The class, and the Kyrene School Districtas a whole, offer what some see as a utopian vision of education’s future. Classrooms are decked out with laptops, big interactive screens and software that drills students on every basic subject. Under a ballot initiative approved in 2005, the district has invested roughly $33 million in such technologies.
The digital push here aims to go far beyond gadgets to transform the very nature of the classroom, turning the teacher into a guide instead of a lecturer, wandering among students who learn at their own pace on Internet-connected devices.
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Hope and enthusiasm are soaring here. But not test scores.
Since 2005, scores in readingand math have stagnated in Kyrene, even as statewide scores have risen.
To be sure, test scores can go up or down for many reasons. But to many education experts, something is not adding up — here and across the country. In a nutshell: schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.
Read the whole thing, if you haven’t already. This gets to one of the big issues embedded in the War on Teachers I’ve been railing about here for the past few years. Whether we’re talking about purchasing standardized testing services or classroom technology, this represents a redirection of school district resources away from teachers (a female-dominated profession) and towards technology (software and hardware engineering and sales are male-dominated). Lest you think Historiann is broadcasting to you from within a tinfoil-lined chamber and channelling messages she’s getting from her silver fillings–
To some who favor high-tech classrooms, the resource squeeze presents an opportunity. Their thinking is that struggling schools will look for more efficient ways to get the job done, creating an impetus to rethink education entirely.
“Let’s hope the fiscal crisis doesn’t get better too soon. It’ll slow down reform,” said Tom Watkins, the former superintendent for the Michigan schools, and now a consultant to businesses in the education sector.
I’ve been thinking over these issues since talking to a neighbor recently who works as a salesman for a tech company selling standardized testing packages to school districts. (By the way, he sends his children to a local private school in part because he thinks that the testing frenzy is totally overboard!) My neighbor noted the ways in which his industry caused money to be redirected out of local school districts and towards corporations that probably don’t employ as many of your friends and neighbors as the local schools do–or used to, anyway. In addition to the redirection of resources away from local communities, it struck me that there’s an important gender angle to this shift in spending as well, and this story in the New York Times about the Kyrene School District reveals the strikingly different expectations we have for evaluating (mostly women’s) labor in teaching versus (mostly men’s) labor as shillers and hucksters for technology with little to no demonstrated value. Big surprise, right friends?
(Just an aside here, but sometimes I think the people who pin their hopes on technology actively and willfully ignore the ways in which they themselves use computers, smart phones, and the world-wide non-peer reviewed timewasting internets. Do children really need to go to school to learn how to use “PowerPoint and educational games?” Srsly? How on earth did I ever figure out these complex timewasters all by myself, without ever having taken a single PowerPoint or computer games course? Or is the state of children’s lives now so free of playtime that we have to schedule time for them to fart around with computers during school hours?)
What do you think? What have you seen and heard in your local schools? Why the free pass on “technology” and only punishment and rebuke for human faculty?