Recently reports have been releases that say technology in the classroom has no impact. These reports talk about how having computers and software available to students doesn’t improve test scores and that teachers see little improvement in student learning.

Of course this might just be another example of focusing on the tool and not on how the tool is being used. For example, in the schools where specific software programs are purchased to help in reading and writing literacy skills, are teachers taught how to integrate the software into learning? Or, are the computers and software dumped on the teacher and he or she simply has to figure out what to do with them?

Technology in the classroom for technology’s sake is never really going to work. Technology in a classroom where teachers are trained and inspired to use it as a path to learning, and not as the learning itself, will have a better chance of success. As Mark Warschauer from the University of CA at Irvine is quoted in today’s New York Times:

…schools like Liverpool might be giving up too soon because it takes time to train teachers to use the new technology and integrate it into their classes. For instance, he pointed to students at a middle school in Yarmouth, Me., who used their laptops to create a Spanish book for poor children in Guatemala and debate Supreme Court cases found online.

“Where laptops and Internet use make a difference are in innovation, creativity, autonomy and independent research,” he said. “If the goal is to get kids up to basic standard levels, then maybe laptops are not the tool. But if the goal is to create the George Lucas and Steve Jobs of the future, then laptops are extremely useful.”

It would be really sad if schools basically gave up on technology without understanding how powerful various software programs, web sites, applications, etc. can be if integrated effectively. Students would miss out and so would teachers, parents, and administrators.

If you have a chance to talk to teen educators in your community find out what their stand is on technology in the classroom. See if you can inspire them to think of ways to integrate the technology so that teens can use it to successful effect.

You can read the report from the US Department of Education released last month. You can also read an interesting analysis and response from the Federation of American Scientists. (Both files are in .pdf)

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

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