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NY times: technology and "stagnant test scores."

Posted By Administration, Monday, September 5, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

September 5th, 2011


Yesterday, 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 IT.

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 timidity.

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.

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