can study on their own with a textbook, ask friends or relatives, siblings, etc. They do not need a soft copy when they have a hard copy.]

Reason 8. Weight

Three textbooks and three binders easily weigh over 25lb. A laptop computer weighs about 5lb and provides access to infinitely more material via its own storage and the Internet. A 40Gb hard drive can hold 2 million pages with illustrations; the web is unfathomably large. Right now, students are getting back injuries lugging around a tiny subset of what they need in the form of black marks on slices of dead trees. [Yes, then get rid of backpacks and allow them time to go to their lockers between classes and carry only those things needed for the current class.] And it’s just static, boring text. [No wonder we have an obesity epidemic among our young. I used to carry several books home on weekends, without a backpack, and walk to boot. A single textbook does not weigh very much. One problem is they are politically correct.]

Reason 9. Personal Productivity

Students need productivity tools for the same reasons you do. They need to write, read, communicate, organize and schedule. [No they do not. Their schedules are set by the schools. They do go to school to learn not to communicate. We never used to need these things, why now?] A student’s life is not much different from any knowledge worker, and they need similar tools. [A student’s life is widely different. They are at school to learn not to produce a product or service.] Even if they are never used in the classroom, portable personal computers will make a student’s (and teacher’s) life more effective. [If they are never used then they are expensive paper weights. Anytime spent interacting with technology is time not spent learning the material. Ok then have these separate from school.] To cash in this benefit, schools need to go paperless. [Maybe. But these are not necessary.]

Reason 10. Lower Cost

It is not unusual for a textbook to cost over $120, and in community colleges, where they are purchased by the student, they can cost more than the tuition itself. [Why are you comparing Community College prices? College textbooks are one thing but high school textbooks can be used for more than one year by more than one student, whereas a laptop is like a personalized textbook that has been written in and highlighted. Then there is the disposal fees and problems. Laptops will stay in landfills for hundreds of years, whereas a paper textbook can be burned or will otherwise decompose naturally over time. Also, the laptop cost more than that, especially with WiFi, support personnel, changing hardware and software every so often. Time spent trying to integrate technology into the classroom is expensive.]

Through the use of open, free educational tools on the web, the dependence on expensive paper textbooks can be reduced. [I noticed that you did not say eliminated. Why is there a need to reduce the use of paper textbooks?] There is a growing movement to create and publish this type of material through organizations such as OER Commons. OER stands for Open Educational Resources and the idea is to follow the open source model made popular by software projects such as Linux. [Linux is just another version (freeware) of UNIX and is an operating system.] Material is created by the educational community itself then freely shared. [I would worry about the quality (accuracy) of the material especially from grade schoolers.]

Today (Nov 2007) a decent laptop can be bought for $399, the price of a few textbooks. Right now we need both the paper books and the computer, but that is simply a transitional phase. [I guess that the next logical step is to have virtual schools. What is the need for buildings, school food, and buses?] Austin, Texas has just opened up a virtual school, 3rd-12th grades.

Take a look at this video entitled: “The Evolution of Technology and the Human Race”

In this video it states that for a 4 year degree (this would include high school- although it mentions college) by the time they get to their junior years the stuff learned in their freshman year is outdated. I have said this for years now. I have said trying to teach technology in high school is impossible because it changes too fast.

Dim lights

The world is not the same as it was 15, 10, 5, even 1 year ago.  This is a fact. [It never is the same. This is nothing new!! The fact that things change does not mean all things must change, even if we have to force it. Just because we can use technology does not mean we should.]

It is our job as educators to prepare our students to succeed in the world as it is (will be) the best we can.  This is a fact. [Do you have a crystal ball? Technology itself changes too fast to be able teach it in school.]

With the world changing as it is largely due to technology wouldn’t it make sense to include technology in education? [No. An emphatic no. We have never used radio nor television that much in education, why computers? Education should be about things that do not change. Grammar, math, history etc., not about things that change too rapidly to keep up with.]

Where does this leave us with proof? [There is none.]

Do we have loads of data explaining why we need to integrate technology into education? [NO.]

No…not yet. When we do, what form will this data take? [IF YOU DO?]

Will we ever have this data? [No.]

I don’t know, but I’d be willing to bet that if we REMOVED all current technology from education today, there might all of a sudden be plenty of reasons why we all would need it back!  Perhaps more immediate answers lie in that scenario. [No there would be no good reason to have it back. So, you try to justify the existence of technology in the classroom by suggesting that if removed it would be problematical? This is a valid reason?]

Obviously – just purchasing technology and putting it into a classroom isn’t going to do anything.  It’s all in how our teachers are using it to facilitate student learning. This is where the problem is.  It’s past time to address this.  Are webinars, PD’s and conferences really the answer?  Are they working? Are only some working? Are we currently living in a grey area of time where some understand the tools available and some don’t? – so many questions.  One thing is for sure…Technology is here for good. [Technology may be but not necessarily in education, K-12. We did not train in school to use the Cotton Gin, telephone, steam engine, etc. We just learned how to use them as part of life. Learning to use tools is one thing that set us apart from the animal. I recently saw a local news story, in which, Octogenarians were learning to use a computer.]

You are trying to be all things to all people. You should just concentrate on the basics and not all of this fleeting technology.

Another website:
This is also against computers in the classroom.


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