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Laptops In the Classroom Don't Increase Grades

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the work-easier-not-smarter dept.

Education 511

blitzkrieg3 writes "Classrooms all around the country are being fitted with one to one laptop programs, networking hardware, digital projectors, and other technology in order to stay competitive in the 21st century. Kyrene school district spent $3 million modernizing their classrooms. The problem? The increase in spending doesn't lead to an increase in test scores. Policy makers calling for high tech classrooms, including former execs from HP, Apple, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, want to increase technology investment despite the results. Others are not so sure, or think it is an outright waste of money."

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511 comments

Well duh (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303224)

Are the tests testing for technological awareness and other abilities enhanced by using laptops?

Re:Well duh (5, Funny)

Pete Venkman (1659965) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303236)

Great idea! Little Johnny is failing math, but he can tweet like a motherfucker now!

Re:Well duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303436)

Great idea! Little Johnny is failing math, but he can tweet like a motherfucker now!

great comment, I haven't laughed at something this hard in a while!

Re:Well duh (2)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303576)

and his knowledge of female anatomy is outstanding.

Luckily... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303598)

Look on the bright side: at least they did not cause lowered grades. There must have been some tolerably effective filtering software in place, to prevent them becoming just another media-consumption (youtube) or puerile gossip (facebook) or other facile (twitter) waste of time.

As others have noted, technology per se does nothing to advance learning or impart skills. The learning process is driven by the teachers, and if they don't know how to use computers to enhance the learning process, then there is unlikely to be an improvement in learning. This is not to say that the teachers are inept or unskilled with computers; just that they just don't know how to use them as a teaching aid. This would require promulgation of a whole new body of techniques to the existing teaching staff, and good luck with that...

[Posting as AC to avoid undoing mods]

Re:Well duh (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303262)

Also: Were the students graded on a curve?

Re:Well duh (3, Insightful)

kj_kabaje (1241696) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303548)

There is no curve on the NCLB tests like the Gates foundation and others are trying to address.  There is a standard that is set of minimal qualifications in each content area with multiple levels of achievement.  Unfortunately, if your teachers aren't allowed to teach and must do what their administrators and legislators consider good curriculum (despite many of them being completely unqualified), you chances of actually improving scores lowers drastically.

Re:Well duh (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303314)

Probably not. But if they aren't on the test, they're not important.

Work and study (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303232)

That's the only thing that contributes to increase student grades. Technology is just a tool, not a means.

Re:Work and study (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303282)

Correct. Some problems can be solved by throwing money at them. People tend to think of kids the same way. With kids, the best tools are hands-on time, interest, and patience. Having access to a computer is required. Having one on their person(s) at all times is not.

Re:Work and study (2, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303486)

There is something to be said for having the skill set you will use in the work place even at the expense of not knowing anything significant about the Battle of Jutland, or where in the world Jutland is. After all, with skill in using computers as tools, all of the other things you were supposed to learn in the 4th grade of the 4th year of college are available to you.

The tests used today are a legacy of the past where knowing details was the focus of education. I'd much rather employ someone who knew how do do computer assisted research or build a spread sheet to calculate unit costs than someone well versed in memorized facts that are obsolete as soon as you walk out of the test hall.

Re:Work and study (5, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303528)

The tests used today are a legacy of the past where knowing details was the focus of education. I'd much rather employ someone who knew how do do computer assisted research or build a spread sheet to calculate unit costs than someone well versed in memorized facts that are obsolete as soon as you walk out of the test hall.

That's not what you get. They're not teaching statistics and why you might want to use a pivot table.

They're teaching Powerpoint.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Re:Work and study (4, Insightful)

Doctor_Jest (688315) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303586)

Learning how to think, being well rounded, and having a solid fundamental base (you know, doing things with a pencil and paper and calculating in one's head), makes learning a spreadsheet or computer research trivial. You're advocating tool use as a higher endeavor, and I don't think you meant to.

Jutland isn't the end-all point of the matter... providing a rounded portfolio of knowledge and the ability to think critically, analyze things and solve problems is. And no fact of history is ever obsolete. :)

Learning a spreadsheet in school is obsolete when the next version of Office comes out anyway.

Re:Work and study (2)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303622)

Learning how to think, being well rounded, and having a solid fundamental base (you know, doing things with a pencil and paper and calculating in one's head), makes learning a spreadsheet or computer research trivial.

Not really. I know people who know how to think, are well-rounded, and are quite well educated compared to most. But they didn't grow up with computers, and it takes them forever to get tasks done, and malware is a hell of a lot more than a minor annoyance for them. They find the entire process frustrating and sometimes inaccessible.

You need to learn how to use computers, and to be an environment that has them--particularly if you're from a home that doesn't have them--but they're not the only thing you have to learn. They are not helpful for most classes, but are for some. Most of the time, they will not help in a classroom.

Re:Work and study (5, Insightful)

aix tom (902140) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303554)

To quote from Takahata's "My Neighbors the Yamadas":

Mother and Father doing the month's budget.

Mother: We have to have 300 for the tutor for Noboru. (13 year old son)
Father: What??? Give me 200, and I tutor him myself!
Grandmonter: I'll to it for 150!
Noboru: Just give me 100, then I promise to study harder.

In general, yes. (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303312)

The student needs to work to find out how he/she learns best for each subject and apply that/those technique(s).

Technology can help. When virtual reality is possible, the student can learn history by "being there". Or he/she could watch a movie about it today. But that requires that the content (movie) be available along with the technology to view it (the laptop). Handing out laptops without content only leads to games of minesweeper.

And this isn't even addressing whether the students have Internet access away from school.

Or whether the school has the support structure in place to handle the hardware breakage and software problems that will happen.

Re:In general, yes. (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303402)

The student needs to work to find out how he/she learns best for each subject and apply that/those technique(s).

Unfortunately, most middle-school students (the story uses an example of seventh-graders) aren't too good at resisting temptation or being sufficiently introspective. I think the real issue is that parents and teachers are trying to apply the (failed) "abandon children in front of television" parenting approach to education.

Re:In general, yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303408)

The student needs to work to find out how he/she learns best for each subject and apply that/those technique(s).

That's a myth - people all learn the same way. Some people just learn some subjects faster than others and some learn slower. That's the reason why Binet invented the IQ tests. He wanted to find the kids who'd have problems in the classroom or in a particular area and give them more attention - then people started using it as a measuring stick and used IQ tests for measuring "intelligence" and completely bastardizing his work.

Anyway, speaking as someone who's wasn't particularly outstanding in science and math, it just takes more time for me. That's all. Unfortunately, the time I need is longer than the time allotted in school. It's actually kind of interesting: how much time per day doesn't make too much of a difference but how of a time interval is what matters - it's like my subconscious needs a few days to stew on a problem to understand it, but if I sit there and spend the same amount of time staring at the problem, I get nowhere.

