Technology in the classroom is the way of the future. Technology will raise test scores, increase engagement, and deepen understanding. This has been the drum beat for some time. In fact, when asked about the effectiveness of computers in the classroom, an expert had this to say:

Well the jury may still be out, but the statistics are in, the statistics are showing in all aspects of education, computers are helping dramatically in terms of comprehension of information, in terms of the ability to develop analytical thinking, basic skills like math functions, etc. In just about all the ways of measuring these things, all the kinds of things you want out of education are in fact increased when you do use computers.

Who said this? Surely Sal Khan? No? Bill Gates? No? Really? Believe it or not this is commentary from a PBS show Computer Chronicles originally broadcast in April 1991. Yeah, twenty years ago. And after all this time, classrooms are not 1:1 environments, computers still feel like clunky add-ons, and people are trying hard to find ways to demonstrate results. It seems like it's very hard to comprehend that a lot of analog methods are still pretty good ways of learning. Now, there are benefits to having technology in the classroom, but I think it's a supplemental part of the experience. Students don't go to school explicitly to learn to socialize, but it's part of the process. Students shouldn't go to school specifically to learn on computers, but exposure to the technology of the day shows them what's available, especially if they come from families that don't have a computer, iPad, internet, etc.

The battle people fight today with Khan started two decades ago when people saw computers benefitting everyday workers and thought "surely this will improve those schools of ours!" without much thought on how good or measureable the results.

Later on the program some representatives are giving educational software product demos and the host posits "Is there evidence this stuff works? Do we know that computer software can teach using these methods?" to which the rep can only offer "We get letters from customers who tell us how the grades of their children, or educators, how their grades have improved, we hear that all the time." Their grades have improved? Fabulous. But are they learning?

Lastly, a segment from the middle of the show touring a freshly baked technology campus. I feel like I've seen this before. The only odd part about the segment is that it implies the technology was installed to attract more affluent children. Uh, what?

Full episode here: Software For Schools

AuthorJonathan Claydon