Interesting Article

Here is an interesting article about how technology is holding students back.

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Very interesting article. Thanks for sharing, Daniel. The author is the same (Natalie Wexler) who wrote “The Knowledge Gap” book that I posted about in another topic thread. In the past I have used iPads in my classroom and I’ve also taught blended math classes where students did most of their work on Chromebooks. Over the past few years I’ve learned more about the impact of distractions on learning and with that in mind, I’m less and less inclined to put devices in front of students today.

From the article: “College students who used laptops or digital devices in their classes did worse on exams. Eighth graders who took Algebra I online did much worse than those who took the course in person.”

This is an interesting article. A couple of my take-aways: One - relationships are important. Students will try harder for teachers that they have a relationship with, vs. a computer. Second, if key vocab is not pre-taught, no computer driven program can be successful - (just like a math teacher who wants students to add numbers, but doesn’t tell them what “add” means).

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Probably not much of a surprise, but I disagree with quite a bit in the article. This kind of blanket criticism without taking into consideration potential (easy) solutions causes quite a bit of damage in communities. For instance, in the district in which I live there are community and school board members who take articles with titles like this and spread them in order to eliminate 1 to 1 device initiatives and high quality learning opportunities in the schools. They want to see a return to the traditional classroom where grade levels are doing the same thing, at the same time across buildings. If it was good enough for them…

I think it is imperative that we question how and why devices and software are being used. We definitely still need focus, over whatever flashy new tool is out there. It is the main reason I soured on the TIES conference and adoption of all the cool web 2.0 tools.

For me, this article highlights all of the good things we are doing at NSO, it does not bear any resemblance to the scenarios in the article. It strengthens my opinions about how the default version of everything sucks. We need to constantly adapt to student needs; we can do this through OER & Open Source software. The ability to edit to improve student experience and feedback allows students to move through content with less stress, take in greater amounts of information, and demonstrate greater levels of proficiency.

Lumping in online charter schools with something like NSO doesn’t really make any sense to me because they are drastically different in philosophy and supports. You can’t blame the tools, blame the set up and how they are being implemented. Support and connection to teachers doesn’t go away if a student is using a device.

I would put NSO completion rates and student skills up against any other program and we make leaps in improvements every year. But if we were to just run students through cookie cutter vendor courses we would be in the same situation as the examples presented in the article. I think the title is dangerous click-bait and may lead to people sharing the headline without the relevant support or nuanced discussion to determine differences between how materials are used/delivered and the support students receive.

Comparing affluent communities where students rarely use devices and to poorer areas where students use devices more is an issue of misunderstanding correlation/causation more than it is an issue of proof that devices are bad for kids. For years we saw this in online learning. Every setting tried with a student failed, so they get put in an online class, which, big surprise…they fail! But the narrative becomes more about how online delivery doesn’t work, instead of a discussion surrounding the real issues of how the whole system is failing a significant population of students. Or how we fail at supporting teachers who want to use these tools.

The author starts to get at it when discussion what it is used for at the elementary level but neglects to put any focus on the purpose of the tools. I’ve been in quite a few districts that adopt devices; LMS; Google Apps; digital curriculum and then just turn the keys over with no training.

Kids are distracted by paper as well but teachers know what to do about that most of the time (my kids still come home with backpacks full of paper airplanes and drawings).

I thought you might reply on this, Jon. I didn’t read the article as an indictment of NSO, specifically. I think the OECD study and the other research cited in the article can’t be very easily dismissed. Both these things can be true: that technology can be very helpful for learning and also that to this point, on an aggregate scale, we aren’t getting good outcomes from it. I think the criticisms of technology implementations in this article are quite valid, and yet I still see daylight for a program like NSO to do distance-learning thoughtfully and effectively.

I just used NSO to highlight a more extreme example. I think that one of the problems we had early on with some blended initiatives had everything to do with teacher training and implementation, as well as preparing students for how to use the devices. I really think this is an issue of blaming the tool instead of the setup; implementation; policies; support; etc. When done well, blended and online learning can be much more efficient than what we are currently doing. Teacher prep programs are still doing education a disservice by not supporting the implementation of technology; tech integrationists are part of the problem; most online courses are terrible which all leads me to a simplified conclusion that it isn’t necessarily the fault of the tool.