Much has been written to show that technology does not improve student learning. More precisely, what this statement typically means is that student test scores do not improve after laptops are introduced in the classroom. If we step back and look at the results of computer technology in classrooms, we have four possible conclusions:
- The laptops and software are being used to reinforce traditional methods of teaching (so why would one expect better test scores)
- The laptops have no software that allows learning in new ways which might improve test scores
- The laptops and software are allowing children to learn faster but this benefit is not captured in test scores by the grade level measurement system
- The laptops and software are allowing the children to learn new skills that are not measured by the test scores
3 out 4 chances (1, 3 and 4) for testing to show that laptops do not improve education. 3 out of 4 chances (2, 3, 4) to have a meaningful contribution from laptops and software, if only we asked the right questions.
As Clayton Christensen, the famous HBS professor, showed in "Disrupting Class", we should not expect better results if we use technology to reinforce traditional teaching methods. The question (3) that intrigues me is whether we could educate children faster using self-paced technology, graduating children faster and thereby freeing up resources for other students such as the disabled. The new discoveries in neuroscience have not yet been incorporated into learning and education and software based on this new knowledge may improve the way children learn (2). Of course, if we realized that education needs to change to reflect the easy access to information through the Internet we would focus on the need for children to develop new skills (4) for the 21st century. Any of these questions are more relevant than does technology improve test scores.
Note: Another possible conclusion is that the teachers do not know how to use the laptops in the classroom, but I think there is enough evidence to show this is not the case. Many groups have the know-how to train teachers to successfully adopt laptops in the classroom. South Kent School is one such group.
Other post on education are here.
These views are my personal views and do not reflect the views of any client, company or other organization with whom I am affiliated.