Obviously I’m a proponent of getting more technology into classrooms. But I’m also a believer in data-driven decision making. So I read with great interest Matt Richtel’s NYT article on the impact new ed tech has on standardized test score at schools around the country.
The research, in short, does not show a link between the introduction of new technology like smartboards, laptops, and other digital trinkets, and test scores. “In a nutshell: schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning,” writes Richtel. There is little research showing that ed tech is effective, and what little there is says it isn’t.
So this got me thinking: where is the research on the technology that we’ve been using for many years in classrooms? There are learning tools far older than LCD projectors and vocabulary drill software that administrators, teachers, and parents have assumed will help their kids learn.
But, for instance, where is the data showing that printed text is a useful technology for teaching students to read? Without clear peer-reviewed research demonstrating a causal link between printed books and rising literacy scores, we must assume that the millions of dollars spent by school districts around the country on textbooks are a blind gamble. Technologies for distributing and viewing printed text, like paperbacks, magazines, and worksheets, have been around for so long, most educators assume that just using them in a classroom will pave the way to higher student achievement. But what research is there to back this up? Where are the studies linking reading from printed books to improved literacy? Or math scores? Or knowledge of history?
Before we pour untold millions into the latest educational fads, we need to know: is the technology we’ve been using in classrooms for centuries actually helping our students learn?
(Photo: flickr / Kathy Cassidy)