WP: Software’s benefits on tests in doubt – washingtonpost.com Highlights – MSNBC.com
- Quote: Educational software, a $2 billion-a-year industry that has become the darling of school systems across the country, has no significant impact on student performance, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Education. The long-awaited report amounts to a rebuke of educational technology, a business whose growth has been spurred by schools desperate for ways to meet the testing mandates of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind law. The technology — ranging from snazzy video-game-like programs played on Sony PlayStations to more rigorous drilling exercises used on computers — has been embraced by low-performing schools as an easy way to boost student test scores.
Note: Hmmm. Not sure it’s a rebuke of educational technology as much as the pedagogies of the software, which, I’m guessing, aren’t much beyond how to get the right answer on the test.
– post by willrich
I agree that that “proof is in the pedagogy” and that much of the current educational software appears to emulate traditional industrialized teaching of “fill in the blank” and “drill n kill” work that has no authentic application to the real world. There are places in the learning spectrum for these types of experiences but in very limited ways and for very specific purposes (initial exposure to concepts and rote memorization).
In my years in the classroom and as an administrator the most effective use of technologies that I have seen and/or experienced relies on the following questions asked:
1) How realistic is the experience that students are placed in?
2) How many individuals are involved in the activity?
3) How much is the student responsible for their own learning?
4) Who will be the audience that students will be sharing their learning with?
5) The skill of the teacher as a resource provider, facilitator, moderator, networking manager, assessor of progress, etc.
Good learning opportunities with or without technology is still dependent on skilled teachers that have honed their craft and are reflective, flexible, and tuned in to the individual needs of students as learners. Good teaching makes authentic connections, involves many people with diverse backgrounds and skill sets in thought provoking â€“ brain stretching activities in which group and personal responsibility is assumed for learning in order to make decisions and/or create plans of action. These are the two essential adult skills that we all need to do exceptionally well in the context of any set of information we are dealing with at the moment. If student learning translates into it being shared with a large diverse audience world wide and has the potential to contribute to bodies of knowledge and information for global consumption â€¦ all the better.
The beauty of todayâ€™s Web 2.0 tools is that it can leverage the learning experience for students in very dramatic ways locally and globally. In the pre-digital age effective teaching and application of pedagogy would impact a very limited number of students ( a class at a time) during a very restricted period of time (a class period). Today the learning experiences can occur 24/7 and has the potential to involve anyone in the world of like mind and/or purpose. This educational flattening environment optimizes opportunities for authentic connections, involving many people with diverse backgrounds and skill sets in thought provoking â€“ brain stretching activities that can contribute to the body of public information and could be transformed into a body of knowledge resulting a positive impact on others.
Students respond to this kind of learning â€¦ and teachers thrive when afforded the time and resources for this type of teaching.
the reflective teacher says
It’s what you do with the software versus what you let the software do for you.
Alice Mercer says
I think this should be an important point you, Scott McLeod and Karl Fisch need to cover because people do not understand the difference between educational software, and read-write-web. We need to make it clear that drill and play a game software (especially taken in isolation) won’t cut it. I go back to an article from Richard Allington by way of Doug Noon on Borderland (http://borderland.northernattitude.org/2007/03/21/the-might-work-clearinghouse),
“â€¦focused on doing things â€œrightâ€ but were dedicated to doing the right thingsâ€¦.They didnâ€™t necessarily reject commercial instructional packages or the directions that invariably accompany them, but they were rarely observed actually following such advice with any fidelity. Instead, they took their cues from the children they were teaching.”
Even though this is about scripted reading programs, I think it hold true for computer instruction. We are the ones who can give these tools meaning.
Tim Goree says
I agree wholeheartedly with what Mark had to say above.
I’d also like to add that good software design is also key as Will mentioned. To reinforce this point, it may be helpful to check out David Williamson Schafer’s work at the Epistemic Games Blog – http://epistemicgames.org/eg/?cat=63
Schafer is showing every day that games do help students learn in deep ways, but only if the software is designed correctly.
Beyond that, I think we as teachers and school adminstrators need to take a hard look at our evaluation procedures for new software. Most of the software out there is, as noted above, of the “drill and kill” variety. We have to ask a series of hard questions about any software that we are considering purchasing before we purchase it – first and foremost – what goal is the software going to help us acheive and how is it going to do this? Even a cursory use of most of these pieces of software will give you a pretty good idea of the answer to this question, but I’d say that most who are purchasing don’t actually use the software themselves first. Taking the salesperson’s demo at face value is a BIG mistake.
Kobus van Wyk says
Our experience in Cape Town, South Africa has been different. Research conducted by the University of Cape Town on the effects of the usage of educational software in the classroom, shows that such software does, indeed, have a significant impact on learner performance. Of course, there a few “buts”. Not all software products are equally effective; success depends on the amount of time learners engage with the software; another factor is the understanding of the teacher of how the software supports the curriculum. The latter point is the real problem in South Africa at present; we have a severe shortage of teachers who have this level of understanding.
For more information on the results of the studies conducted, please contact me. Some of these results are also published on our website (www.khanya.co.za).
chris larry says
I will never forget in the 6th grade (1983) when I played the “Chief Gremlin” in our school production of the GIGO Effect….seems like that little musical was a window into the future and helped shape me even today….
Like with this new study simply telling me a law of computers I learned in the 6trh grade “Garbage in Garbage Out”
Scott S. Floyd says
Did they track the number of hours of training and PD provided for educators to use the software correctly? I doubt it.
Carolyn Foote says
I had some reservations about this study also. (posted about it on my site, so I won’t repeat all of that here.)
I agree with Alice above, that it’s important that we distinguish between “drill and practice” or courseware, and web 2.0 types of tools or productivity tools–which seem like an entirely different area. I just worry that these kind of studies get generalized to a point that the finer distinctions are completely lost.