Classroom of Future, Increased Scores

One of my favourite things about a Sunday morning is reading The New York Times. I’m not a huge newspaper reader, but The Times is different, and I look forward to exploring this huge edition of the paper. This morning though, I never made it past the first article. The headline in this morning’s edition was, “In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores.” I just had to read this! The article looks at many different classrooms in the Kyrene School District in Arizona, and how, despite the increased purchasing of technology tools, test scores have largely remained stagnant. The question then becomes, is technology really the answer?

I would argue, “yes.” Over the past couple of years since I’ve really started using technology in my classroom, I’ve been looking at data too. In Grade 1 and Grade 2 in our Board, all of the teachers administer the DRA: a reading assessment tool. Last year alone, 58% of my students started the year at the Board benchmark in DRA, but by June, 95% of my students were at or above the Board benchmark. The one student that did not meet benchmark, was just one level below, and she increased eight levels over the course of the year, which was an even more significant jump than most students.

Now can these scores all be attributed to the use of technology in the classroom? I would argue, “no.” The problem with collecting data about the impact of technology is that it’s hard to separate the “tool” from the person using the “tool” in the classroom. There’s the human factor of the teacher here too. There’s also everything else that we do in the classroom that does not involve the use of technology, such as writing in journals, reading books, using math manipulatives, and discussing learning.

But then there is the use of technology too. There’s students recording their reading using the iPad. There’s students recording their reading and discussing their reading using the Livescribe Pen, then listening to what their recordings, and reflecting on their own reading as well. There’s students working together to create a Storybird on the SMART Board, editing their own work, reading what they wrote, and talking about their stories too. There’s students experimenting with different writing forms using various tools on the iPads and iPod Touches, including StoryBuddy, StoryPatch, StripDesigner, and Build A Story. These students are not just playing games on these tools, but they are creating, reading, reflecting, and learning.

I am all about the use of these different tools, but if we just do what we always did, but now with just a different tool, then I don’t see the point. Stagnant test scores tell me that we shouldn’t get rid of these tools or stop purchasing them, but instead, look at how we’re using them. Is there something that we can do differently? Where are students struggling the most on these standardized tests? How can these tools help students better understand the concepts where they’re falling behind? Then we focus on the specific expectations where students are still having the most difficulty. We make “learning” about the students!

I may use technology in the classroom, but I don’t teach technology. I teach reading, writing, math, science, social studies, health, and the Arts, and when I teach these subjects using technology, my students are learning. Seeing results encourages me to continue to use these tools in the classroom. What about you? What results have you seen with the use of technology?


15 thoughts on “Classroom of Future, Increased Scores

  1. I would challenge the statement that you don’t teach technology. Every time we stand in front of or along side students we are modelling something. If the students are having success with the tools that you talk about, it’s not by accident. I don’t think that you should ever feel like you have to be apologetic about teaching students anything. We all know that we want to model the good things.

    I would take the article like the NYT one with a grain of salt. If all that a school district wants is to raise test scores, then that should be all that they ever do. What’s not mentioned is the desire to help students become functionally literate in a technological society. That requires the use of technology; its critical use; important decisions about truth and voracity with what one reads on the internet; the ethical use of technology and data; and so much more.

    I just think it’s a shame that the folks have to put it to a vote to get the funds for doing something which they know is right. Technology needs to be a balanced part of every classroom.

  2. Doug, you make an interesting point here. You’re right: I guess that we always are modelling the tools that we use, which means that we’re teaching the tool too. That being said, I do believe in putting the curriculum first. I see real value in using technology in the classroom, but using it to teach curriculum expectations. I love the last line of your comment the best: it is about balance.

    There’s so much that can be achieved with the use of technology, and what you mention in paragraph two are so many of the reasons that we should be investing in the tools that we do. Thanks for your comment and for giving me a lot to think about!


  3. wow. powerful.

    One of the problems with tech in class is that a lot of teachers don’t know how to use the technology to help them address curriculum. If you provide the equipment, you should show them how to use it. For me, I’m starting this year with some new ideas to see if it will benefit my students. I need to assess and determine its validity. I think this is an important step.

