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?