I would love to have studied science and engineering - I'm a big fan - but that's not where my talents are. I was one of those folks who scored high on the verbal portion of the IQ test and quite a bit lower on the numerical.

*sigh*

At least instead of saying, "Would you like fries with your order?" I say, "Would you care to supplement your order with French Fries on this fine day?"

Re:In general, yes. (2)

oursland (1898514) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303500)

When virtual reality is possible, the student can learn history by "being there".

They can learn what an artist's version of history is. This can probably be done better than the standard textbooks, but it also makes rewriting history easier and more real than the truth written in some book.

Re:Work and study (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303472)

Indeed, I'm not sure why laptops would increase grades on activities other than writing papers.

OTOH, document cameras and projectors do have a much more reasonable connection to academic performance and if you get good equipment you spend it once and the maintenance costs are pretty minimal. For some things showing a short animation is just that much better than trying to explain what's happening with a lever or trying to explain how a substitution reaction works out.

Distractions (3, Insightful)

EvilGiraffe (2014568) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303234)

Exterior of a computer skills classes, which are obviously important in their own right, all this tech does is increase student distraction. I'm a bit surprised they aren't tracking a DECLINE in test scores in all other areas of learning, really.

Re:Distractions (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303390)

Depends on how it's being used. For example, my average mark for English essays went from C to A when I started being able to use a word processor instead of a pen. I was able to focus on the ideas, rather than the mechanics of using a ridiculously archaic writing device. I spent over a decade at school having to use a pen. Now, I type more in an average day than I write with a pen in an average year. I'd probably have done better at school if I'd been allowed to type from the start.

Re:Distractions (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303458)

Because DEX was my dump stat, my parents had a standing agreement with the school(s, elementary, junior high, high) that I could type any assignment rather than handwriting it. Even as a physics grad student, I still typed my problem sets (in LaTeX, of course).

Re:Distractions (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303562)

Recall yesterday's thread about typing (too lazy to link it). From many of the comments, I got the distinct impression that this particular skill was the most useful single aspect of high school for many Slashdotters. Admittedly this is a small and very skewed (twisted might be a better description) sample of humanity but maybe all one needs after basic reading and writing is a keyboard, a mouse, Wolfram Alpha and possibly 4-Chan.

Re:Distractions (1)

x_IamSpartacus_x (1232932) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303426)

I would actually question any study that showed ANY classroom additions increasing grades.
When they introduced white boards instead of the old chalk blackboards did that increase grades? When they introduced calculators instead of doing everything in long division did that increase grades? No, and they SHOULDN'T.
Any new teaching tool is just that... a new teaching tool. It creates new things that can be taught. When a child has a laptop in their classroom they should be taught new things that a child without a laptop does not have access to. The new things are just as rigorous to learn as the old curriculum but it is more expansive. Why should we expect a new tool in the classroom to automatically get every person who uses it high grades? A new tool in the classroom should increase the ability to learn MORE things not the same things better.
If every new tool in the classroom increased grades every student should be getting 'A's in every subject by now, as much as we've improved the classroom over the last hundred years. It's a ridiculous idea to thing that every classroom improvement will get GPAs higher.

Re:Distractions (2)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303434)

Sorry, I must disagree.

What learning tech early does, is teach the kid "it's okay to use tech". Simple, and as scary, as that.

Teachers desperately cling to Grades because they have no other metrics.

In the modern business world, you have tons of older workers who "know stuff" but can't extract a file off an email. It's at least worth a try to let the kid spend some time playing with tech, because tech is the wave of the future.

Put a little facetiously, we don't need to know factoids anymore because you can just Google it now. And if you can't Google it, you can post it to a forum and get it in 12 hours.

So let the kid learn to type, and then the few bright ones will wonder what a computer does...

And THERE is your future workforce.

Re:Distractions (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303506)

Precisely, and I'm curious as to why people think that laptops for students is the answer. I get that lower income children probably don't have their own computers, but even that does not necessitate computers in the classroom.

When I was a kid we had a lab full of Apple ][ computers which we played with in elementary school. Later on we had more powerful machines, but we'd go for a small amount of time every week and that was more than enough.

Introducing them into the class seems like an excellent way of making sure that they know how to look things up on Google and that they're not going to be paying attention due to the distractions involved.

It's just a tool. (5, Insightful)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303246)

Computers by themselves are not magic teachers. They wont replace quality teachers but they can with proper application assist in education. I think most of the problem with computers in school is that people have the wrong expectations. It's just a tool. Like any tool you have to know how to use it properly and what it can and can not do.

Re:It's just a tool. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303288)

Agree

Re:It's just a tool. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303374)

As a public school teacher who teaches students to certify in IT, I can point to some problems:

1) Teachers don't know how to properly use the technology.
2) The technology distracts students from classroom content.
3) Schools generally fail to filter out distracting content. Most students know how to use Ultrasurf, and proxies to bypass lame block lists.
4) There is little engaging educational content available for the technology. The major exceptions are Cisco Academy and Khan Academy.
5) Most of what we teach to students is useless crap. We need to step back analyze educational content for real world usability.

Technology is not the problem. The educational paradigm needs to be challenged.

Re:It's just a tool. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303560)

Came here to say just this. In my mind it painted a picture of a surgical patient on an operating table, surgical tools piled next to the patient and a distressed doctor just looking at them and screaming "It's not helping!".

Re:It's just a tool. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303578)

And Amigas are the best tools for 3D?

No, really? (5, Insightful)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303260)

Who would have thought giving kids an even bigger distraction would not increase grades? Kids today can barely sit still and concentrate on one task at a time let alone sit in front of a laptop and be expected to only take notes. What kids really need now is someone to tell them to sit down, shut up, and listen. If a disruptive student doesn't want to be there then they should be able to leave. Forcing them to be there is not helping them or anyone else who is trying to learn.

Re:No, really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303612)

Kids don't have problems associated with distractions at all. Just pump them full of amphetamines, I mean Ritalin, and they pay attention 100% of the time.

what test scores? (2)

The Dawn Of Time (2115350) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303270)

What sort of valid conclusions can one draw from tracking test scores over time? And why is the immediate reaction "blame the tool"?

Re:what test scores? (3, Insightful)

mellon (7048) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303460)

I think the immediate reaction is "stop wasting money." For some reason we can afford to buy kids laptops, but can't afford to make teaching a high-paying job. And yet we expect excellent results. The only way laptops can help students to learn is if they help teachers to teach more effectively. I.e., the laptop in the students' hands is a tool for the teacher, not the student. But that's not how laptops are being used.

