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Such software may supplement teaching, but it alone can not surplant good teaching and good teachers.
I voted None of the above because…yes some software is excellent, yes some teachers use it effectively, but no it does not necessarily facilitate learning. It depends on what is being taught by the software. If it is simple memorization, yes, I believe that well-designed software can be effective, so yes it faciltates learning; however, there is more to learning than memorization. Furthermore, some students really struggle with memorization because they have memory challenges.
There has been lots published on various blogs about this recent study. While I have not read everything there to read on this report and have just seen the abstract it sounds like it wasn’t really a fair measure of the software’s ability. While the Dept Ed report shows no difference in test results….the software manufacturers who want to sell you this same software will show you their own research reports of improving scores. I believe that software can help a student learn…but only when paired with a professional educator who uses various ways to meet the different needs of each learner. So….software all by itself can’t do the job. Just as we can’t drop a textbook on a child’s desk and say “see you when we take the test”. We wouldn’t do that because we need educator’s have value. We shouldn’t do the same thing with software…because we know that educators have value. From what I’ve read the software wasn’t even used the way the publishers designed it to be used. The software was used on average (I think) something like 10 minutes per day. Most of the software listed in the report (various expensive purchases for schools) are designed to be used in a very prescribed manner and all of those used in the Dept of Eds report that I’ve used personally all require more than 10 minutes per day. So if we are going to use it….lets at least try to use it right and with a qualified/active teacher.
I have not seen any software that I believe works as well as a good textbook with support materials and a good teacher.
I am the system operator and classroom paraprofessional for a small rural elementary school. I work with teachers and students in grades K thru 4. We have 101 students total this year; 5 full time teachers; 2 half time teachers; and 2 third time teacher. All support staff is half time, or third time, or half a day a week or half a day every 2 weeks.
We have quite a bit of technology….two smart boards, a classroom performance system, 16 lap tops, and about 32 desktop computers. We have Kidspiration, Accelerated Reader, Reading First, software from Houghton Mifflin that accompanies our reading series, STAR, Click and Learn, Orchard, and misc other things.
Now ask me if the teachers use any of this…the answer is No. Why? No one has time to learn how to use the programs or the hardware. No one has time to learn how to integrade the technology with state assessments or any other bench marks.
You would think that this is where I could help. Wrong again! I am only allowed 4 hours to be sysop per day. Most of that time is spent trouble shooting, taking care of the server, keeping student and staff user accounts up-to-date, repairs, enforcing the acceptable use policy, monitoring state testing, updating security on the computers and the server, managing software accounts, etc. I have to keep myself up to date with the library checkout system, the lunch cashier program, the gradebook software, the attendence software, the student record software, microsoft office and computer programs, etc. I have no time to help anyone learn anything…plus even if I do know how something works, I don’t always know how to tailor it to meet the needs of the teachers and students. That is up to the teachers….but they have no time either.
The teachers wear so many hats and are so tired that they aren’t very interested when inservices are available….besides, about the time they do learn something well enough to be comfortable, the administration either changes it or gets rid of it.
There is tons of potential for all the equipment and software that we have, but we spend so much time assessing this and assessing that and teaching to the state tests that there is no time to use technology. We have a hard enough time just keeping enough comptuers on line to do the actual testing, that no one is interested in using the comptuers to teach anything. Most of the teachers use computers to find material for their teaching or to find an on-line activity for their students to do for a center. They can tie the programs to some benchmark or use them to reinforce teaching, etc., but we have a long way to go before we reach the ideal.
So, my opinion is that technology is necessary and we all use it to some extent everyday, but it is not magic and a good teacher doesn’t really need it.
Thanks for listening.
These test results lead to me ask another question? Shouldn’t students who learned skills/content via software be tested in a like modality? “Standardized tests” are usually written on paper. It is assumed that some students learned the same material in a classroom, but in a more prosocial environment (learning groups, social interactions, facilitated learning) but those students who learned via software would normally be working at their own pace, individualzed learning, but not having the same opportunities for social interactions with peers. Could this be the crucial factor affecting results?
This is a hot topic with me. I am a high school Spanish teacher. All of our students, grades 9-12, are issued laptop computers at the beginning of the year. They have to pay a refundable $50 rental fee.
My Spanish textbook is online. While I like the textbook, I HATE it being online. It takes on second to open a book, and 10 minutes for everyone to get online, and the instant those screens pop open, I, the teacher, the bilingual Spanish teacher with so much to offer, am GONE. Policing the computers is NUTS. Kids are allowed access to i-chat, and i-tunes, and all sorts of ridiculously non-educational programs. I went into this with an open mind, but it is one of the most educationally irresponsible ideas to come along in centuries. A computer lab would do just fine, and has in the past.
Our dear friend John Dewey said in the 1800’s, “If we educate our children today like we did yesterday, we are robbing them of their future.”. OK. I still agree with him, but the students need to learn to use these computers as tools, not toys. Since I have been here, scores have declined in all areas. When asked to do any real research on any given topic they are clueless. All they really know how to do is play.
I have read articles about universities prohibiting the use of laptops in classes for the same reasons. Test scores and quality of work was taking a nosedive. Once the computers were prohibited, guess what? Test scores and quality of work went right back up.
So, my vote is yes, we do need to teach the kids technology to prepare them for life when they leave school, but this is an incredible waste of money and time and the results are in the trash. Most of my colleagues here hate them.
Voice of experience…
I teach second grade at a small rural elementary school. We use three software programs daily: Lexia, Read Naturally, and FastMath. We also use Inspiration to help students organize their thoughts for writing. It helps that we have a computer lab with enough computers so each child has his own. I rely on our media specialist and special education staff to help with scheduling and making sure students are placed at appropriate levels.