Digital Learning Reexamined

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New York Times reporter Trip Gabriel talks about the gap between the promises of educational software companies and the test score results in schools.


Trip Gabriel

Comments [35]


For an interesting discussion of the (over)use of technology and why we should think about what we're actually doing before we do it, see Sherry Turkle's, "How Computers Change the Way We Think."

Here is a link:

Basically, by instituting technology use without being thoughtful about it first, we're creating generations of people less capable of critical thinking.

Oct. 11 2011 07:50 PM
Gerald from Urayasu, Japan

It would have been nice to know more details about the studies that concluded "no effectiveness." Trials in which students were randomly assigned to groups using or not using the software? Comparisons of performance on standardized math tests in districts before and after the software was implemented? Comparisons of districts where the software is used or not used? Any of these types of studies may legitimately find "no effectiveness" but the nuance and interpretation would be different. Also do the studies show no improvement in learning at all or just no improvement that can be attributed to the software?

In order to determine the most effective role for technology and the best relationship between teacher-student-computer, it's important to understand exactly what the research shows - otherwise you are misinforming the public.

Oct. 11 2011 06:23 PM
in the know

Teachers -- get on your technology purchasing boards!

Or you will end up with some bloated "IT Specialist" making decisions on your behalf over a free lunch at Outback Steakhouse bought by the regional IBM gladhander.

What areas do you and your students need help in? Tell your IT specialist what the needs are, request that purchasing is made along those lines.

Oct. 11 2011 01:56 PM

We do NOT need more narcissistic, device-adled people aimlessly stumbling around the sidewalk and into the streets updating their FaceBook® accounts.


Oct. 11 2011 12:06 PM

@Heidi from Manhattan

Oh, SNAP!!

gotta agree!!

Oct. 11 2011 11:43 AM

Saint Jobs' Apple® in an effort to boost sales, has a legion of technology evangelists infiltrating schools across the world pushing technology on budget-challanged school systems:

It's in the best interest of a computer/technology corporation and their share holders to sell more widgets to anyone who will buy them!

Oct. 11 2011 11:40 AM

@Nick from UWS

You make an excellent point(s)!

The process of problem solving and critical thinking can not be spoon-fed with "technological substitute". These are qualities that can only be instilled by the living breathing process of thought, exchange and analysis.

Fortunately, my kid's only exposure to "tech" is a class dedicated to learning how to use the technology.

In the learning environment, there is very little use of computer technology. Ideas are exchanged, discussed and analyzed, a dedication to learning how to and to enjoy the process of learning is paramount.

Oct. 11 2011 11:31 AM
cynthia meanwell from munich

i recently wrote a research paper on technology in the classroom and much of the research suggests that the benefit of technology is dwarfed by the cost and the opportunity cost of fewer teachers. the biggest impact on education is small classroom size and engaged teachers ... except for the learning disabled. they benefit more than the normal group

Oct. 11 2011 11:22 AM
Nick from UWS

This is about like the mob-like grip that venal "educational technology" contractors have on the education system to suck state and federal funds into their own pockets. It has nothing whatsoever to do with education.

Meanwhile, there is are no pencils, paper, glue, crayons or any other simple supply in our schools. A situation that was literally unimaginable 40 years ago.

Our society gets more repulsive by the minute.

Oct. 11 2011 11:22 AM

Yes, teacher training is important, but only one aspect of using technology appropriately in the classroom. I have been trained in using technology, but there are issues that need to be considered before we even get to the point of training. For example, what are the learning objectives of a course and how does technology aid in achieving those objectives better than other methods? Are we using things just because they exist or have we really thought about why we need them? I think we need to consider our philosophies and goals before we just adopt technologies. I think it also matters what subject is being taught. Some subjects seem more obviously suited to technological enhancements. Others require a logical stretch.

Oct. 11 2011 11:22 AM
Heidi from Manhattan

Technology in my daughter's classroom has taught several of her classmates the joy of mindlessly filling in ovals for math concepts not understood. It has definitely created two types of students; those who learn visually and grasp the technology (or have the support at home) succeed and those who don't. Seems like a lot of busy/seat work to me while the teacher is updating their own social media.

Oct. 11 2011 11:21 AM
Alan Trevithick from Mamaroneck

I work at three area colleges as an adjunct and I know one thing: no one ever asks adjuncts, who do most of the teaching, whether or not they want or need the new tech that shows up, often mysteriously, in our classrooms-and which we mostly do not in fact need. I believe that this is true also for regular faculty. The people who buy this stuff are not teachers. That's a problem.

Oct. 11 2011 11:20 AM
Victoria from Forest Hills

Technology has given principals and SLTs the opportunity to turn over libraries to "multimedia" centers that provide no books for children to check out and to assign librarian salaries to "media specialists" who spend all of their time on test prep and teaching ACRIS to parents.
They have put the cart before the horse: they are measuring reading on computers, but children are not reading, in part because they don't get the mandated weekly library visit and book check-out.
Nothing will improve until parents speak truth to power, stop being cowed by the people who earn their dollars off of our children, and demand that our schools meet mandates.

Oct. 11 2011 11:19 AM

... just because you can does not mean you should.