Re:what test scores? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303516)

Because they're expensive and divert money that could be spent on things that we know increase test scores. Things like tutoring at risk students and evaluating curriculum to find materials that best assist the students in learning.

Laptops themselves are of limited value, the only times I've ever needed one is for getting help and for doing papers, neither of which is an optimal use of time.

agenda? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303272)

former execs from HP, Apple, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation...

Teachers don't use technology properly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303274)

Our broken education system views technology as an expensive lucky rabbit's foot intended to bring better grades through its mere presence.

Grades would improve if rote instruction were automated, leaving teachers free to offer individual attention where students need it most.

The unionized education establishment has become the foremost enemy of technology, viewing it as a threat to what they see as a public sector jobs program.

The purpose of education is to educate children, not to keep educators employed. If we don't embrace pragmatic instruction through technology then other nations will, leaving our students at a competitive disadvantage in a globalized world.

Re:Teachers don't use technology properly (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303420)

Umm, have you ever actually interacted with teachers RE: technology?

I'm sure that there are exceptions who actually have the economic views you assert(and I've definitely met exceptions who simply know fuck-all about technology and really don't want to start now; but the latter group is, in the face of retirement and replacement by 20-somethings who've been using laptops for at least their entire undergrand, a self-solving problem); but my experience during the times I've worked in educational IT is that teachers are either very enthusiastic about technology, or simple technophobes without some sinister union plot motive.

There exists automated drilling and assessment software for, among other things, elementary mathematics instruction. The math department came to us asking for an implementation, and we can't keep up with the demand for in-classroom computers to support the stuff. The music department, for their part, has enthusiastically adopted a rather neat automated system that can analyze the deviations of a student playing an instrument from the desired waveforms for a piece. Art? We haven't been able to afford Wacoms for the lab; but they voluntarily branched out into digital raster-image editing...

There are some perverse elements of educational union politicking; but my work with the IT department never once ran into opposition on teacher-economic grounds.

Re:Teachers don't use technology properly (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303556)

Indeed, another use of technology is assessing reading comprehension. Doing it by hand is tedious and takes a lot of time, but a computer can estimate the students reading level much more efficiently. It might still mean that the materials aren't quite right, but there's quicky methods that will help with that.

Being able to know that somebody's reading at about a 5th grade level makes selection of interesting reading material much more efficient.

But there's other things like setting up partners in class is much less likely to result in people being left to fend for themselves. And then there's handing in a digital file of ones report rather than a hard copy. That's one most people forget about, but it allows a teacher to track the progress and the changes, and Word for one allows one to embed comments with the corrections.

But, ultimately, technology is a tool and should be brought in with a specific need in mind and one shouldn't be buying technology without understanding the alternatives because it can hurt when done improperly.

I remember the same arguments about Calculators. (3, Insightful)

tysonedwards (969693) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303276)

I remember the same arguments about calculators, and how they were going to dramatically cause a significant increase in every student's test scores by simply giving them the right answers, and thereby prevent them from gaining the true understanding that they would need to succeed in the world.

The end result was that rather than having people solve very simplistic problems that they could actually pull off in a 4x4-inch section of paper, students were to solve far more complex problems that actually test their understanding of what they are attempting to do instead of their grasp over carrying a 1.

Bottom line is that as long as we have people who say "I'm computer illiterate" and then laugh, then there is still work to be done to enable people to be successful in the world.

Re:I remember the same arguments about Calculators (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303324)

Yeah but your calculator is not trying to organize a flash mob of teenagers.
Todays learning "tools" come with built in, unrestricted, communication functionality, which (IMHO) causes most of the distraction problems.
Only when you can remove or seriously restrict the communication functionality can they become useful learning devices again.

my anon 2c

Re:I remember the same arguments about Calculators (4, Insightful)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303378)

But to use a calculator, you need the foundational skills and understanding that underlie the problems they help solve. Computers are essentially media devices now: just like you don't need to know how TVs work to watch TV, you need understand nothing about computers to use them. And they are very distracting.

I think they have a role in the classroom. But I think that role is overemphasized and a lot of "I'm a hammer-expert, and that's a nail" thinking from people in the tech sector is wasting a lot of resources in education that could be spent much better.

Re:I remember the same arguments about Calculators (1)

BrianRoach (614397) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303412)

And now ... we have large swaths of people who can't do column arithmetic in their heads. Have you been in a retail store lately and paid cash for anything? Dig that quarter out of your pocket so you don't get back $4.97 from your $20 after they've hit the magic "total" button on the terminal and watch the train wreck that ensues.

So while yes, the people *who already could do simple problems on paper* benefited from the calculator, I'm going to go out on a limb that many didn't.

And that's ignoring the part where video games didn't run on the calculator. Or Facebook.

Re:I remember the same arguments about Calculators (1)

Lord Crc (151920) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303514)

The end result was that rather than having people solve very simplistic problems that they could actually pull off in a 4x4-inch section of paper, students were to solve far more complex problems that actually test their understanding of what they are attempting to do instead of their grasp over carrying a 1.

Not in my experience.

Calculators were strictly forbidden at every math exam I've had at university. They tested my knowledge and understanding far better than any other exam I had. All I needed was to know the multiplication table (up to 12 helps), how to multiply larger numbers and how to divide numbers.

With calculators you may learn how to solve certain problems by rote, and thus score slightly higher on tests. That doesn't mean you have any understanding of the math involved. Tests where calculators are involved seem to be prone to this, at least in my experience (which is admittedly not that extensive). My girlfriend had "learned" math like this. She attempted to take further math classes, but quickly struggled as there was no longer a magic button that would rescue her.

I guess my point is that calculators doesn't do anything for understanding.

Doing trivial multiplication and addition on paper is a skill I believe most people should possess, and if you have that as a basis you can test their skills in everything from easy to complicated math problems.

They can of course help with productivity if you know what you're doing.

There's a problem with test scores (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303284)

They aren't the holy grail people think they are. Even assuming they aren't subject to cheating, they aren't necessarily a true and accurate measure of anything really valuable on its own.

Too many people get so hung up on the mantra of "Test score, test scores, test scores" that they forget that tests are only so close to reality.

And yet they decide to question the technology investments which are a paltry expenditure compared to how much is spent on the testing.

Re:There's a problem with test scores (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303326)

Too many people get so hung up on the mantra of "Test score, test scores, test scores" that they forget that tests are only so close to reality.

Tests take reality, and reshape it in their own image.

Tech is wasted in current schools (2)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303286)

Schools should not be wasting time and money on tech until they can get reading writing and basic math right. Without those none of the rest matter.

And I have yet to be convinced that handing out Macs (and it is ALWAYS Apple who wins these school contracts) does one damned thing to improve education, other than twitter and facebook skills of course.... future employers are going to be hungering for that.... NOT.

