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Laptops In the Classroom Don't Increase Grades 511

Posted by samzenpus
from the work-easier-not-smarter dept.
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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Laptops In the Classroom Don't Increase Grades

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  • Well duh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

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

    • Re:Well duh (Score:5, Funny)

      by Pete Venkman (1659965) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:00PM (#37303236) Journal
      Great idea! Little Johnny is failing math, but he can tweet like a motherfucker now!
      • and his knowledge of female anatomy is outstanding.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Also: Were the students graded on a curve?

      • Re:Well duh (Score:4, Insightful)

        by kj_kabaje (1241696) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:54PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by swalve (1980968)
          What a load of bunk. Teachers are there to teach. Even if it is a bad curriculum, a professional teacher should be able to meet *some* standard.

          The problem is, teachers somehow got the idea in the last generation or so that they shouldn't have to follow rules or have their classrooms besoiled by outside influences like curricula.

          Seriously, listen to teachers talk shop. They will bitch about parents, bitch about the "long" workday, bitch about having to meet standards, bitch about how to make the clas
          • My wife is an elementary teacher, and just about everything you said is completely and totally wrong, and the actual reason while the school system is all screwed up.

            Even if it is a bad curriculum, a professional teacher should be able to meet *some* standard.

            Wrong: unless you are making up "some standard" to mean anything which would be contrary to what the word "standard" means.

            they get new students every year, if the classroom was interesting last year, it will be interesting this year.

            Wrong: if this were the case, then the same system that was used to teach 50 years ago would hold the same interest today. Each class, and each student are a little different and depend on their culture, what other schoo

      • Re:Well duh (Score:5, Funny)

        by colinrichardday (768814) <colin.day.6@hotmail.com> on Sunday September 04, 2011 @04:52PM (#37304184)

        Curved laptops? Doesn't Apple have a patent on that?

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

    • Exactly, I thought the point was supposed to be teaching skills... which doesn't necessarily equate to improving grades. One of the many faults with education systems.
  • Work and study (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:00PM (#37303232)

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

    • Re:Work and study (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:06PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by icebike (68054)

        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

        • Re:Work and study (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:50PM (#37303528) Homepage

          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: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by thsths (31372)

            They're teaching Powerpoint.

            Be afraid. Be very afraid.

            Oh I am. Because you can teach concepts, ideas and topic, but not programs. That's why you teach carpentry, and not hammer. Computers are not different: you can teach writing and graphics design, but not Word and PowerPoint. The later are (poor?) tools for the former, but you have to teach the concepts, not the implementation, or you will never get anywhere.

            But the real problem is that teaching computers is cheaper. Someone (no doubt a high level school manager) must have thought that with PCs everywhe

        • Re:Work and study (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Doctor_Jest (688315) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @03:03PM (#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.

          • 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

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by jawtheshark (198669) *

              Those people you mention, those well-rounded, etc... etc... should have no problem sitting down with an expert and listen and understand the fundamental concepts so that malware stops being a problem. Being "well-rounded" includes having learned how to learn.

              My mom would qualify as one of those well-rounded people and she never had an interest in computers whatsoever even though her husband and all her children were into computers (everyone of her kids on a different level. My brother is a gamer, my sist

              • by hairyfeet (841228)

                Sadly you are wrong. you see you are thinking like a geek, and "if they can do X, then they can learn Y" but that is like saying because i can play a bass I can trivially learn to play the Oboe.

                You see as someone who actually builds and repairs PCs I have found many VERY damned smart people that you might as well be speaking Chinese when it comes to PCs. they simply can not get their head around many of the concepts. if someone would have started them earlier it would probably be a lot easier now, but once

      • Re:Work and study (Score:5, Insightful)

        by aix tom (902140) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:55PM (#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.

    • 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

      • 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.

      • by oursland (1898514)

        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.

      • by perpenso (1613749) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @04:10PM (#37303932)

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

        I have family members who lived through *major* historical events. Being there didn't tell them why they were there nor why it was so important nor what was happening a few miles away and how that impacted them. They didn't really understand the big picture until I shared some of that old fashioned college book learning with them.

        History is not merely a record of what happened, it also considers the various things that influenced what happened. The real work and study is often in the later.

        • I have family members who lived through *major* historical events. Being there didn't tell them why they were there nor why it was so important nor what was happening a few miles away and how that impacted them.

          +1 to your point but not sure how it invalidates the idea of "VR learning" as, personally, I think it would depend on the presentation. You're right, being able to put individual events in context is only possible by looking at the bigger picture, but "VR learning" could help put a human face on history. The post you're replying to is trying to make the general point that laptops alone are not enough, but that laptops + content = learning.

          To second your "being there" comment though: During WW2, my grandm

    • by hedwards (940851)

      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 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EvilGiraffe (2014568) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:00PM (#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.
    • 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.
      • 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).
        • 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.

    • 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
    • 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

      • by hedwards (940851)

        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 ma

      • Re:Distractions (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DogDude (805747) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @03:45PM (#37303806) Homepage
        "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."

        In the modern business world, you have tons of younger workers who can barely compose an email using correct English, but can extract a file off [sic] an email.

        As an employer, do you think it's be easier to work around people who might have technology questions, or those who don't have a good grasp on basic math and English skills?
  • It's just a tool. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amiga3D (567632) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:02PM (#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.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:25PM (#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.

  • No, really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArchieBunker (132337) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:04PM (#37303260) Homepage

    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? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @03:14PM (#37303654)

      I had a teacher in high school who'd simply send you out of the classroom if you disrupted the lesson. You needn't be here, you can as well be someone else, get the fuck out of my class. I'm your teacher, not your nanny, and I don't give half a shit where and how you learn what's up for the next test. You can learn it here, or you can try it on your own, you needn't listen.

