Computers not always the answer

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Re: School District No. 1 technology program

I read the recent article about Sheridan County School District No. 1’s technology program with interest.

It’s a clear example of the sort of muddled thinking surrounding computer technology that schools have been engaged in for more than 30 years.

Nationwide, schools have spent millions of dollars over the years purchasing computers. Yet there is absolutely no evidence that any of it has resulted in improved student learning. None.

While school districts are good at spending money for equipment, they aren’t very good at using that equipment to make real and significant changes in how students are taught. To justify buying iPads for students so the district can move “toward electronic textbooks as both an educational enhancement as well as a cost-cutting maneuver” as Mr. Kobza says, shows a misunderstanding of what teaching and learning should look like in this day and age.

Textbooks, whether electronic or paper, represent antiquated thinking regarding teaching and learning. Students find textbooks, whether traditional or electronic, unengaging.

Board members and superintendents seem to think that the mere presence of the most up-to-date computers will magically improve student performance and engagement. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A few years ago, SCSD1 had a “laptop” initiative. That fizzled, amounting to nothing but broken laptops and no change in instruction.

And now, Mr. Kobza has started an “iPad initiative.” How predictable.

School districts try to keep up with the latest computer developments. Of course, just as they’re getting around to “implementing” their “initiative,” a new product comes out and the cycle begins again. It is not only financially impossible for schools to keep up with these changes, it is financially irresponsible to try to do so.

I would urge parents and community members to begin asking the tough questions as the school board prepares to spend money that might be better spent. The questions should all request specific information regarding student achievement and its connection to computer technology.

Parents should ask specifically how this initiative is going to change the way their son or daughter learns English, math, science or social studies.

And they should not settle for vague answers and buzzwords from administrators.

I suspect, as in so many other computer initiatives I’ve seen over the years, little if any significant change will be brought about by the district’s initiative. Money spent, broken iPads, business as usual.


Don White


By |June 28th, 2013|

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