I think it is possible to use tech to make a better education process, but that the American education system is wholly unsuited to making the fundamental change in mindset required. So quit wasting money until we are ready to blow it up and start over. In case nobody has noticed the country is broke.

Re:Tech is wasted in current schools (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303394)

It is fascinating to me that the executive VP in charge of Apple's efforts to get Macs into schools sends her children to a Waldorf School: http://www.sanfranmag.com/story/tech-gets-a-time-out [sanfranmag.com]

Re:Tech is wasted in current schools (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303400)

My school went for IBM, actually. The entire school was outfitted with IBMs, back when they still made laptops. The desktops were IBM too.

It probably had a lot to do with the incredible warranty they'd offer; even a pencil sticking through the screen was covered. Sitting on the laptop until it cracked down was covered. Spilling juice then throwing it down the third floor onto electrified spikes lubricated with gas was covered. I've never heard of a laptop that did not get replaced. Apple would never do that.

However, that was a while ago, back when Apple wasn't "in" for everything.

Re:Tech is wasted in current schools (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303470)

Define what you consider to be getting those three items right.

I'll leave aside the problems of getting reading, writing, and math without technology to you simply not realizing the full impact of what you were saying.

Also, the country is not broke. If anything, the country is letting people walk away with all the goods in the store, while letting the inventory and infrastructure deteriorate. And it's some valuable products being taken out. By non-beggars. The poor get disproportionately less benefits than the rich do.

Yet all we want to do is take take take from those who have the least. Because that's wrong! Nevermind that it's a really inconsequential amount of money they have in the entirety, it's important we take from them so they aren't freeloaders.

Increased grades? (1)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303292)

Simply using computers in class would change the lesson plan, which in turn would change the grading standard.

Is it surprising that kids would still stick to the same approximate bell curve after the lesson plan changes to include computers?

Computers take time to adapt to - and the grading system in grade school is all about adaptation to new knowledge. Kids who don't have the time in their lives to adapt, or the skill to adapt will not have an easier time with computers than without. Kids who adapt quickly and have time to learn independently will continue to excel with or without computers.

Computers just allow people to do things on a scale they wouldn't have been able to do before - sort of like interchangeable parts in manufacturing, or other mass-production tools. School isn't about scaling projects to previously unseen sizes - it's about learning a lot of individual things in series, then slowly seeing how they interrelate.

Computers can't scale mass learning yet, nor have we truly had the time to adapt them to more than token "learning scenarios".

And grades aren't a good measuring scale to judge something that changes the grading system.

Ryan Fenton

Re:Increased grades? (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303372)

And grades aren't a good measuring scale to judge something that changes the grading system.

TFA mentions standardized tests [wikipedia.org] which (I assume) allows the measurement of achievement over time (same criteria in 1980 as 2010) as well as controlling for other factors. So this isn't about grades on some curve as much as it is about whether kids actually learned the material. And until someone can claim that their little Lord Fauntleroy no longer knows how to operate a #2 pencil for the SAT, the shiny new laptop isn't going to buy their precious little sprog one bit of advantage.

This is important to know! (5, Insightful)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303304)

This is very important research because test scores are the only measure of a child's success! Experience with real life tools are irrelevant. Keeping students engaged isn't important.

Putting my tongue-in-cheek assessment aside, not every investment immediately yields an increase in test scores: nor should we only invest in things that do. Test scores are important, but they are not the only measure of a student's success. In 10 years no one will look back and say that adding laptops to schools was a bad idea any more than they will tell us that adding light bulbs or bathrooms was a bad idea. Technology moves forward, and schools should keep up or risk their test scores going down. It won't be too long before every 4-year-old has a portable computer of some kind.

Re:This is important to know! (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303432)

Keeping the student engaged has nothing to do with the presence of electronics in the class and everything to do with the talent of the teacher.

Go onto Youtube and play back one of Feynman's lectures and you will understand very quickly.

To paraphrase President Garfield, the ideal college is a log with the student on one end and Socrates on the other. I assure you to add electronics to that situation would only be a detriment.

Re:This is important to know! (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303446)

Experience with real life tools are irrelevant.

Three things are provided in school
1) Experience
2) Training
3) Education

For experience, these computers are useless. I got some awesome "Bank Street Writer" experience on a commodore 64 back in kindergarten. 12 years later when I graduated, no one cared. About 18 years later when I got "a real job" where word processing skills were required, it was even less useful. Computers are not unchanging inanimate objects like hammers in carpentry class.

For training, see above. I had to sit thru MS Excel classes and was tested on memorization of obscure menu options. Complete waste of time. You're an expert on office? Not anymore, hello "ribbon".

For education, I'm not entirely sure computers are necessary, even to teach computer science. Far too many "CS education classes" are the equivalent of memorizing how to create pivot tables in Excel and memorizing obscure unused corners of C++ libraries.

Computer are very important to signal to fools that the district cares about the kids, because they are showering money on them. Improving education would require a different approach, like more teachers aide hours, more specialist educators, smaller class sizes by hiring more teachers in general, etc. Gadget of the month? Eh not so useful.

Technology is useless... (4, Interesting)

giuseppemag (1100721) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303306)

...when you keep teaching the same boring crap in the most boring way. Yes, even with laptops, iPads, projectors and all the bells and whistles.

Actually, I do know what I am talking about: I teach/research functional programming and game development, and guess what? I use the latter when teaching the former, to make it more entertaining. More than one student, after one such lesson, approached me to tell me that he was quite surprised to find that functional programming could actually be "fun" (pun intended).

The problem is that students are surprised when something is shown in a fun and entertaining fashion, and they accept it when stale notions are pushed down their throats. I'd start by fixing this...

Re:Technology is useless... (1)

bondsbw (888959) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303370)

More generally: theory without application is usually boring.

If only most teachers/professors understood this.

Re:Technology is useless... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303530)

You go to school to learn, not to be entertained. Grow up.

Re:Technology is useless... (1)

giuseppemag (1100721) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303580)

Learning isn't boring, it's a process motivated by the pleasure of discovery. Grow up.

More Distractions (4, Interesting)

cosm (1072588) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303308)

I am currently taking senior level physics classes at one of the big universities, and I can say that at the undergraduate and graduate level, laptops are not a boon to learning. Walking into any of the higher level science lectures and the last thing you will see is a laptop. Its usually just pencil and paper and perhaps a sparse open book. Working quickly through the professor's QCD problems on the board is not easier with a computer, unless perhaps you are a master of putting in equations and such in digital format. Same applies for partial differential equations, set theory, number theory, analysis, and all those other symbolic math classes. As my professors say, computers are just useful idiots. They aren't going to teach you anything new, only the programmer can 'teach' the computer new methods of approximating problems.