    I noticed last year the excitement of my students using applications like googledocs, gmail (google apps in general). I’m trying to explore this more and determine how to use this to enhance/supplement my programming.


    • Thanks for the comment, Chris! I love how you’re looking at your students and their needs first. I also like how you’re willing to explore the use of tech, but how you really want to use technology as a learning tool. We definitely have a similar philosophy! I’ll be interested in hearing how your year goes.


  4. You’ve really hit the nail on the head here. If we just keep doing the same old thing and expecting different results, isn’t that a definition of insanity? Using a smartboard like a regular white board combined with an overhead projector doesn’t making investing in the technology worthwhile. Using it to create thinking maps that can be accessed at home, tweeting about our questions and learning, watching youtube videos about things we can’t possibly give a good visual demonstration of otherwise, using apps to help students take the front seat on their own learning, these are all ways in which providing the technology is useful and meaningful and enhances our teaching.

  5. In the end, it doesn’t matter what tool you use, whether it’s an iPad or a blackboard, but I have to say that nothing engages students more than some form of technology. At least in my experience! They are so much more in tune if I use websites to teach math lessons or watch a youtube video on how raccoons have adapted to our environment. When I decided to ramp up the level of technology in my Grade 2 french immersion class last year, the number of kids raising their hands to participate or share their answers drastically increased. French speaking inhibitions wasn’t preventing them from wanting to participate. I don’t know if technology would be something that would improve test scores, but if you decide to use it and know how to best use it to reach your students, I think that the level of student engagement would increase and this may lead to an increase in student test scores. This hypothesis is completely unscientific because I don’t know many teachers that do use technology…yet.

  6. Thanks for a great blog post! I think your assessment of why the scores were stagnant is spot on. As we continue to move into becoming 21st century teachers/ students/ learners we must never lose site of the fact that we are using technology tools to teach something else. If the scores aren’t improving then we should be looking at what we are using the tools for and if it is in the correct way. Perhaps this was an early-adoption school and they haven’t really fleshed out the purpose and use of technology thoroughly? Maybe they put money into hardware but not teacher training? These are all scenarios that we’ve heard of before so it is very possible that it could be the case here. I like how you read with a discriminating eye and kept a critical outlook on the purpose and perspective that they used for the article. Now I feel like doing a little research on the school that they mentioned…. 🙂

  7. Thanks for a great post Aviva. I work in a technology poor school in comparison to what you and your class has access to, but that hasn’t and won’t stop me from using the technology I have available to me to meet the individual needs of my students. My theory is, whatever I can do to motivate my students to be the best they can be I’m going to do it. I also agree that it isn’t technology that is making the students better, it’s the teacher behind the technology. You can work in a school full of technology but if the teacher doesn’t know how to use it as a teaching tool it really is just another tool. But the reverse it true too – you can work in a school filled with technology and have a teacher utilize its potential (like you obviously are doing) and the results are incredible. Keep doing what you’re doing. Your students are so lucky to have you as their teacher. Karen

    • Thanks for such a nice comment, Karen! I do believe that the “technology” on its own isn’t the answer. I love hearing stories like yours though. It’s great to know that regardless of how much technology is available at a school that teachers are making the most out of what is there to help students learn. Your students are very lucky to have you as their teacher too!


  8. Following the conversations about education in Canada and the US has resulted in my sense that the two countries are in very different places as it relates to public education. For the most part Canadian educational (teachers, parents, school administrators, communities, and even politicians) share a more positive view about public education that do their American counterparts. As I follow the educational conversation (social media, interviews, conferences, etc.), I have the feeling that I am participating in a discussion with varied and sometimes different opinions. As I follow those same streams from American sources, I feel I am witnessing a polemic. Media reporting as it relates to testing in the US feels to me like it is reporting on a battle field event. I believe at the root of the difference is that Canadians sense that our public education system is good but needs improvement. In the US many outside of the actual educational system believe their system is broken and in need of tight monitoring and repair. Articles about school scores are the bullets in the battle.

  9. Pingback: The NYT’s "Future Classroom" story: Pushback edition | Iowa TransformEd

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