Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Computers in the Classroom: Cause of Change? Updated 4/18/07


Computers in the Classroom -Do They Help?

YOU MUST DECIDE FOR YOURSELF


I have written on this subject before but it needs to be questioned again and again when it comes to school districts using their money wisely.

Almost every school district in the country has bought some sort of computer software that advertises to help students do better in math, phonics or reading.

Once again it is that time of year when many school districts (mine included) put special Bonds to be voted on and start complaining there is not enough money so cuts in both classes and programs will need to be reduced or cancelled.

This used to only happen during Bargaining time but now it is every year. Learning threats are always made that if we don’t have the latest technology we will fall behind in the “Test Scores.” Do Test Scores = Learning?

Personally, I believe computers and software must be in the schools ONLY after it is proven that the Technology and Computers are designed into the day-to-day curriculum and that the Teachers are certified to use a Computer. WHAT! Yes, just like any class a Teacher must be certified or have a degree in that discipline.

In business and academics the number one reason why the hardware and software is not utilized is what I call “Pilot Error.”

User Error, many teachers and college instructors do not know how to use the darn things well enough to enhance learning.

In the past two years of taking College classes not one Instructor was skilled in the use of the computer. The best they can do is to ask someone (usually a student) load the Instructor ready PowerPoint presentations (BORING) that are no better than the old slides or overheads.


What about On-Line courses that are so popular today. Wonder Why? Because it's easy and fast to get a grade. Do Grades = Learning?

I have walked through many K-12 Classrooms and I see Computers everywhere. They are mostly being used to search the Internet for Information (this does not mean knowledge) or watching some streamlined video from an education sight that the teachers can click on to show their class. The same as the old movies or Video Cassettes that show the same information.


I know of many school computer rooms that schedule kids once a week for 30 -45 minutes to learn the computer. The Computer Teacher was laid off and now the classroom teacher or a sub teacher is now responsible for the computer room. Did I mention the 40 new desktop computers loaded with software. Maybe we could have kept the Computer Teacher if we kept the old computers that were less than 5 years old (All on Windows XP).

There are some teachers that let their students use the computer because thy no longer wish (or never could) teach. It’s like putting your kid in front of the TV and having them be entertained while you do something else.

Then you have the teachers who won’t use the computer because they can’t and others because they will not let anyone or anything come into their classroom that challenges their teaching tactics.

Now your school board loves to pass mileages and bonds that provide thousands and thousands of dollars to being your schools into what everyone perceives to be the best way for children to learn. Again, you can have the biggest and fastest planes but if you don’t have pilots that can fly them they will sit in the airport concourses for all to marvel at what great things we can build and design.

Parents and PTO Members (I applaud your efforts but you are too intimidated by School Administrators to challenge them) walk around and see your dollars at work, go to the office and get a pass and let the administrators know you want to see the computer room during a class or sit in on a classroom where there are computers being used and best yet ask for demonstrations by the teachers who all have the newest Laptops and Software somewhere displayed in their room.

Please make sure it is more than Email and some silly Attendance Program. Next, go to your next school board meeting and ask them why we are cutting programs because lack of funds? Then ask them for the amount of dollars spent on Computer Technology (DO NOT FALL FOR THE LINE THAT IT COMES OUT OF A DIFFERENT BUDGET).

Ask the School Board if they have seen any data that proves grades and test scores are improving? Do not accept that Correlation (Grades going up and new computers) equals Causation. You will need many more variables before that can be proved. To prove my point take the reading class where grades have been improved and ask the teacher for a lesson plan demonstartion on how the computer helped RAISE THE GRADES AND TEST SCORES. Do Grades and Test Scores = Learning?

I want computers/technology to be a part of the learning of each child, but I also want teachers in the classroom with a decent number of students so all can learn. Keep cutting teachers and combining classes and thinking technology will fill the gap is a dangerous comprimise.

We can no longer afford to be fooled by technology and what other schools are doing. Find out for yourself, you owe it to your children and your pocketbooks.

Better yet ASK your children to show you on your home computer what they learned in class today.

This link is for the new report that just came out from the government that will provide more information. http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20074005/

HOWEVER, you must find out for yourself at your school and your school district. Make the people who sit on these boards do the work they should instead of going on trips or sitting at the front of the raised school board room that is used for intimidation and discussions among themselves (like your bosses desk) and not for communications with people in the audience.

I hope many readers will dispute my claims and provide me data and information to the contrary. My hope would then be those that can teach those that can't.
4/18/07
On a related topic, the following link provides some well nedded comments:
Schools must play high-tech catch-up
April 18, 2007
BY TOM WATKINS

3 comments:

Mike Truesdale said...

Schools insist on acquiring state-of-the-art technology when students can keep up with the advances in technology and getting to know how to use it with less expensive alternatives. If a second grade classroom has 3-4 $1,500 computers to run Reader Rabbit something is wrong there. I work for a company that sells refurbished desktops and laptops and we can often DOUBLE the amount of PCs schools and districts can get from us or they save money on their budget and wouldn't have to do things like lay off computer teachers. For some reason, the bigwigs that lay out the foundation for education in the 21st century have just taken it as an inescapable fact that the cost of keeping our students up to speed will be astronomical. If you'd like to reference our website its www.TKOEducation.com but I really wanted to comment as an interested reader.

qualityg says said...

Mike,

Well Stated. It's funny(not really - sad)you mentioned "Reader Rabbit" since that is one of the programs on our PCs along with Math Blaster and Carmen Santiago.

Thanks for the response and I urge folks to check out www.TKOEducation.com

as an alternative to high priced upgrades and costs that would be better served keeping instructors who know how to use the technology.

qg

Anonymous said...

Qualityg,

One heck of a commentary on a subject/problem overlooked by parents and citizens when it comes time for bond and mileage increases.

I'm sending this to out PTO President.

Jenny from Jackson