Saturday, May 05, 2007

Is EduTechnology Oversold?

The New York Times is reporting that some schools are now dropping their laptop-for-students programs:
LIVERPOOL, N.Y. — The students at Liverpool High have used their school-issued laptops to exchange answers on tests, download pornography and hack into local businesses. When the school tightened its network security, a 10th grader not only found a way around it but also posted step-by-step instructions on the Web for others to follow (which they did).

Scores of the leased laptops break down each month, and every other morning, when the entire school has study hall, the network inevitably freezes because of the sheer number of students roaming the Internet instead of getting help from teachers.

So the Liverpool Central School District, just outside Syracuse, has decided to phase out laptops starting this fall, joining a handful of other schools around the country that adopted one-to-one computing programs and are now abandoning them as educationally empty — and worse.

Many of these districts had sought to prepare their students for a technology-driven world and close the so-called digital divide between students who had computers at home and those who did not.

“After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement — none,” said Mark Lawson, the school board president here in Liverpool, one of the first districts in New York State to experiment with putting technology directly into students’ hands. “The teachers were telling us when there’s a one-to-one relationship between the student and the laptop, the box gets in the way. It’s a distraction to the educational process.”

Liverpool’s turnabout comes as more and more school districts nationwide continue to bring laptops into the classroom. Federal education officials do not keep track of how many schools have such programs, but two educational consultants, Hayes Connection and the Greaves Group, conducted a study of the nation’s 2,500 largest school districts last year and found that a quarter of the 1,000 respondents already had one-to-one computing, and fully half expected to by 2011.

Yet school officials here and in several other places said laptops had been abused by students, did not fit into lesson plans, and showed little, if any, measurable effect on grades and test scores at a time of increased pressure to meet state standards. Districts have dropped laptop programs after resistance from teachers, logistical and technical problems, and escalating maintenance costs.

Such disappointments are the latest example of how technology is often embraced by philanthropists and political leaders as a quick fix, only to leave teachers flummoxed about how best to integrate the new gadgets into curriculums. Last month, the United States Department of Education released a study showing no difference in academic achievement between students who used educational software programs for math and reading and those who did not.
The Times has much more.

In our school district here in California's "Imperial" Valley, teachers initially embraced the use of technology. There was much excitement about these new teaching tools.

Unfortunately, within the past couple of years, school administrators have imposed new restrictions on teachers' computer usage to the point where no teacher (regardless of technological proficiency) in the district may adjust the settings of their machines in any way. (In other words, teachers are not allowed to change the brightness of the monitor, modify the screen saver, or even defrag their disks.)

Anytime a teacher needs to make any change, adjustments, or routine maintenance whatsoever, then he or she must submit a written request to the technology department.

All school administrators, on the other hand, are given full access privileges, regardless of their technological expertise, (Or notorious lack thereof.) to their school-issued desktop machines and laptops.

Needless to say, the district's patronizing attitude toward its teachers has caused much frustration among those of us who do know our way around a CPU...

Nowadays, many classroom teachers now choose to limit their on-the-job computer usage to the district-mandated daily retrieval of email
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