      His lessons were also by some margin the most productive ones. He didn't spend half the hour trying to calm down the class.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      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.

      Depends on what age you're talking, but when you say "kids" I would think that's probably not so good an idea. First off you're not thinking much about the future as a kid, it's all about the here and now. Secondly you'll have much more social pressure to skip class. Finally you'll have plenty premature optimization like "I want to be a firefighter so I don't need all those other subjects, I'll just run around outside and pretend to be a firefighter." And if there's anything work life doesn't need it's more

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

    • by mellon (7048) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:38PM (#37303460) Homepage

      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.

      • Absolutely.

        Of course, this is merely a symptom of an emerging mindset in which problems can be automatically solved by adding more technology to the mix rather than slowing down to contemplace a given problem and think critically about it. Most people don't come to this sort of discipline on their own; it has to be taught and practiced in a way that allows students to discover the joy of it. Critical thinking is the motive force, discipline the lever. Technology is, sometimes, the pivot.

        I also endor
    • by hedwards (940851)

      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.

  • by tysonedwards (969693) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:05PM (#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.
    • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:26PM (#37303378) Homepage

      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.

      • 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.

        Computers are not distracting. Computers are tools. If distracting software or content is allowed on the computers, then yes they are a distraction... school computers, during class, should probably not be connected to the internet (or at least not allow browsing).

        Computers are a fantastic tool and there's no reason t

    • 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

    • by Lord Crc (151920)

      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

  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <`jmorris' `at' `beau.org'> on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:07PM (#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.

    • 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]

    • by Nemyst (1383049)

      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

  • 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 quick

    • by PPH (736903)

      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.

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:11PM (#37303304) Homepage

    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.

    • 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.

    • by vlm (69642)

      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

  • by giuseppemag (1100721) <giuseppemag.gmail@com> on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:11PM (#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...

    • by bondsbw (888959)

      More generally: theory without application is usually boring.

      If only most teachers/professors understood this.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        They do understand that, and I don't know any who would love to also have hands on.

        However, when you only get to pick one, theory is the cheapest and most comprehensive.
        The good news is, for a vast majority of things, you can get hands on outside the class room on your own.

  • More Distractions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3@EEEgmail.com minus threevowels> on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:12PM (#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.
    • by skine (1524819)

      The reason the vast majority of math and science students use pen and paper is that many of the symbols used in math and science classes are nontrivial to type. As a math student, it took me two years of learning LaTeX before I felt confident enough to bring my laptop to class.

      Pen and paper is not inherently better, just easier.

  • by SuperCharlie (1068072) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:15PM (#37303322)
    If all they do is decrease the insane cost of books then its a win.
  • And of what possible use is anything that does not lead to an increase in test scores?

  • 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. :-)

  • An teacher's opinion (Score:3, Interesting)

    by giltwist (1313107) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:29PM (#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 man

    • Basically, what you are saying is that money talks. (And Kurzweill is Batshit nuts).

      Yes, when you're not sweltering in 99 degree heat and you're not worried about being knifed by the clown sitting next to you, you just might learn more.

      We know that....

  • by shastamonk (2453530) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:31PM (#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.
  • 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?

    T

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:39PM (#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.

  • 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

  • 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

    • by geekoid (135745)

      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?

    • It would be much cheaper and more effective (in the long run) to actually pay teachers a decent wage. And stop with the techno nonsense. Reasonable classroom sizes, decent teachers and a stable school environment are going to pay larger dividends than the latest gadget.

      Of course, having a stable family and society is even more important but we can't solve all of the world's problems at once. After all, this is just Slashdot.

  • On the difference between learning "just in case" in schools and "learning just in time" using laptops and the internet:
        http://patapata.sourceforge.net/WhyEducationalTechnologyHasFailedSchools.html [sourceforge.net]

  • Content creation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lord Byron II (671689) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @02:52PM (#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.

  • 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

  • We won't invest in teachers' training and pay, because educational material and educational technology companies lobby hard to get contracts. We won't invest in training TSA agents training and pay, because contractors would rather sell the government security technology that doesn't work. Investing in the people - which DOES work, isn't on the table. And privatization? The pre-9/11 privatized security worked SO well. And, hey, doesn't Edison Schools have a great terrific record?

    Their cronies and paid polit

  • Was that really the intention? To improve grades? Now, how should computers accomplish that?

    Well, they COULD do that. First, just test facts and second, allow computers and internet. Wikipedia replaces crib sheet and presto, instant grade improvement. But aside of that... how should computers improve grades?

    You can't even say "better tools don't make better users". For what subject is a computer a better tool? English? If you can't write an essay on paper, do you expect the student to somehow magically turn

  • by retroworks (652802) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @03:44PM (#37303800) Homepage Journal
    A track at the school does not make fat kids skinny. It does, however, support runners at the school. A swimming pool at the city park does not teach children to swim, either. But access to a public pool levels the playing field between kids who get private lessons and those who cannot. Anyone who thinks expenditures on track and field make kids thin doesn't understand that the access is directed to the top of the class - the runners, swimmers, and computer illiterates. It's no different than paying the salary of a teacher when only 50% of the kids are listening or doing their homework. Laptops, and teachers, are provided so that the students who CAN and WILL pay attention and benefit from them have access to them, the other 50% of students can go to hell and take the schools GPA average with them.
  • by jjohnson (62583) on Sunday September 04, 2011 @08:36PM (#37305148) Homepage

    That their test scores for computer literacy are higher in classrooms where they're actually using computers, rather than cardboard boxes with keyboards drawn on them.

Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves. -- Lazarus Long

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