"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Misaligned Spending on Technology

Since I have been part of a group that helped elementary schools in the Philippines obtain computers, I occasionally receive requests for computer donations from other schools. What is sorely lacking in these requests unfortunately is a proposal, a plan of how these computers can assist learning in a classroom. Computers are tools. We do not pick up any tool without having an idea of how we are going to use them.There are plenty of digital instructional tools available now. Apparently, only half of teachers in the United States regard these as effective. This survey comes from a report recently released by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The report, "Teachers Know Best: What Educators Want from Digital Instructional Tools", highlights the finding that resources teachers would like to see are simply not available.

To read this report visit Teachers Know Best
The gaps are high especially in the sciences at all levels of K-12 while the market seems to have an ample supply for mathematics and for english language arts. The most striking result shared in this report, however, is the huge misalignment between what tools teachers in the US deem as effective and what administrators in school districts are buying. This is shown vividly in the following graph (copied from Teachers Know Best without permission):

Above figure copied from Teachers Know Best
Almost half of the spending is on devices (whiteboards, clickers) which teachers deem only as 67% effective. Districts are likewise spending more on English Language Arts than in any subject. And at the end of the report, the following quote from one of the three thousand teachers surveyed should strike a chord:

“Student learning is the goal. It must 
remain the goal. We put a man on the moon 
largely with slide rules and calculators, 
so it’s hard to argue that the technology 
is essential for learning. It must enhance 
the learning experience in order for it to 
be implemented in my class—I don’t do 
technology for the sake of the technology. 
… Every resource is available to me … 
but frankly a lot of technology is more 
‘gee whiz’ and fails to meet the criteria of 
enhancing student learning.”


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