September 5th, 2011
the Times published a relatively long article, "Technology in Schools
Faces Questions on Value." The URL is below:
For 26 years, working on various funded technology projects, as an academic
computing director, and now as Executive Director of AAEEBL, I've read or heard
the essence of this article over and over again. Somehow, they say in
these articles, technology has not magically resulted in higher test scores.
I always wonder, as I have read variations on this article over the last few
decades, what would people do if they could somehow prove that information
technology, by itself, does not improve learning? Would they ban
technology in classrooms?
What is the basic question they are asking? And what are their tacit assumptions?
That humans would actually stop inventing new technologies if the technology
did not live up to expectations? We have proven that automobiles kill
people by the thousands, pollute the air, contribute to global climate change,
disrupt cities, perhaps contribute to obesity, but I have not heard anyone
suggesting we should stop investing in automobiles. For half a century,
we have read and heard that TV is bad for children; has that stopped TV?
But, getting back to the educational perspective and information
technology: we hear of studies that show that learners get
"distracted" by computers. Do the researchers do a similar
study of student "distraction" from lectures? Why not?
There seems to be a common delusion that we can go back to an educational
design that works better than designs inspired by and implemented with
We are in the first decade of broadly implementing technology, usually
rashly and without an understanding of our goals, throughout education.
Information technology alters all interactions, all assumptions about
knowledge, all social dimensions, and calls for new assessment of
learning. Information technology has a subtle but ultimately cosmic
affect on humans. It affects how we understand ourselves and how our
cultures will evolve.
How could we now, so early in this century-long human transformation, be able
to judge? We need assessment, not evaluation; we need exploration, not
One of the most destructive delusions is that test scores provide the ultimate
criteria for judging technology-supported learning. Have test scores ever
been valid for understanding or measuring holistic learner development?
[Why eportfolios provide a better opportunity to judge achievement is the
subject of a future blog]
Information technology offers an undiscovered country. Our visions of
that country are mostly controlled, now, by pre-conceptions based on almost no
experience. Most visitors to this new country arrive unprepared and
unguided. It is not wise to just venture out with only pre-conceptions as
a frame. If visitors do just venture out, we will be reading articles
like this re-hash in the Times for the next 26 years.