Is that really the answer?

Yesterday’s Answer Sheet from the Washington Post started with this comment…

A recent article in The New York Times explains how after investing $33 million in technology, a school district in Arizona has seen almost no improvement in test scores.

It was a nice teaser to get me to read the rest of this article. I had already read the New York Times article.  I was fuming by the time that I got to the end of both articles.  I’m a teacher and a learner and I’m damned proud that I chose this as a profession.  It absolutely infuriates me when an entire community of professionals is whitewashed with the same brush because of a single report or incident.

I remember a while back when I had someone say to me…

I just read a report that indicates that computers don’t improve test scores.

My response was a flippant…

I’m living proof that by just giving me a dictionary doesn’t make me a professional writer.

But, I can (and did) turn around and look up “flippant” in my dictionary.  It’s a tool that I learned to use a long time ago.  The fact that I turned to it instead of this piece of technology that I’m keyboarding on is telling, I think.

You can read the rest of the article if you wish.  Even on my umpteenth time through it, I’m still not seeing the answer to the original question posed in the title to the article.

Yes, kids are bored.  Yes, kids don’t like mathematics.  Whoa!  Let’s stop there.  Some kids don’t like mathematics.  I happen to love mathematics and when my parents tried to engage at the dinner table, I would have the same non-committal “nuthin'” response.

Perhaps it’s time to look at the original premise about improvement in test scores.  Is that truly the goal of education?  It may be one of the barometers that people like to use to bash those in education.  Just think – are there any good stories about tests? Is that truly the goal?

Ironically, I was just interrupted by a Twitter message from a parent who had read my post about BYOD and was sharing her daughter’s success story about using an application on the iPad for personal notetaking and organization.  This actually helps me answer the question that I just posed and that I suspect most technology using teachers would agree on.  Part of the goal of education is in the preparation for the future…whatever that might be.

After that final test, will there be another test?

Probably not.  Does that also mean that the learning is over?  After all, don’t we want students to be lifelong learners?

After the final mouse click, will there be another mouse click?  You bet there will be.

After the final group work assignment, will there be other group working situations?  After the final research assignment for school, will there be other times when research is needed?  You better believe it.  How will a graduate do the research?  How a graduate know how to form a group to generate powerful answers?  It sure won’t be by asking the Cash Cab to pull over and ask a random stranger.

These skills are so powerful and are possible with the use of technology.  Do we deny the teaching of these skills simply because they are not on the test?

I sure hope that the answer is never no.  I hope that the clever minds that are guiding the educational ship never stop spending to bring the latest technologies to students and do their best to engage them in very active learning.  I hope that great teachers continue to use technology to try to meet students’ needs where they’re currently residing.

The one part of the original article that was insightful to me was the telling of the story about $30,000 in iPads with no money left over for applications.  That can hardly be blamed on the technology.  Let’s point our fingers at a short-sided planning process.  Any technology purchase should have significant plans and funds devoted to support, connectivity, implementation, sustainability, repairs, and professional learning.

I would encourage the author(s) to view the conversations and connections among educators that are happening every day on services like Twitter.  Be a part of that conversation, please, and see what passioned educators are doing to motivate and learn with students.  Let’s put the energies into helping that cause and really be part of the solution that is best for students.  Is the answer really a school system without technology?

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