Oct. 11 2011 11:19 AM

We r 2 generations away from the use of technology being worth it in the classrooms. I'm on the tech advisory committee in my district. The purchasing choices are so unalligned with educational goals. My personal opinion is that most countries kids focus on learning English as a preoccupation, ours is "computers." whatever that is

Oct. 11 2011 11:18 AM
The Truth from Becky

Pencil, Paper and chalk....use the technology to transmit the report card to the parent...that's it!

Oct. 11 2011 11:17 AM
MP from Brooklyn

Oh, and writing - more WRITING - no one seems to have basic writing skills anymore. This couldn't possibly have anything to do with technology doing everything for us, could it?

Oct. 11 2011 11:16 AM
Katie from Queens

Such a waste of money. Curriculum should meet the children where they are developmentally - more arts, more physical ed., more music. We would get way more bang for our buck by investing in those lo-tech subjects.

Oct. 11 2011 11:16 AM

... or a substitue for actual thinking.

Oct. 11 2011 11:16 AM
bernie from bklyn

this technology training caller has an equally annoying and grating voice (and seems to be an idiot as well-
("self-gloating" hahaha)...what's up brian? are you torturing us for some reason?

Oct. 11 2011 11:15 AM


Fantastic observation!


Oct. 11 2011 11:15 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

@jgarbuz from Queens

I couldn't agree more.

I have looked at other computer math learning modules, and none compared to Khan Academy.

I think a school district in San Diego is using Khan Academy with great success!

Oct. 11 2011 11:14 AM
MP from Brooklyn

I believe that Janice's comments are exactly to the point. I am not a teacher, but I have many friends and relatives who are, and I do firmly agree that a lot of the supposed benefits of technology are just so much sales talk and that we, as a society, are placing way too much value on technology and not nearly enough on the most important things our kids need:
(1) more and more highly qualified teachers
(2) more READING - and you don't need high-tech tools to do it.

Oct. 11 2011 11:14 AM
Nick from UWS

Millions of dollars spent on tech garbage in the schools, and every day there are no pencils or paper in our schools for the kids to use.

It's just disgraceful. Disgusting.

Oct. 11 2011 11:14 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Could you please ask your guest if he is familiar with, and what he thinks about the Khan Academy.

Oct. 11 2011 11:14 AM

Technology is NOT a substitute for teaching and actual learning.

Oct. 11 2011 11:14 AM
Nick from UWS

Teaching with computers is absurd.

How the hell can a kid learn when the very process they need to learn in order to do a math formula etc is being done for them by a computer? This is why adults are stupider than children.

For Christ's sake teach kids the basics...addition, subtraction. division, reading...with NO computers involved. No calculators, no laptops, no videos. Kids need to physically hold a pencil in their hands and use their god damn brains. Why is this STILL being discussed?

Oct. 11 2011 11:12 AM
John A.

Looks like a light touch (of Tech intros) is needed; give those Teachers jobs first!
The best software will probably come from a teacher him/herself; it is as yet to be written.

Oct. 11 2011 11:12 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I think the best thing that has come along in "digital education" is the Khan Academy, who is a guy who made hundreds of tutorials on Youtube in every imaginable subject. I think his little lectures should be broadcast to every classroom computer, and teachers should be used merely to help the students work out problems.

I think the Khan Academy is the best thing for improving education I've ever seen.

Oct. 11 2011 11:11 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Personally, I love Khan Academy. It's a perfect mix of "live teacher" video and lessons. I learned a lot of higher level math with Khan and so did my daughter.

A student can't so well if he/she has a teacher that they can't understand or doesn't teach well.

Oct. 11 2011 11:10 AM
The Truth from Becky

What he just described was called "talking typewriter" when I was a the 70's!

Oct. 11 2011 11:09 AM
The Truth from Becky

This whole digital age is making our kids fat 'n lazy...skilled at shooting a gun and wielding a sword, but fat 'n lazy. Oh and they can't tell time with an analog clock, but they can google it.

Oct. 11 2011 11:08 AM

As a teacher, I am concerned about the use of technology in the classroom. In some instances, it can be beneficial. In most instances, it is only used because it sounds good to say we do. In fact, often times, the technology detracts from teaching and learning because people get distracted by the bells and whistles. Yes, we need to engage students in active learning. However, we need to remember that as educators, it is our job to maintain a high bar and help students reach it, not teach to the lowest common denominator. I want my students to be engaged, but I am not there to entertain them. Too often, technology is used in the classroom to keep students from being bored, rather than because it does something specific that aids student learning.

Oct. 11 2011 10:56 AM
JMcSorley from Queens

When we consider how addictively entertaining technology has become outside the classroom, it becomes a clear priority to engage and interest students in new and exciting ways in an effective manner. Technology should bring the classrooms back to life and make life easier so children can learn more complex subjects faster.

My only complain would be made to Dr's for medicating children at the teacher's request!

Oct. 11 2011 10:50 AM
Lisa from Forest Hills, NY

The only benefit digital software has in education is alleviating parents and teachers from teaching their children and students. The number of parents who park their children in front of computers, whether it be to play video games or "learn", is a pathetic excuse for parents to have more time on Facebook, blackberries, etc. The more schools move towards digital education the more teachers become obsolete. Then we can continue complaining that there is high unemployment, which is the least of the long term problem. The absence of human interaction in learning is at risk.

Oct. 11 2011 10:07 AM

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