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Technology doesn't improve education, teachers do

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There are few technology buzzwords in education that get more attention than One to One or BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). The desired outcome from each concept is placing a computing device in every child’s hands by providing it from the district (One to One) or having children supply their own devices (BYOD). However the latest research shows that the technology on its own does not improve a child’s education.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), a partner with One Laptop Per Child(OLPC), released a study based off of 15 months of data in Peru shows that the OLPC may benefit cognitive abilities (logic and reasoning) but also that, “No evidence is found of effects on enrollment and test scores in Math and Language.” The report also suggests that training teachers more effectively on the use of the technology has helped to improve test scores in other scenarios.

One example of a One to One initiative that shows promise is Kearns High School in Kearns, Utah. In November 2010 Kearns High used a grant paid for by the emergency stimulus fund to place an iPod Touch in the hands of every student for educational purposes. This was one of the 100 wasteful uses of government money according to Senators Coburn and McCain.

What is the difference between the OLPC program in Peru and the iPod Touch program in Kearns? The difference is Professional Development. EducationWorld has posted an article called Ten Pillars of Successful Technology Implementation in which half of the pillars are about the teachers learning how to use the technology.

Rachel Murphy is over the iPod Touch program at Kearns High and has specifically included Professional Development in her plans stating “Strong professional development is essential for teachers to implement changes and share ideas. Professional development focuses on assisting teachers in integrating mobile technology usage seamlessly into their classrooms on a day-to-day basis, so as to improve students’ research skills, collaboration skills and other essential 21st Century skills, and to assist teachers in moving away from direct instruction and towards learning facilitation, enabling students to engage in more individualized, independent, self-directed study.“

What are the results? Test scores went up. The Math test scores for the 2010-2011 School year rose by 16% and are at a three year high point. The iPods may not have single handedly improved test scores, but it stands to reason that by giving good teachers another tool and training them on how to use it test scores will go up.

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