Technology and Standardized Tests in the New York Times

The New York Times published a lengthy, must-read article examining how investments in technology by school districts have not resulted in higher test scores. The article focuses on the Kyrene School District in Arizona, which has considerable investments in technology but stagnated test scores when compared to Arizona as a whole.

This finding doesn’t surprise me, but I also don’t think it is a problem. I have long thought that standardized tests focus on a very narrow range of skills, not including 21st century skills such as applying technology to solve problems. Thus, technology use in schools has great value beyond teaching just basic skills. The article addresses this as well, quoting Karen Cator, Director of the Office of Educational Technology:

“In places where we’ve had a large implementing of technology and scores are flat, I see that as great,” she said. “Test scores are the same, but look at all the other things students are doing: learning to use the Internet to research, learning to organize their work, learning to use professional writing tools, learning to collaborate with others.”

The article also explores other factors affecting student performance in fair detail, such as economic factors and the difficulty of doing long-term studies of student performance related to technology.

Recommended Reading: How to Count

Image of the book cover for How to Count
The cover image for "How to Count". The hand is showing the number 28 in binary.

Steven Frank, the co-founder of Panic Software, creators of Transmit, my favorite ftp program, recently published an ebook titled How to Count: Programming for Mere Mortals, Vol. 1. I highly recommend buying a copy as unprotected pdf or epub for ¢299. While there are many introductory articles available for free that explain how to count in binary, this book quickly moves on to more advanced topics such as hexadecimal, signed integers and floats.

“IWBs Do Not Hold a Candle to Mobile Learning Devices”

IWBs do not hold a candle to mobile learning devices which students KEEP and get to take home, as well as use in the classroom – if our goal is learning which meets individual needs. It’s harder, it’s messier, it’s filled with more questions, but it’s also the RIGHT path we should follow in the 21st century classroom and the blended 21st century learning environment.

Wesley Fryer in response to a post on the Tech & Learning blog about interactive white boards.

The Battle for the Interactive White Board: The Kids Surrender

This article includes my main concern about interactive white boards before going on to describe a few uses of the technology:

The fact is, there’s only one Interactive White Board per classroom, and there may be 25 or more students. There is never going to be enough time in one class period to let everyone have-at-it on the white board.

My principal asked me just the other day why I wasn’t trying to get a IWB. My response was that I prefer technology that can be put in the hands of every student.

Data to Digest on Thanksgiving

Here are some interesting statistics about the growth of mobile computing. From a recent post by LukeW on networked device ownership:

  • 85% of Americans own cell phones but only 59% have personal computers.
  • 75% of teens own a cell phone.

Meanwhile, The Unofficial Apple Weblog recently linked to a Nielsen survey citing that 31% of kids 6-12 and would want an iPad as their next gift and 29% would want an iPod Touch. Both of those devices are rated higher than gaming devices such as a Nintendo DS or a PlayStation Portable and much higher than a Wii or Xbox 360.

Kids today clearly have a preference for mobile devices.