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Classroom laptops fail to improve grades

Classroom laptops fail to improve grades

Laptops might help pupils get to grips with technology, but they don't appear to be improving grades.

Investment to create technology-centric classrooms may not improve grades, according to results from the Kyrene School District in Arizona, USA. In this area, results have stagnated, despite $33 million being invested in laptops, software and interactive screens for classrooms.

The New York Times reports a huge swing in finances in the area, which favours technology over teaching budgets, and education experts are apparently concerned that there's little proof the approach is improving basic learning.

Advocates for the sweeping changes seen in schools in the area say that digital devices let students learn at their own pace, gathering skills needed in a modern economy and enable schools to hold the attention of a generation weaned on gadgets. They also claim that traditional, standardised tests don't capture the breadth of skills that computers can help develop.

Tom Vander Ark, the former executive director for education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation claimed that 'the data is pretty weak. It’s very difficult when we’re pressed to come up with convincing data. When it comes to showing results, we better put up or shut up.'

Despite his realistic view, he went on to say that the shift towards technology-centric classrooms is 'one of the three or four biggest things happening in the world today.' Critics are saying that lack of evidence that grades are improving is likely due to an over-emphasis on digital skills, such as creating Facebook pages and PowerPoint presentations, at the expense of maths, reading and writing fundamentals.

With limited education budgets, should schools be prioritising budgets for other areas of teaching over technology? Did you have access to anything more exotic than a PC at school? Let us know in the forum.

23 Comments

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Stotherd-001 5th September 2011, 13:29 Quote
We were doing pretty well with traditional methods. We're just not able to use the computers to their full potential in the classroom, yet. Methods need to change to adopt the new capabilities the laptop brings. I anticipate this getting worse if tablets are adopted too much.
Flibblebot 5th September 2011, 13:44 Quote
The trouble with IT classrooms is that it is seen as a panacea or a replacement for teaching, not just another tool in the teaching arsenal. In and of itself, it brings little benefit into a classroom (it's just technology for technology's sake) - only where teaching styles and teaching content is modified to include the use of IT will it become useful. Computers won't replace teaching, they'll help it.

For those that are interested, take a look at TPACK.

(Can anyone tell that I'm doing my PGCE at the moment? ;) )
Jim 5th September 2011, 13:49 Quote
Did whiteboards increase the quality of learning over blackboards?

The best thing that PCs in the classroom can do is improve children's confidence with using computers, which can only be a good thing.

For them to actually improve the calibre of learning requires a teacher that can not only expertly use a computer, but also expertly utilise its unique capabilities, teaching pupils in a different way to other teaching methods.

However, in the time I've spent watching IT lessons, I've seen no evidence of either. All anyone did was teach exactly the same lesson they would've done in their classrooms, except with a shiny computer to make it all 21st century. It's fairly obvious that won't teach anybody anything new.
Mentai 5th September 2011, 14:14 Quote
I think using computers to help with research, presentations, reports etc makes sense. But basic writing, reading and math? Not so much. There should definitely be IT training in schools, but I think it's less distracting for students to be doing everything else by hand.
Picarro 5th September 2011, 14:17 Quote
Teachers need to be educated more. It's really shocking to be honest. I am in what corresponds to the last year of High School and most of my teachers don't know how to turn on the projector, or use PowerPoint. My history teacher was in a sour mood due to him not being able to "Use the overhead projector for overheads". I didn't have it in me to tell him he could just fire up Google Earth on the projector with his computer..
Bede 5th September 2011, 15:02 Quote
Children do not need all their lessons on a laptop just so they learn how to use a computer. All of the best teaching I received was done by a teacher talking, explaining and discussing with the class (I left school 2 years ago). Our generation does not need help learning how to use 'technology' - we pick it up very quickly. Teaching needs to remained focused on the interpersonal relationship between teacher and student; the classroom is much more important for social development than IT skills.
feathers 5th September 2011, 15:19 Quote
I guess they're banned from downloading porn.
crazy95 5th September 2011, 15:26 Quote
i just finished my gcse and am starting collage tomorrow and at my high school we had laptops for some lessons that dont need them really like English
and to be honest the laptop where just terrible and slow.
if your the only one whos got 1 there always the idiot that says im on games or something stupid