Now in my labs, yes, computers come into play quite a bit, MatLab, Fortran, C++, etc. for modelling large systems, of course they make massive calculation sets easier, but for a fundamental understanding of Minkowski space-time, Hilbert Spaces, etc, just having a web-connected machine in front of you during the lecture is not going to make the class that much easier. Having an innate desire to understand the fundamentals is key. Naturally having many open doors available for obtaining the information is helpful, but for the classic situation in which you have a quality professor spewing content, its usually easier (for me at least, YMMV) to leave the laptop at the house.

Sounds like another 'lets throw enough money into the technology and hope the problem goes away'. As far as K12 education goes in the states, well, I have to speculate that 90% of the students would love a laptop in the classroom, just not for the learning part. One man's opinion.

From personal experience... (1)

ouimetch (1433125) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303310)

In college I used to play quite a bit of WoW and would regularly skip classes to continue playing. As a result my grades dropped quite a bit and my college prospects were looking pretty bleak.

What worked very well for me was buying a cheapo laptop and throwing Ubuntu on it and using that as my laptop for class. In this case its inability to run most games actually worked out very well. While I could still get distracted from facebook and browser based games, I was still attending the lectures, getting my homework in on time, and actually setting aside time to study for exams.

I am actually kind of surprised that Linux laptops aren't being used in the classroom more often with the increasingly wide variety of OS educational software being developed these days.

Re:From personal experience... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303476)

I am actually kind of surprised that Linux laptops aren't being used in the classroom more often with the increasingly wide variety of OS educational software being developed these days.

Everything in education is all about the kickbacks and the corruption. With respect to linux in the classroom, who buys the district super the season tickets, not Debian... How does the prof get a kickback on each sale of a required "octave" or "R" installation?

Incompetent teachers (1)

maxwellmath (2453528) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303318)

A major problem in our schools is teachers who don't know the technology that they are trying to teach to the students. I am reminded of an episode of Southpark where all of the students are sitting in the computer lab while the instructor is reading an instruction set that he obviously doesn't understand himself. Of course all of the students are not listening and instead are playing video games. I don't think this is too far off from reality. I recall when I was in highschool computer classes and many of the students already knew more about the subject than the teacher did. I think the issue boils down to teacher incompetency. Perhaps if some of the money that is spent on technology was instead used to hire more talented teachers then the problem would go away.

Re:Incompetent teachers (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303502)

A major problem in our schools is teachers who don't know the technology that they are trying to teach to the students. ...

Perhaps if some of the money that is spent on technology was instead used to hire more talented teachers then the problem would go away.

The system is corrupt and at the K-12 level is oriented around only hiring education majors. As a CS grad I am not legally allowed to teach kids. There are waiver programs if I got a high school teaching job in a poor area, if I worked toward a bachelors in ed. I am a little fuzzy on the NCLB requirements, a failing school might or might not have masters of ed requirements.

The point is, if you demand "more talented teachers" the system is going to provide you with a slightly higher corner of the ed major bell curve. "Lets keep doing what doesn't work, except with more motivation and expensive"

If for nothing but.. (3, Insightful)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303322)

If all they do is decrease the insane cost of books then its a win.

Re:If for nothing but.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303410)

Of course not. The electronic books are usually the same price and the publishers slap DRM on the electronic books so students and/or the school have to re-license/buy access to them every year. They don't even have the option of recycling "used books" into next year's class. The license expires and that's it. In a lot of ways ordinary paper is better.

The only situation where electronic books pay off is if the school boards or other educational institutions spend money to make their own content and cut the traditional publishers out of the equation entirely. THEN they can save plenty over the long term, especially if many institutions pool their resources and make the result freely available to all.

Re:If for nothing but.. (1)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303496)

Agreed. I was thinking more along the lines of non-traditional materials being easier to distribute and use rather than just having each kid line up at the book store for pillaging.

"...doesn't lead to an increase in test scores." (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303330)

And of what possible use is anything that does not lead to an increase in test scores?

Test them on computer use (1)

RNLockwood (224353) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303332)

I'll bet they are not tested on how to use the computers or the software they are supposed to be using. If they do that the test scores will go up, especially if they include IM, chat, YouTube, and Facebook. :-)

Re:Test them on computer use (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303392)

problem is "computer use" means signing into your email and taking a typing class

even college level stuff just scratches at office

SHOCKING! And in related news... (1)

Legal.Troll (2002574) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303346)

...kids who learn computer programming don't just magically succeed at other subjects as a result.

Everyone's hoping (1)

knuthin (2255242) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303350)

Everyone's hoping the lack of good teachers is made up by substitutes.

Why else would we have iPads, Microsoft Powerpoint and educational CDs in the classroom?

Article seems to conclude "Insufficient data" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303352)

Given that a lot of people testify to having learned a lot by themselves with a computer and no teachers at all, I'd say something with this article and data seems to be missing. The article itself says data is not very clear. Some studies do show increase, but most do not. No data shows learning decreases, it seems. Method of testing mixes results from improved teacher training with higher technology. What is compared before-and-after-investment is English and math - which may or may not be the most relevant skills to test. Technology skills of course increased dramatically. Seems normal that changes, investments, and techniques would take time to fine-tune and produce measurable results. Also, the article shows a table of expenses in the Kyrene District - technology = $10 million, textbooks = $10 million, salaries+benefits = $120 million. Compared to salaries, I'd say the investment is rather inexpensive. If the technology allows teaching more kids at this same learning level in the future, it would seem a good investment.

open source books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303360)

Put a library of open source books on every one of those laptops and teach children how to learn from those books themselves.

Just have topics in one location and refer to it from everywhere it is needed. So don't have significant figures, or gas laws, or scientific method repeated again and again in every book. Just have them covered in one location. You may need to have several versions of each topic for different grade ranges.

Make the library complete in every subject from kinder garden to doctorate degree level.

Write programs to test people from the coursework in the library. Have thousands of teachers work on these books every year.

Given the choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303362)

Given the choice of where to put funds I would install one pc in the classroom and invest the rest in quality teachers.
At some point this scale will lend itself to sliding, for example with students who have reached a proficiency with a subject which allows a computer to be used as a useful tool, saving time etc.

Administration by Brochure (1)

SPrintF (95561) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303364)

I work in IT for a large school district. We are deluged by vendors hustling their product as the One True Magic Bullet that will lift our standardized test scores above the next No Child Left Behind target. These products with exception involve a big investment of time, money and hardware, plus roll out and training at our school sites.

Our principals, running scared ahead of the advancing and ultimately unreachable targets of NCLB, will eagerly embrace any Shiny Thing that promises them even a little edge. (Not unlike golf enthusiasts or audiophiles, but more desperate.)

