Education Technology Is An Enabler, Not A Magic Wand

by Kelly Walsh on September 7, 2011

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NY Times Article Calls Attention To The Need To Do A Much Better Job Of Understanding Technology’s Role And Potential In Education.

This NY Times Internet article, “In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores” has been getting a lot of attention this week. The article discusses a U.S. school district that invested roughly $33 million in education technologies as a result of a ballot initiative in 2005. The focus of the article’s first page or so is that reading and math test scores have stagnated in the district, while at the same time they improved statewide (in all the other districts, where there was no infusion of technology dollars). It is easy to read this as an inference that technology does not improve the quality of the education.

Based on the headline, or a brief look at some of the Internet commentary circulating about the article, many readers may come to the conclusion that it is a categorical defamation of the ed tech movement. It is not.  The article goes on to provide a lot of insights and relevant facts for consideration when pondering the issue of whether or not technology can improve education. It is very much worth the read if this is a topic you are interested in. It is proper to question the value and return of these large investments.

Computer technology is not a magic wand. This perception, while it may sound rather absurd when stated so plainly, has been a thorn in the side of technology managers for decades. Employees and managers of organizations and institutions of all types and sizes seem to think that throwing technology at business problems instantly improves efficiencies and yields myriad other benefits. Technology is a tool, a potentially powerful enabler, and with proper planning and implementation it can produce many benefits, but it does in fact require planning, and so much more, in order to make the investment pay off.

The potential of education technology is still so far from being realized, and too often dollars are spent without proper oversight and planning. Many technologists and educators will welcome and applaud these types of thought-provoking news pieces on education technology. Hopefully people who come across the article will give it more than just a brief scan, and look beyond the provocative title and introductory paragraphs. It would be nice to think that the impact of Mr. Richtel’s piece will be more positive than negative, and that it will help to open some eyes and minds to a closer look at this unrealized potential.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Let’s stop misspending education technology dollars
8 Great TED Talks About The Future Of Education And Teaching
Check out the (Education) Reform Library from The Foundation for Excellence in Education

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer, and an adjunct faculty member, at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Class Workshop in a Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah GVSU October 9, 2011 at 8:23 am

I believe this is something that we need to be aware of as schools begin to rely more and more on technology. Without a doubt students will be very excited about new technologies in the classroom such as Smart boards, laptops, and the up and coming tablets. This is the world that they have been brought up in and they enjoy and excel at using these technologies. However, if they are not used properly then the results could be stagnant test scores or even lower test scores. There needs to be a clear vision of how, why and when these sorts of things are used to enhance the learning experience for students. Without a doubt these sorts of things will engage students more. Does more engagement lead to higher retention? I would think so but why do these schools that are so rich with technology falter when it comes to testing? Is it just that the tests are outdated or is it perhaps that the testing methods are outdated? If we are gearing kids up for the technology rich world and testing with pencils and bubble sheets do we set them up for failure? I don’t know the answers to these questions but I do know that if teachers are not well prepared to use the technology in the classroom our efforts to infuse these technologies into the classroom could result in a failure to increase test scores, assuming this is the ultimate goal.

André Klein September 8, 2011 at 11:13 am

Really glad to see this simple insight all over the web this week. Hopefully, it’s all just a fad and after the dust has settled we can begin using these tools in a straightforward manner. Until then, I guess we just have to keep reminding folks that tech is no “magic bullet”. yesterday, I summarized some thoughts about this issue here: http://bit.ly/neTtNp

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