Sometimes the results of research come as no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention. This is one example.
In a study presented at the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting this week, researchers found that the use of computers in the classroom has had mixed results.
In one study, researchers from Syracuse and Michigan State universities examined a program that gave laptop computers to middle-school students in Ohio in 2003. Preliminary findings are mixed.
“Overall, we don’t know if it is a worthwhile investment,” says Syracuse researcher Jing Lei.
And these mediocre results are not limited to the US.
Researchers in England studied 80 schools that had received electronic “whiteboards,” computerized chalkboards that allow teachers to use special markers for lessons. The $2,000 whiteboards also allow them to save their work to a computer and even surf the Internet with a class. Researchers found that teachers and students like them, but that they have a “very small and short-lived” effect on skills.
Since our overly-large school district is rolling out those expensive whiteboards as fast as schools can find the spare change, I’d love to find that particular study for some of our “leaders”.
But even without reading these studies (they don’t seem to be on the web yet), it really isn’t hard to figure out why all the money spent on technology is doing little to improve learning.
With few exceptions, we are attempting to graft 21st technology onto an educational structure that is rooted in the mid 20th century.
It won’t work.
Unless we are willing to completely alter our educational system to take advantage of the power in the machines and networks, we are wasting an awful lot of money.
My fear, of course, is that studies like this will make it harder for schools that ARE willing to change the system to get the funding to do so.
Unfortunately, that will probably happen. The press tends to lump all schools and education issues into one pile when reporting on education issues.
Here’s hoping the changes that Chris’ new school are trying to make will help them break out of that mold.