One thing I've noticed about these vendors: they all make it very, very difficult to pull data out of their products so that it can be analyzed in tandem with actual test results. You might almost imagine that they didn't want us to look at actual outcomes to verify that their product is actually effective.

Here is my perspective: parental involvement, economic prosperity and English as the student's primary language are the best predictors of a child's academic success. And there is little to nothing that a school district can do to affect these factors. Job growth, a strong middle class, and a culture that values scholarship will do more to promote learning that any number of shiny widgets, no matter how much money Bill and Melinda want to throw at the problem.

Great planning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303368)

Crappy teaching + computers = Crappy teaching with computers. Someone thought they were a magic cure-all. I don't know why they never think to look at how subjects are being taught and the people who teach them.

The quote at the bottom of Slashdot as I post this is:
"You attempt things that you do not even plan because of your extreme stupidity."

Yeah, that about sums it up.

An teacher's opinion (3, Interesting)

giltwist (1313107) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303398)

I learned how to use DOS at the same time I learned how to read. In fact, some of my earliest memories include a luggage-sized computer with a three-inch monochrome monitor. Today, I spend the vast majority of my free time at my computer desk. I can program in several computer languages. My desktop dual-boots 64-bit versions of Windows 7 and Ubuntu 10.4, and I am even typing this essay on an ergonomic keyboard that I brought from home. I am, to use a term coined a decade ago, a digital native. So, when I look at the state instructional technology today, I am both impressed at the technological progress over the course of my lifetime and utterly disgusted by the shortcomings of its implementation in our society.

Foremost among my concerns is the mind-boggling disparity in access to technology, particularly across socio-economic status. I can point to you on a map two schools within mere miles of each other where one has SMART boards in every classroom and the other did not even have a classroom set of calculators available to me as a math teacher. That is only just digital technology. On a far more fundamental level, I can point to a different set of two nearby schools where one has automatic-flush toilets and the other had such frequent plumbing problems to a point that drinking from the water fountain was risky business. I simply do not feel that I can ethically spend time researching Facebook or the iPad as instructional technologies when not every student in the public education system has access to comfortable and healthy analog technologies like air conditioning.

Another issue that gives me significant pause is Mooreâ(TM)s Law. Technology is advancing at a prodigiously exponential rate, to the point that futurists predict an upcoming event dubbed the Singularity at which technology will progress faster than society can cope with its evolution. I am particularly fond of a TED talk given by Ray Kurzweil on the topic of the integration of technology with the body, particularly the part on an already-possible synthetic red blood cell which would, to paraphrase Kurzweil, allow the average teenager to regularly outperform todayâ(TM)s Olympic athletes. Even the advent of internet-enabled phones has caused notable distress among teachers. I can not even imagine the discord when the technology is implantable and can not be turned off or confiscated. On the other hand, the standardized management paradigm behind the OGT and the SAT would finally collapse, so it would not be all bad. I digress.

Looking only at today, I question why the research on technology on Second Life as an educational venue is only in its infancy when that particular medium has begun to be replaced by other, newer alternatives like Free Realms. Similarly, Facebook is being replaced by Twitter and Diaspora just as Facebook replaced MySpace replaced Livejournal replaced Xanga replaced Geocities. Honestly, Facebook is so passé that even governmental agencies have investigated its use. I forget which one, but just a few months ago around ten red balloons were placed at random locations across the continental United States. All of them were found within about eight hours. My point is that research that focuses on a specific technology in response to a cultural fad is doomed to failure from the start. By the time anything practical made its way to teachers, students would already be offended by the outdatedness of it.

The third problem that I have with instructional technology is that there is far to much emphasis on innovation and far too little on revision. Take the TI-nspire. Look, it now includes a computer algebra system but has a terrible user interface, and just as math teachers were starting to get comfortable with the idea of allowing graphing calculators in the classroom, we have made the technology even more powerful â" re-emphasizing the original concerns about the calculators doing all the work. Similarly, take all these new educational iPad apps on top of the virtual manipulatives that you already do not know how to properly utilize in the classroom. I am vexed by the reckless abandonment of old technology for the new, and I find it hard to believe, with a culture of such technological impulsivity, that anybody was surprised when the first teacher lost a job for a social networking post. Even I do good research with good technology, the educational culture is simply not ready for mature discussion of the matter, much as Behaviorist-era America was not ready for Piaget. The whole thing just needs to sit for a decade or two.

Fragmentation is a fourth issue that makes me unwilling to enter the instructional technology field. I refer to both cultural and technological cliques. Part of what makes the Internet such an attractive place is that you can always find like minds. If you are a Buddhist, you can talk to other Buddhists even if another is not physically present within a fifty mile radius. On the other hand, if you are a bigot or an awkward geek with bad social habits, those can be reinforced just as easily. In fact, if you really wanted to, you could spend your entire time online with only people who generally agree with you. As someone who believes that there is much beauty to be found in diverse cultures as well as much benefit in their intermingling, the idea of everyone going to online schools that are homogenous is a nightmarish dystopia.

On the technological side, while there is a reasonable amount of similarity in feature sets between competing technologies, the intellectual property culture in which companies operate encourages significant differences in availability and implementation. The research on one piece of software or hardware may not apply to others. It would be easy for a practitioner to see an article praising the Sketchpad, and try a cheaper alternative only to find that it is not as good as the article made Sketchpad. However, many teachers in that position might simply abandon all geometry packages as equally useless in their ignorance of the technical difference between the various pieces of software.

Even if every teacher had access to an equal amount of technology, my concern is that, as a teacher educator, I feel that I would be unable to adequately prepare them to cope with all the variation available without giving them an extensive amount of technology training that simply is not feasible in the one or two courses they might take on the subject for their certification. I will concede that the mathematics-specific technology base is much smaller, but I am not sure how I can teach someone how to differentiate, for example, between ALEKS and The Academy of Math or how to decide whether or not to use a calculator in a given lesson other than on terms of general pedagogy that could easily be applied to various manipulatives in similar situations. Even the course I took here just a short time ago seemed to rely heavily on the judgment and experience of the individual teacher. Certainly, the literature was useful in convincing people that technology was not necessarily harmful, but there was an explicit assumption that I, as a student, already had a good understanding of point-and-click, etc. I guess, what I am saying is that research on instructional technology is a lot like research on a textbook. There are just too many options for it to be useful to the practitioner, and the important part is how it is used more than what it has.

