June 14, 2013

Waiting for “DUCK!”

Filed under: edtech,Teaching and Learning — Candace Hackett Shively @ 10:27 am

Recently I have heard the same message from teachers in meetings, TeachersFirst user surveys, and OK2Ask® sessions: “I would love to do more technology-infused lessons with my students, but  the computers/devices in our building are completely booked doing test practice, online testing,  and remediation software. They simply are not available for anything else.” [I can hear your groaning now.] I wish I could say these are isolated incidents, but, alas, they are not.pendulum

Trying to be dispassionate and analytical about this for a moment, why would this be the case?

  • Schedule drives school. We would like to think that individual needs drive instruction, but any principal will tell you that the schedule drives everything. Scheduling technology access is part of that same engine.
  • Schools pay a lot for that software to help bring kids up to grade level. They therefore make using it a priority.
  • Schools pay dearly if their students are NOT up to grade level, and these packages can “fix” them, right?
  • High quality, sophisticated software packages do a good job of observing student response patterns, collecting data about weaknesses, and presenting material aimed at the individual student’s needs. That’s what data-driven software is all about, right?
  • Some folks (administrators?) simply have never seen technology used any way other than drill and practice.

All these reasons are understandable, even if regretable. The problem is that those who allow such monopoly on technology access do not realize the high price they and their students are paying.  I wonder: what is the cost in lost growth for students unable to partake of student-directed learning projects, unable to generate digital products to build and demonstrate deep understanding, unable to interact with peers from other times/locations to learn collaboratively, and unable to build “21st century skills” that require access to digital tools?

I have no idea how this “study” could be done, but I would love to do a bang for the buck comparison:

On the one hand, create a fancy formula that combines:

  • Costs to the school for remediation/ test prep/testing software
  • Gains in student achievement from said software
  • Financial benefit (or loss prevention) to the school from this increased student achievement

On the other hand, generate a similar formula combining:

  • Cost to the school for ongoing edtech coaching PD (peer to peer, please) so teachers can generate meaningful, student-directed, challenging learning experiences—knowing students will have access to the technology they need
  • Costs to highly able or motivated students (and the community outside the school) for limiting student access to go above and beyond, to innovate and explore, to blast past the ceiling of standardized tests
  • Cost to the school for network improvements and initiatives allowing student BYOD (bring your own device) where students may have them
  • Financial benefit (or loss prevention) to the school from resulting increased student achievement in REAL terms (may include testing as ONE of several measures)

This last is the tough one. If any of us had the  dollars and cents formula to prove what our gut tells us is right, I would not be hearing the teacher complaints about lack of access. I keep hoping to be hit in the back of the head with a pendulum that takes education funding (and therefore priorities and schedule “engines”) back to seeing learning as something we must build, observe, and measure in many, many ways, each valued ($) and respected. But I don’t hear anybody yelling “DUCK!” yet.





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