it dosnt help it makes it worse
Picarro 5th September 2011, 15:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by crazy95
i just finished my gcse and am starting collage tomorrow and at my high school we had laptops for some lessons that dont need them really like English
and to be honest the laptop where just terrible and slow.
if your the only one whos got 1 there always the idiot that says im on games or something stupid

it dosnt help it makes it worse

This most be the prime example of laptops not helping.
JA12 5th September 2011, 15:49 Quote
What a waste of (tax) money. For this kind of educational environment, LTSP environment is the most versatile and cost effective way of providing tech tools for pupils and teachers. In my country, schools that uses LTSP in their classrooms have reported how people experience these tools and the annual cost savings compared to Windows environment - the difference is huge. Not only does it give better functionality but you can run two schools with this environment and still save money.

The other thing of course is that how tech tools are used in schools. The grades won't change if they're used to support traditional teaching. The "one size fits all" kind of teaching is flawed and that won't change no matter what tools are used.
Fizzban 5th September 2011, 16:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by crazy95
i just finished my gcse and am starting collage tomorrow and at my high school we had laptops for some lessons that dont need them really like English
and to be honest the laptop where just terrible and slow.
if your the only one whos got 1 there always the idiot that says im on games or something stupid

it dosnt help it makes it worse

Laptops in English lessons..that is..it's just.. Part of learning English is writing.
GoodBytes 5th September 2011, 17:40 Quote
Forgetting about High School, and lower level.
I blame on professors. If anything, computers in a class room, including just a classroom, with a computer for the proof, REDUCES grades, and to too try and keep up with them, student gets laptops.
Where I am going with this?

Since computer in class room for professors appeared, instead of having professor doing nice interactive Power Point, showing complicated things step by step, with animation or simply complement the professor note... no professor just use the lazy way out. Put ALLL their personal notes in a stupid PDF, or jam PowerPoint slides with them, as if PowerPoint had a limit of 3 slides, and just read them in class, instead of using the board as well.

So here is me... seeing notes being fast read, and not only that.. already written, so no type to write them down, and understand them... no... you are set in photocopy mode, and just copy all the the teacher notes the fastest as you can. No time to understand, no time to even read them properly to ask question... PLUS, the class is boring as hell, so that does not help in anything.

So here me.. trying to learn something at Univeristy. I got myself a laptop. I use Office 2010 OneNote, so that:
-> I can type the notes faster, and actually have time to read/think about them, and ask questions.
-> Have my notes readable, as I don't rush in photocopy mode
-> For prof that aren't afraid of putting their notes in a secure website, I can import then in OneNote before class starts, and I can follow them in class, and complete them with additional notes.

Now, here is what it could help, and does help with:
-> If I had a tablet PC (ie: Latitude XT series, not iPad), I could use it for math, but I didn't have 3k, at the time, for one that works very well, and I won't fight with it (ignoring of course, that the 3k laptop (at the time) had little to no performance for the price tag), They are much cheaper and better these days.. but still too expensive.

-> I can search though my notes, at home, when studying, to help me provide myself, more time on note completion, understands, etc.. instead of searching page by page through unreadable notes

-> Record/Listen the segments of the class, which I judge at the time, important.

-> All notes sync to my desktop via web/network, where I have a better display, to work with my notes better.

-> Complete my notes from my readings, within my notes, and have freedom to adjust or do my notes the way I want them, with drawings.. you know as you can edit anything (push things down, insert picture or more notes, and adjust things). So that when come at the exam time, I can have everything nice and neat for review. And more.