The last concern that I will talk about is the conception of technology as teacher-proofing the curriculum. At a superficial level, this can be seen in the appeal of online schools. As an administrator, it is cheaper and more efficient because all my teachers will teach the exact same thing and I can probably even get by with fewer teachers. As a student, I do not have to really interact with my teacher or my peers, and nobody can stop me from taking my test with the textbook open. The teacher in this scenario can become little more than a glorified computer lab supervisor. On a more insidious level, technology gives administrators the ability to say, âoeIâ(TM)ll spend my money on more gadgets and gewgaws and that will make the teachers betterâ instead of âoeIâ(TM)ll spend my money to help my teachers collaborate and improve themselves professionally.â Technology is a concrete âoeimprovementâ that is easy to justify to parents and school boards. Unless the administrator already believes in the teachers as professionals, technology is just one more reason that he or she can believe otherwise.

To summarize, I see the technology as too rapidly evolving, the American populace as too enamored with the bleeding edge and access as too inequitable across populations.

Wasted technology in the classroom (3, Insightful)

shastamonk (2453530) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303418)

I work for the local public school district as a tech responsible for setting up and maintaining computer labs and classroom and staff equipment, and every year we keep piling on more and more equipment -- for example, our classrooms now have two Macbooks for every teacher, one for their digital projector/whiteboard and one for their desk, document cameras, clickers, ipads/ipods and the like. The majority of the teachers, save some of the younger 30 crowd, tend to only use equipment that has some analogue to previous technology they grew up with (think using document cameras and digital projectors as replacements for the old projector overheads), and the vast majority goes unused or only infrequently used for the most rudimentary purposes. The amount of money being spent on technology for teachers that won't make use of it is staggering. Even the younger teachers only scratch the surface of what can be done to engage their students with the technology they've been provided. In my opinion, some (most?) districts have a fire and forget attitude towards technology: they provide the equipment, but very little in the way of instructional support and software to use, such as device specific applications and online courseware. And when you look at the ridiculously high prices for district wide purchases of licenses for these things, it's no wonder. Aside from Smartboard/Interwrite whiteboard lessons, there's little in the way of cheap or free and widely available instruction material developed for interactive classrooms, and until that changes, and the trailing generations of teachers retire, a lot of taxpayer money is being wasted.

Re:Wasted technology in the classroom (1)

shastamonk (2453530) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303456)

[Apologies for formatting, mod please delete above if possible, I'm new to /. posting and not sure how to do it myself]

I work for the local public school district as a tech responsible for setting up and maintaining computer labs and classroom and staff equipment, and every year we keep piling on more and more equipment -- for example, our classrooms now have two Macbooks for every teacher, one for their digital projector/whiteboard and one for their desk, document cameras, clickers, ipads/ipods and the like.

The majority of the teachers, save some of the younger under 30 crowd, tend to only use equipment that has some analogue to previous technology they grew up with (think using document cameras and digital projectors as replacements for the old projector overheads), and the vast majority goes unused or only infrequently used for the most rudimentary purposes. The amount of money being spent on technology for teachers that won't make use of it is staggering.

Even the younger teachers only scratch the surface of what can be done to engage their students with the technology they've been provided. In my opinion, some (most?) districts have a fire and forget attitude towards technology: they provide the equipment, but very little in the way of instructional support and software to use, such as device specific applications and online courseware.

And when you look at the ridiculously high prices for district wide purchases of licenses for these things, it's no wonder. Aside from Smartboard/Interwrite whiteboard lessons, there's little in the way of cheap or free and widely available instruction material developed for interactive classrooms, and until that changes, and the trailing generations of teachers retire, a lot of taxpayer money is being wasted - though a lot of this money comes from grants and government programs where the money needs to either be used or lost, and so unneccessary equipment is purchased.

Re:Wasted technology in the classroom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303538)

Oh fucking Christ, that is truly scary. It really seems like schools are trying their best to make good teachers who can engage students, irrelevant. I can say without doubt that the teachers I learnt most from were excellent orators and used the traditional chalk and blackboard.

Laptops are no more than blank papers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303442)

Laptops are a medium like papers and a tool like pencils. It has no use without the right software.

It is the teaching methods, written text, and so on that makes paper and pencils effective. Paper and a pencils by it self do not make any educated.

not a good area for data (1)

lostros (260405) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303444)

this study completely misses the point, this was a school with a 31 student classroom size, in a area with a decent mean income. Our schools don't have too many troubles teaching our children, and they actually do pretty well compared to other nations if you factor schools with a high rate of poverty. The laptops didn't make a big change because these kids most likely had access to computers already, now they where just in school. Where laptops in schools would be invaluable is for the poorer kids who don't have access to one otherwise.

Who woulda thunk? (1)

frisket (149522) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303448)

The increase in spending doesn't lead to an increase in test scores.

WTF thought that it would? The tests (assuming they are properly designed) presumably measure certain aspects of acquired knowledge. Unless the curriculum teaches the kids how to increase their knowledge, the tests will show zilch. Teaching the kids how to use Word and Excel (for example) won't add anything to their store of knowledge in areas other than Word or Excel.

Kyrene school district spent $3 million modernizing their classrooms.

Whoopee for them. And how much did they spend on books (e or otherwise)? How much on lab equipment? Art supplies? Foreign-language teachers?

There would seem to be some seriously stupid school boards and teachers out there with way too much money to spend. Parents, too.

As someone who worked IT in one of these schools (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303466)

The problem is, schools are looking for a "silver bullet" for their scores. Buy this thing, scores improve. Nothing like that actually exists in reality, though. Schools are full of expensive technology that doesn't get used because the teachers can't be bothered to use it, or because the IT department is behind and hasn't got it functioning yet, or because it is difficult/inconvenient to use because of limited access or overly restrictive security measures.

If you DO want to implement some fancy new program, here's what you need:

First and foremost, you have to have teachers on board. If the teachers are resisting the new technology, it isn't going to be worth your time to try to force it on them. Get rid of the teachers, abandon the technology, but don't foist a bunch of tech on teachers that don't want it. It will be a waste of everyone's time.

Also, you have to think through your actions. Get the students on your side, and get them to buy in to the program. The tech department that I was working at tried to lock down the computers to a pretty extreme level. Time restrictions, draconian internet filtering (even at home), and random screen watching during the day. The end result was that the students felt like the laptops were worthless, and simultaneously had a big incentive to work around the blocks in place. People act like you expect them to act, and we essentially told the students that we viewed them as semi-criminal, irresponsible delinquents. Plus, anybody who has used a Live CD knows that it takes about 30 seconds to bypass even the most bulletproof software restrictions, as long as you have physical access. You can imagine how that turned out.

Finally, you have to have something to DO with the laptops. You can't just drop them in classrooms and wait. You need to essentially build your entire curriculum around the laptops to make them appreciably better than the normal, boring computer lab. Have a research based, directed, cohesive plan for how and why the laptops are being used, and they might actually be worth your while.

