Don’t let the headlines fool you!
The January 22, 2010 Science Daily Headline, “A Computer Per Student Leads to Higher Performance Than Traditional Classroom Settings” certainly caught my attention. This headline implies that 1:1 deployments create something other than “traditional classroom settings.” By and large, perhaps “yes” but by default, I would have to say “no”. If the device is used as in, “take out your netbook and go to this URL,” what’s different than “take out your textbook and go to this page” other than perhaps the multimedia involved or the age of the specific material being accessed? I immediately thought of this cartoon – http://fno.org/nov08/novcartoon.html. My hypothesis is if the teacher insists on running a teacher-centered classroom supported by “as close to” traditional resources as can be found, the positive impacts of 1:1 deployment will be minimized and will most likely be caused by what the students do with the device outside of school. So, I kept reading the article.
Six paragraphs in to the article, “one common link is clear: the value of teachers committed to making 1:1 computing work.” The rest of the article contains the text I would like to have seen drive the headline! The “additional factors critical to student success” reads like a “duh list.” What if the headline were “An Internet-accessible Authoring Device Per Student Coupled with a Teacher Who Transforms Learning Experiences with the New Technology Leads to Higher Performance Than Students Who Learn from Typical Teachers with Traditional Materials”? Ok, so I have to work on my headline and perhaps it is too close to my hypothesis without any direct research to support it, but you get the idea.
The measures of performance used in the study is “English/Language Arts standardized tests.” What if we set as a measure of performance something closer to what is going to be required of the kids in their real lives outside of school? What if the same kids in this study took an assessment designed around AASL’s Standards for the 21st-Century Learner or the Partnership for 21st Century Skills work? Not that these two have nailed “it” for the entire 21st Century, but their work at least brings us above what the “English/Language Arts standardized tests” look like in the test used in the study (MCAS), “this test contains six reading selections with thirty-six multiple-choice questions and four open-response questions.” MCAS also includes a writing prompt.
What if the “English/Language Arts standardized tests” cited in this study included tasks documented via a portfolio and aligned to AASL’s work, not items documented via a computer-based multiple choice test aligned to the curricular objectives that can be easily tested in a multiple choice format? What if we looked at the student data disaggregated by the teacher practices measured? How do we ensure all teachers are ready to leverage new technologies and methodologies as we look to moving to 1:1 in our classrooms? To what extent do our current curriculum frameworks and assessment models allow for transformation of teaching and learning?
Headlines like “A Computer Per Student Leads to Higher Performance Than Traditional Classroom Settings” make it seem like the technology is the answer. Alone, it is not.