Now I do notice that at University.. many students with laptop, don't know how to use it.
Some think that the class is a StarCraft 1 class, other thinks it's happening in their Facebook account. Well to bad for them. They usually barely pass the class or fails it.

Others use Word (oh boy), to write notes.. the attempt is good.. but Word with note taking.. I tried it... and no you can't do it. So they struggle, some give up and go back to pen and paper, some finds other, better software, like OneNote, or some other alternative. Some, uses different approach, which works well for them, so I am not complaining.

But I think, if professors weren't lazy ass people, and actually use the TOOLS provided to them properly, then class would be so much better. In my whole University experience, only 1 prof used the in-class computer properly... it was an intro to Java class (and for those who know nothing about programming), where the prof used the computer to show live examples. And some example would not even compile, or not work properly (on purpose), and asked around class, how to solve the problem, and applied what was suggested, and see the result (works, or does not). The class was fun, interactive, and class average was 80%, 0 failed.

I know it's just 1 class, and well, it's intro to programming, so it's not particularly difficult, but it shows what you can do, how it can be helpful.
Fizzban 5th September 2011, 17:57 Quote
Writing is better for having something sink in, rather than typing. Typing may give you time after, assuming the teacher allows you any before he moves on. But with writing you have to give more thought to what it is you are doing. I find with copy-typing all I absorb is a long list of words in the correct order, not the meaning those words hold. Writing gives the time to absorb what you write, rather than just a quick tap-tap-tap of keys.
freshsandwiches 5th September 2011, 19:03 Quote
As a teacher all I can say is that ICT is a great resource in a classroom. Like everything else though, you have to have a clear purpose for using it and making sure that whatever learning intention you are trying teach the pupils is achieved.

Teachers have to use a variety of methods, otherwise it's boring for the kids and you!
Bede 5th September 2011, 19:33 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by freshsandwiches
As a teacher all I can say is that ICT is a great resource in a classroom. Like everything else though, you have to have a clear purpose for using it and making sure that whatever learning intention you are trying teach the pupils is achieved.

Teachers have to use a variety of methods, otherwise it's boring for the kids and you!

The only time IT was ever relevant for my learning was when it was used to project a film onto the whiteboard. None of my teachers needed it, none of the teachers I know need it.
GoodBytes 5th September 2011, 20:20 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bede
The only time IT was ever relevant for my learning was when it was used to project a film onto the whiteboard. None of my teachers needed it, none of the teachers I know need it.

Well that is your experience.
It's because your proof don't know how to use it. Computers in a class room, isn't meant to change education process, or replace. It is mean't for complimenting the system, WHEN USED PROPERLY. Kinda like those overhead projectors... like these:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/72/OHP-sch.JPG/300px-OHP-sch.JPG

Some proof uses it properly, like draw stuff on something to explain better or show pictures, graph and what not...
others shows all their notes that could have been simply talked in class, or written on the board. Some use large font to make it visible.. some write using a large market in what looks like font 8 if it was on the computer, and you can't read anything.
SMIFFYDUDE 5th September 2011, 21:17 Quote
(Cut + Paste) Miss, i've done!
Bakes 6th September 2011, 12:28 Quote
I use a laptop in school. This is because I can't write fast enough (in terms of exam board rules) for A level. It's taken my typing speed up from 12 words per minute to 80-90. I'd say my laptop's been a massive change - but only because I a) bought the laptop myself and b) use it properly.

Much of what's being taught (especially to do with computers) is not education - it's training. Education is what students need - so they understand what they're doing.

Computer education and computer training - replace computer with sex and then decide which you'd prefer your kids to get.
Bede 6th September 2011, 15:01 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by GoodBytes
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bede
The only time IT was ever relevant for my learning was when it was used to project a film onto the whiteboard. None of my teachers needed it, none of the teachers I know need it.