It's kind of sad, because a well-funded technology plan could be an amazing tool. In properly implemented programs, they've shown that laptops CAN have a big, positive impact, especially for gifted and talented kids who can all of a sudden direct their own learning to a greater extent. However, throwing money at a problem almost never fixes it. You need good people, good strategy, and the resources to support them.

Wrong metric (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303498)

This is an easy problem to solve. Let them use their laptops during the test. That's an accurate simulation of the tools they will have available to solve problems in the real world. To do otherwise is like testing kids in P/E by having them tie one hand behind their back.

The modern world isn't about what you know. It's about your ability to find good information quickly, and discern it from poor quality information. No one in school ever taught me the history of the word "crass" but thanks to the help of wikipedia, I learned an important history lesson while doing spellcheck. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Licinius_Crassus

More importantly, the teachers can spend less time forcing kid's to memorize trivia because trivia is a reference material problem. What this means is more time to prepare students at an earlier age for higher level learning.

Many teachers already give open book/open note tests. This is the next logical step. If you're grading on a curve, you can identify the students who are struggling just as well, can group students by their ability, and therefore resources can be dedicated to the students who are struggling. The students who are not struggling can be allowed time for independent study and recreational reading.

Considering the number 1 complaint of teachers is unmotivated students, this would be a great incentive to do well because your work load is directly tied to your performance(just like the real world).

school is about the teachers, not the children (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303504)

If you're looking for a logical reason for any change to schooling methods, standards or practices ask whether it makes the teachers' day any easier. If it does, that's almost certainly the reason it was introduced - irrespective of the effect on the childrens' education. If it doesn't make the work easier or the teaching skills level more basic or the schooling system cheaper (leaving out salary costs) then it was probably a mistake or someone wanting to make a political point.

Any effect on the childrens' education is either random variation, unmeasurable or just a side-effect of the real drivers for change.

Value-Added Teacher Analysis (1)

Ichijo (607641) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303510)

It would be much cheaper and more effective to find better ways of evaluating teachers, weeding out the dead wood and attracting better talent. Value-added analysis [latimes.com] achieves this in a way that corrects for factors outside the teacher's control (broken household, poor section of town, etc.).

Consider two teachers. The first teacher's class tests at the 30th percentile at the beginning of the year and at the 40th percentile at the end of the year. The second teacher's class tests at the 70th percentile at the beginning of the year and at the 60th percentile at the end of the year. Although the second teacher's students tested better, they fell behind. Shouldn't the first teacher be commended and the second teacher be put on probation?

Re:Value-Added Teacher Analysis (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303632)

VAA doesn't work. A simple change in policy could result in the higher up kids getting lower scores and the lower scoring kids getting higher scores in the same school
What if the class is advanced calculation compared to basic math?

Content creation (3, Insightful)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303534)

You don't become a great artist by looking at great paintings. You get there by painting all the time. You don't become a mathematician by watching the instructor. You get there by doing the homework. You don't become a famous author by reading Jane Austin and Mark Twain. You get there by writing.

In every case, the thing you must do is create content. However, that's almost impossible on tablets (no keyboard), hard on laptops (small keyboard, no real mouse), and even slightly challenging on desktops (ever try typing out a complex mathematical equation in Latex?).

Today's latest and greatest systems (I'm looking at you, iPad) are really geared toward content consumption, not creation. We should focus more on making it easy for kids to express themselves and then give them the tools that do that.

It's the system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303544)

I'm going to go out on a limb and say, while the quality of teachers is a plus, the entire system dictating what they teach and in a lot of cases how they teach certain material is beyond dated. Computers could be beneficial but with out a complete overall of how students are taught and even how we determine how well they're doing (standardized testing), computers are not going to aid a damn thing.

Wrong Point (1)

dugn (890551) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303550)

Computers in the classroom prepare the students for real-world experiences and environments, not necessarily improve test scores. If they do, that’s a bonus.

While you're outfitting these classrooms with new technology, can you drop the mandatory year of cursive writing, please?

It's not the laptops. It's the classroom. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303558)

The classroom doesn't work for most kids.
1. All kids are not the same.
2. All kids do not have equal potential or ability in all areas.
3. Generally, when you force someone to do something that does not interest them, they rebel. Even more so when there is something interesting that they are being prevent from doing because they are locked up in a classroom all day.

School sucks. Education theory is a bunch of crap designed to perpetuate the priestesshood and keep the worshipers confused.

If you want kids to learn, you present it as a way to solve problems that they are interested in solving. How do kids become interested in solving problems and learning how things work? They are afforded the opportunity to confront them...not locked up for their own(or public) safety. Instead of classrooms we need places where kids can go and see people making interesting things and then have access to space, tools, materials, and assistance in making thins that interest them. When I was a kid, we made our own zip lines. Sure, there was some danger but death was highly unlikely. Ditto with woodworking, pyrotechnics, gardening, swimming, earthworks, model planes, hotrods, electricity(radio, tesla coil, etc). We didn't learn this stuff in school either. No, some old geezer down the street shared his interests. These days, they'd put him in jail because he would occasionally share a cold beer after a day working on the hotrods.

PCs do not increase intelligence or motivation (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 2 years ago | (#37303564)

Teaching and learning are almost purely dependent on the people doing it. Technology can play a small role, in particular when teaching technology, but otherwise it is quite irrelevant.

This is again an instance of those in charge not wanting do deal with people (gah!) or individuals and looking for generic recipes instead. Here is something every good teacher knows: There are no generic approaches to teaching. Get the best people for the job, make sure the kids are reasonably free of other troubles like not having enough to eat, inadequate medical care or violence at home (people again...). That is the way to get the best results. It happens to be the only way.

On additional severe problem is that testing does not reflect reality. It never will, until true AI becomes available to do it. (My guess: never.)

Technology has never helped (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303610)

Both of my parents are teachers with nearly 60 years of experience together.

What doesn't work? Laser disc players, plasma screen TVs, banks of computers, projectors, and laptops. Computers are always just a distraction, and putting media entertainment center in a classroom makes it worse. Blogs, videocasting, podcasting are worthless.

What does work? Dedicated computer labs students can use after hours for word processing and research outside of the class.

What's best in the classroom? Books, paper, pens. Maybe wheel in a TV cart now and then to show the odd film. Traditional education never needed technology, but the administrators are always trying to push it in the classrooms.

COmputers are good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303614)

because they are the tool we need to move away from paper text books. THAT needs to be the big push.

And there are more to schools and learning then grades. So, get rind of textbooks can save a lot of money, was well as end kids lugging around 40 pounds of books every day.

Not a waste of money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37303628)

It's not a waste of money. If it increases kids' computer literacy with neutral effects on everything else, it's still a win.

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