Doing Better By Our Kids: Making Classroom Technology Count

Outfit classrooms with powerful new technologies. Train teachers to use interactive whiteboards when they lecture. Let student’s tour European cathedrals and Egyptian tombs by way of VR headsets. Enhance kids’ reading skills by way of animated drills on their personal tablets.

In terms of student achievement, all that rich merging of education and tech adds up to…

…not much, apparently.

According to a 200-page report from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), countries that have invested heavily in educational tech showed “no appreciable improvements in student achievement in reading, mathematics or science.” Nor is classroom technology proving to be effective in bridging the skills divide between advantaged and disadvantaged kids

It’s a counter-intuitive finding — but hardly a new one. US government studies have been suggesting the same for nearly 20 years.

So what’s the catch? Why aren’t we realizing the amazing transformative potential of technology in our classrooms?

The authors of a new book, Never Send a Human to Do a Machine’s Job, suggest some possible answers.

· Too often we let products drive the agenda, pouring funds into new hardware and software “solutions” that sound useful in theory — rather than focusing on what kids and teachers actually need (then developing solutions to suit).

· Too often we make incorporating technology an extra chore for teachers. Sometimes we go to the other extreme, attempting to use tech to replace them. Instead we need to find a new kind of balance, a new form of relationship, where teachers “relinquish some of their teaching responsibilities to technology and shift their energy to do things that technology cannot do.”

· Too often we use computers to aid in rote forms of learning — when educational tech may be best suited to helping develop higher-order thinking and conceptual skills.

· We aren’t, it seems, letting kids bring their own creativity to the table. We aren’t treating technology itself as a realm where students need to acquire skills, explore, and build — so that they can grow as active, savvy users and creators.

To our minds, all this boils down to a maxim that works across the board:

Use technology to unleash human creativity, and the rest will follow.

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