Well that is your experience.
It's because your proof don't know how to use it. Computers in a class room, isn't meant to change education process, or replace. It is mean't for complimenting the system, WHEN USED PROPERLY. Kinda like those overhead projectors... like these:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/72/OHP-sch.JPG/300px-OHP-sch.JPG

Some proof uses it properly, like draw stuff on something to explain better or show pictures, graph and what not...
others shows all their notes that could have been simply talked in class, or written on the board. Some use large font to make it visible.. some write using a large market in what looks like font 8 if it was on the computer, and you can't read anything.

Yeah, I definitely over-exaggerated there, my bad. I just worry that too many teachers see a powerpoint as an adequate replacement for a lesson. I had a Greek teacher who used tech very well, using a Wacom tablet to highlight words and passages of text on the projector. He was 1/1000 though, having bought the tablet himself. Most people have the same understanding of technology and its potentials as our mothers - it simply isn't worth encouraging the creep of computers into every lesson.

Looking back at this article - which focuses on laptops in classrooms - I see we have gone a little off message. Simply put, laptops should be there for people with dyslexia (or broken wrist etc) serious enough to merit it, no one else.
freshsandwiches 6th September 2011, 15:34 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bede
The only time IT was ever relevant for my learning was when it was used to project a film onto the whiteboard. None of my teachers needed it, none of the teachers I know need it.

You could argue that teachers don't need anything but the ability to stand there and talk. Sure people will will learn, but not all of them. That is because we all learn in different ways. I have a responsibility to engage all my pupils and their particular learning styles. My main aim is to get pupils thinking, discussing, and ultimately explaining things to each other to facilitate deeper learning. If ICT helps me do that. I use it.

I could talk about all sorts of initiatives like active learning, assessment is for learning, and so on but it's unnecessary . ICT isn't the sole way of delivering lessons in today's classrooms, used properly it complements strategies already in place. Which is a good thing.
ADJB 6th September 2011, 20:27 Quote
"Did you have access to anything more exotic than a PC at school?"

When I was at school there was one computer. We had made it ourselves in an after school special interest group and when it was finished it had eight lights on the front as a read out. Think something like an Altair.

We might not have been like future generations who are experts on word processors and spreadsheets but we knew more about computers and how they actually worked than anybody. We had to learn to program using toggle switches, non of this Visual XXXXX rubbish.

I still make all my machines today but putting together today's Lego kits isn't half as much fun as learning to use a soldering iron before you can start .

Yes, I wear my "Old Fart" badge with pride.
supermonkey 6th September 2011, 22:15 Quote
When I reached 5th grade, we got to go to the computer lab once per week. We had to carry our floppy disks down the hall ("Keep it in the paper cover, kids, and always hold it by the paper label, or static will erase the contents!"). We learned simple things such as using BASIC to make a message appear, or drawing a simple picture using coordinates and color codes. At the end of the hour we got to play Oregon Trail for a few minutes.

In 6th grade, we learned basic keyboarding on typewriters. We all had to type along to the beat of polka music, and at the time I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard. Who knew that in time I would learn to appreciate good German music? In 7th grade we had a computer literacy course, which again featured simple BASIC commands and Oregon Trail.

In high school we had to take an introductory business computer applications class, in which we learned how to create and manage simple databases, create spreadsheets, and use word processors.

That was the extent of my exposure to computers in school. At the end of the computer hour we all walked back to our regular classrooms and learned things like long division and reading comprehension. I think those lessons turned out to be far more useful.
thehippoz 6th September 2011, 22:35 Quote
they need to hire more teachers instead of investing in more technology.. it doesn't make sense to have one teacher teaching 40 students when you could cut that in two by hiring another teacher instead of laptops or even the extra computer classes in elementary

now in high school.. if there's an elective for computers then yeah- put the computers in those classes.. same for college but by then you can afford your own.. trouble is we have idiots making the rules

the kids need basic skills before middle school.. english, math, science.. they don't need to know how to make a facebook page
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