An article in Saturday’s Auckland Herald titled Counting the Costs of Technology in Schools drew my attention and got me thinking about the wave of concern being expressed about the benefits of technology in schools. As someone who holds an ‘optomistic view’ about the use of ICT in education, I am also aware that there needs to be a balance in the debate about exactly why and how ICTs are being integrated and used in our school classrooms. American journalist Todd Oppenheimer, whose book The Flickering Mind and article The Computer Delusion has contributed significantly to this discussion, as has Larry Cuban from Stanford University with his Computers, oversold and underused .
The Herald article focuses on a “value for money” argument, and quotes Massey University’s Dr Mark Brown who states; “There isn’t really evidence that is convincing enough to show that the money is being spent with returns that would match expectations.”
Along similar lines, an October 1 report published in eSchool News Online reports on the Alliance for Childhood’s recent report called Tech Tonic: Towards a New Literacy of Technology challenges education standards and industry assertions that all teachers and children, from preschool up, should use computers in the classroom to develop technology literacy. The report asserts this expensive agenda ignores evidence that high-tech classrooms have done little if anything to improve student achievement. It notes that children’s lives are increasingly filled with “screen time” rather than real time with nature, caring adults, the arts, and hands-on work and play–activities that are far more important for the social development and well-being of children, it says.
The two arguments that feature strongly in the papers and articles referred to above are:
- the unfulfilled promise of increasing student achievement through the use of computers, and
- the notion that children are spending too much time in front of computers to develop ‘technology literacy’, at the expense of more ‘healthy’ pursuits.
Personally, I feel the debate needs to look more deeply than these two arguments.
If such reports can prompt a greater level of intellectual rigor and self reflection among the educational community then I’m all for it – problem is that too often they are used to support a pre-determined position.