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Is Technology Necessary For Learning?

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Technology Advocates Disagree

Karen Cator, director of the office of educational technology in the United States Department of Education and a former Apple Computer executive, says that standardized test scores are not an adequate measure of the value of technology for students:

“In places where we’ve had a large implementing of technology and scores are flat, I see that as great,” she said. “Test scores are the same, but look at all the other things students are doing: learning to use the Internet to research, learning to organize their work, learning to use professional writing tools, learning to collaborate with others.”

These are important skills for students to learn. But they are skills which students are probably honing at home when using the computer and Internet. Every single one of my college students knows how to use word processing software but that has little to do with their ability to write thoughtful analytical essays with well-substantiated arguments.

School Budget Cuts in Music, Art, PE

Technology isn’t the only way for students to “learn to collaborate with others”: Playing on a team in games in physical education class is another way, with the added benefit of getting students out of their seats. But PE is one area, along with music and art, in which instruction time is shrinking, due to budget issues. At a time when rising rates of childhood obesity have become a national concern, diminishing the hours of instruction in PE so that students spend more time on computers could be an innovation in the wrong direction.

Class size in Kyrene is also increasing: Seventh grade classes that had from 29 to 31 students now have 31 to 33 students.Teachers make roughly $33,000 to $57,000 a year and have not had a raise since 2008. The district’s maintenance and operating budget has shrunk from $106 million in 2008 to $95 million this year and teachers routinely bring in their own supplies.

The Question of Student Engagement

Teachers acknowledge that using technology often seems to be the only way to keep many students engaged. Indeed, “student engagement” is one of the main arguments for investing in classroom technology. But again, research “does not establish a clear link between computer-inspired engagement and learning,” as Randy Yerrick, associate dean of educational technology at the University of Buffalo, says.

“Do we really need technology to learn?” one Kyrene parent, Eduarda Schroder, asks. Last November, Schroder worked on the political action committee to advocate for an extension of the technology tax, so her answer to her question may seem obvious. But it’s a question that needs more consideration as schools decide whether to make big commitments to technology, possibly at the expense of other areas of student learning.


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4:44AM PDT on Mar 9, 2015

You’ve put enormous insights about the topic here, continue the good work!

7:00AM PDT on Apr 4, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

4:18PM PST on Dec 22, 2012


9:51PM PDT on Oct 29, 2012

Thank you.

9:51PM PDT on Oct 29, 2012

Thank you.

6:50AM PDT on Oct 14, 2011

Not absolutely, but helps a lot

8:10AM PDT on Oct 10, 2011

I think so in today's world.........with all the advances and mandatory technological skills needed in school, college, on most all jobs, etc.

6:41PM PDT on Oct 3, 2011

I agree that we are woefully behind - the 19th Century reference was apt - in structuring our educational experience to develop the nation's children for the world that they will face. Technology can help if it is properly integrated into the curriculum. In fact, failing to do that will prove disastrous and force children into a huge waste of time preparing for tests that don't really measure what needs to be measured in this rapidly developing environment. Of course the basics need to be learned, but do they have to write with quill pens and use abacuses in order for it to be considered legitimate? Teachers need more than ever to be constantly updating their skills, both pedagogical and technological, if they are to be relevant. The tools have to be there, and the teachers better be prepared to show how they are to be used.

11:00AM PDT on Sep 8, 2011

Technology is a TOOL. Its effectiveness depends on how it is used. The "new technology" movement in education is putting it to use to tremendous effect to revolutionize the entire process of education in America ... Something that is LONG overdue.

Face it, we are still stuck in a 19th century "factory model" of education, and are preparing students for jobs that no longer exist. We have to break that mould, and create a new paradigm in education that will lead us to making education relevant to today's challenges. Mass customization and modern content delivery systems (both of which are likely to depend heavily on technology) will be a big part of that transformation.

Using modern technology to prop us an outmoded educational paradigm is an exercise in futility. New THINKING is needed, and bold new directions are vital to our nation's future success.

6:54PM PDT on Sep 7, 2011

If a child learns because of interest, that's the important part. If a teacher can make a subject great they have won the battle no matter how the are teaching. There needs to be some action between student and teacher not machines.

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