Are High-Tech Classrooms Just a Lot of Hype?

There is a current obsession with technology in the classroom. Even so, I would have thought that it was only sensible to bring as much technology as possible into the classroom. After all, we are trying to help children develop life skills. In today’s world technology is all around us. It is integral that our students have a familiarity if not competency with the latest in technology.

Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times disagrees:
Something sounded familiar last week when I heard U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski make a huge pitch for infusing digital technology into America’s classrooms.

Every schoolchild should have a laptop, they said. Because in the near future, textbooks will be a thing of the past.

Where had I heard that before? So I did a bit of research, and found it. The quote I recalled was, “Books will soon be obsolete in the schools…. Our school system will be completely changed in 10 years.”

the nirvana sketched out by Duncan and Genachowski at last week’s Digital Learning Day town hall was erected upon a sizable foundation of commercially processed claptrap. Not only did Genachowski in his prepared remarks give a special shout out to Apple and the iPad, but the event’s roster of co-sponsors included Google, Comcast, AT&T, Inteland other companies hoping to see their investments in Internet or educational technologies pay off.

How much genuine value is there in fancy educational electronics? Listen to what the experts say.

“The media you use make no difference at all to learning,” says Richard E. Clark, director of the Center for Cognitive Technology at USC. “Not one dang bit. And the evidence has been around for more than 50 years.”

Almost every generation has been subjected in its formative years to some “groundbreaking” pedagogical technology. In the ’60s and ’70s, “instructional TV was going to revolutionize everything,” recalls Thomas C. Reeves, an instructional technology expert at the University of Georgia. “But the notion that a good teacher would be just as effective on videotape is not the case.”

Many would-be educational innovators treat technology as an end-all and be-all, making no effort to figure out how to integrate it into the classroom. “Computers, in and of themselves, do very little to aid learning,” Gavriel Salomon of the University of Haifa and David Perkins of Harvard observed in 1996. Placing them in the classroom “does not automatically inspire teachers to rethink their teaching or students to adopt new modes of learning.”

I am a bit in the middle on this issue. I am in favour of all types of technology in the classroom, just not as a replacement for standard teaching. Those schools that are dominated by devises, lose out from the benefits of teacher/student interaction. But that is not to say that i-Pads in the classroom wont make any difference. It just means that those i-Pads are not more important to education than a quality teacher.

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5 Responses to “Are High-Tech Classrooms Just a Lot of Hype?”

  1. Ms. Serdy Says:

    This is a complex topic and one that is near and dear to me as a technology coordinator. What is least understood by the corporate reformers is that technology in itself is not the silver bullet to our education woes. It is, however, a deeply versatile and immersive tool that has great potential. For teachers the potential is in the ability of technology to allow them to create truly differentiated lessons, where students may choose the type of research that motivates them, to produce products that engage them, and effectively integrate all content areas because in the “real world” learning is not in isolation. For students technology brings the world to their fingertips, offers multiple ways for expressing learning, and many media forms to address audio, visual and other special needs. Yes, media has not changed. What has changed is the ability to have the right media for the right student and for that student to self direct their learning. We have now, more than ever before, the tools to empower students globally. With so many authentic learning opportunities available, why would tech not be used? With the workplace demanding skilled users of information, why would we limit it’s use in the classroom?

    This is one area for teaching to change and reform.

  2. Ms. Serdy Says:

    In my enthusiasm I neglected to mention that my vision is NOT the reform that is being proposed. What I suggest and envision is very student and classroom centered, not standardized and used for the sake of using it in scripted situations. Ipads mean nothing if the educator is not skilled with the use of the device and applications. The internet connection used means little if all web 2.0 areas are blocked and authentic audiences are walled out. Using the internet and related hardware as the powerful tools they are is what needs to be done to release us from the boxes that current politics want to keep us in.

  3. John Tapscott Says:

    I was teaching a class who had learned that in order to solve an maths equation with multiple operations one had to work from left to right. Thus: 4 x 3 – 8 ÷ 4 + 7 = 8. Have you ever tried to unteach something taught or learned erroneously? I tried to teach them the meaning of the well known acronym, “BODMAS” (BOMDAS is an alternate form with the same results.) but I was not making any headway because several of the smartest kids in the class did not believe me. After telling them to go the a computer and “Google” “Order Of Operations” the issue was finally settled, at least for the smartest students. I am not sure even now whether they all have it, as I am only a relief teacher.

    That’s one facet of technology.

    Another facet is when you have all the latest technology but there’s a bug somewhere and you can’t get it to do what you want. If teachers forget how to “chalk and talk”, to “wing it” they will have lost some of the most valuable tools in the box.

    How about this one: a science teacher who wrote copious notes on a transparency and projected them on to a screen for the children to copy out. As a handwriting exercise it was a dismal failure because the students rushed to get it over with and what they wrote in their notebooks was next to illegible. As a science exercise it was virtually useless. I asked the teacher why he taught that way instead of having the class conduct practical work such as experiments. He told me that the class was so badly behaved that he daren’t give them practical work fearing for safety issues. On the other hand I often went, with my class of boys with behaviour issues, to the laboratory. The science teacher always began with an experiment, conducted by the boys, which they were then expected to write up. The boys were fascinated by this teacher’s approach. He was laid back and friendly and genuinely cared about the boys.

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