Attending a 1-2-1 conference in Mumbai and the question on everyone's lips: Does all this increased technology have an impact on student learning? If it does, how do we know? How do we measure it?

Tags: education, laptops

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Great question. Technology gives students and teachers access to so much more information than back in pre-technology education days, so learning will be impacted for the better.
I would rephrase slightly and say, "...so learning should be impacted for the better." At our faculty meeting teachers talked about the distraction of so much information, the limited ability of students to weed out the valid from the unverifiable, and how many skills we teach kids that are not necessarily information dependent (math skills fall under this umbrella.) So while I essentially agree with you Anne, there are devil's advocates out there who are saying, "prove it!"
It is now proven that technology makes learning and teaching more effective and interesting..it has a +ve effect on the learning behaviour and psychology of the student learners.Laptops ofcourse have revolutionised the learning environment and each student can access the library or classrrom at times through his laptop from any part of the campus.Surely laptops enhance the information retrival as well as students learning.
I am using a Smart Interactive Whiteboard in my second grade classroom. After twenty-five years of teaching with my voice, posters, and a piece of chalk, I can tell you the children are definitely more engaged. They are coming from homes full of technology into my classroom. I might as well meet them where they are.
From personal observation, I'd venture to say that that there is no necessarily positive impact of technology on student learning. There is no necessary negative impact either. What is true, in my classrooms at least, is that students are general much more highly engaged with the technology - but not necessarily engaged for learning..The teaching challenges are in the class environment being learning-focused, the framing and understanding of learning tasks (however that's done) to be engaging tasks, and the ability of students to use the provided technology in learning-oriented ways. If we can just get those three dimensions maximised, then the measures we used to use of student learning we will be able to use in technology-rich settings. Until we get our learning dimensions maximised, we'll never know.

Mind you, it's the same in ancient classroom styles. Disconnected students doodle on their paper, draw cartoons of the teacher - and other things! - write notes to each other, throw things, play paper-based games - noughts-and-crosses, 'paddocks' etc. Until there's prior engagement, the technology sits idle, or is turned to amusement - whether it's as complex as ICT, or as simple as pen and paper!
Ian - I will be using your reply at our next faculty meeting because I think you nailed it... It isn't the technology - it's the quality of the teaching which I believe can be narrowed down to the quality of questions that are asked that makes the biggest difference in student learning. I'm trying to get to the how assessing kids will be different as well once kids have access to worldwide information.
Thanks for this thoughtful addition to the conversation - some very good insights!
Sounds a bit like asking if all this increase in using books are good for learning in the classroom ... during the middle ages. "Well they help some people learn, but most saddle bag books are 'distracting' novels. What good are they if most serfs aren't literate? Those 'codex books' are just too fancy and expensive to catch on. They distract from real learning, about the farm, selling face-to-face, and royal intrigue."

Yet it seems books helped create the discipline of science since detailed experiments could be more accurately recorded, transmitted, and duplicated than oral tradition and manuscripts alone could. 'Search' and 'the web' may be random today, but as they help students find the "social asteroids" about to hit their lives from anywhere in this 'flattening earth', their value will become known.

Eventually ... math problems will be based on the current day's unemployment figures, practice formulas will be based on Nobel prize winners simulations of the human condition, and students will be expected to solve real world problems for peoples somewhere/anywhere in the world in order to get a good grade, and people all over the world will begin merging simulations of their value system and world observations to see what works.... Eventually. But the 'new book' needs to be ubiquitous before the 'new uses' for learning are found. Students won't study politics. They'll play at it, and maybe discover that, perhaps, it shouldn't be like making sausages after all. :) New technology probably will redefine what learning means, as it has through the centuries. "We've not seen anything yet."
Already, cell phones are beginning to lift millions out of poverty in ways never expected, teaching self-learners outside the classroom setting about markets, extended social networking, and a new perspective of their place in the world. Such a thing was not thought that it needed to be taught or measured.

In the middle ages, some scholars (accurately) believed that the popular use of books would destroy the skill of great feats of memory, such as reciting great epic poems, knowing all the names and habits of the vastly diverse flora and fauna around oneself, and knowing long genealogies and one's place in them. Books brought trade-offs in learning. Such things one couldn't begin imagine they needed to be measured at the time they were happening.
Darius - you've thought about this question before, judging from your answer. I trust the analogies from the past as well, and know the stories of fear about the printing press. I think the expression you used which I liked best is "trade-offs in learning." There will be trade-offs no doubt. Kids no longer know how to find the square root of a number or their mother's phone numbers or how to alphabetize - but the can create a blog to express their feelings or find directions to Bangor, Maine in a heartbeat. Trade-offs which we hope are standing on the shoulders of giants - and not mired in self-absorption. Thanks very much for the wisdom shared here - it may be the best example of what is in store: the ability to ask the great beyond what we're unsure about and receive a thoughtful answer. Thank you.
I believe the availability of technology offers the possibility of choice. Having laptops gives flexibility as you can work in your classrooms rather than book into a lab. However the question of whether it impacts student learning depends on what you use it for. If its nothing but used as a wordprocessor to give you a pretty finished product, then its an expensive tool to use. however if its used as a tool to expand on collaboration and develop conversation to deepen thinking and writing and sharing, then its a different story. It starts with clarifying your learning intentions and setting criteria and identifying evidence to show. Its not the tool but effective teaching practices that will impact learning.
I believe you hammered this. The follow-up question to your response would be - what are the "new" effective teaching practices that will impact learning? What are the right questions to ask? How will our assessing of student learning and our expectation of student learning change? And I suppose the task becomes not what will we teach them, but how will we teach them to be independent learners?
It's also not "what will we teach them?" but "what did they learn?" I watched a lesson that was supposed to be teaching students the concept of "myth". They were to create their own using Photo Story. They learned how to use Photo Story well! They presented original, funny and intriguing stories about friendships, frustrations and love. They didn't get the concept of "myth" however.

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