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"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela

Classroom Technology: Research Increasingly Shows No Measureable Improvement
By Carole Hornsby Haynes  |  February 20, 2017  Texas Insider

In 1996 the Telecommunications Act was enacted to provide subsidies for schools to access broadband service through the Schools and Libraries program, also known as the E-rate program.  After spending more than $40 billion of taxpayers’ money, the program is just another big government fiasco.

American K-12 education is spending nearly $5 billion annually on technology, while cutting budgets and laying off teachers.  Even though school reformers want to believe that digitized learning has the potential to revolutionize education, research is piling up that technology does not lead to measureable improvements in student achievement, but rather is depressing it.  

Texas leaders are among those ignoring the massive amount of evidence on educational technology and its effect on children, listening instead to those who profit handsomely from edtech.  The taxpayers have no voice in the matter yet are being saddled with the cost.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott wants all of the state’s 5.2 million students to have access to broadband internet by 2018.  Currently about 1.5 million do not have access.

In March 2016, Governor Abbott and Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced that Texas will partner with Education Superhighway to launch the Texas Classroom Connectivity Initiative.  

Education Superhighway is a national non-profit company working with 42 states to upgrade internet access.  According to the company’s website, “Our children are to learn skills for tomorrow with dial-up speeds of the past…High-speed broadband is key to restoring our educational standing.  Our schools now rank 27th in math, 17th in reading, 20th in science, and 16th in technological readiness compared to other developed nations. ….We must leverage technology to transform education.”

That technology does not increase student test scores is borne out by the 2015 study of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), spanning 31 nations and regions.  The study found lower scores on reading and math tests for students with classroom computer access.

Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) scores for the 2014-2015 exams were lower for students who took the exams via computers than those who used paper and pencil. The pattern was most pronounced in English/language arts and middle- and upper-grades math.

At the higher education level, the 2016 study of the United States Military Academy’s economic students reported lower test scores for those using classroom computers.

During his promotion of ConnectEd in 2013, President Obama cited a Mooresville, North Carolina school district as a success story, stating that student achievement soared after computer facilities were upgraded. He then proposed expanding the E-Rate budget from $2.25 billion to $4 billion annually.

Obama’s remark prompted an E-rate study by Clemson and Georgetown Universities.  The researchers gathered data from all North Carolina public schools from 2000 to 2013 and analyzed if and how SAT scores in math and verbal reasoning changed as schools received E-Rate funding. Researcher Dr. Thomas Hazlett reported that “the more E-Rate funding a school received, the worse its students performed.”

Problems created by digital devices are being widely reported at all levels of education -- distractions, lower comprehension, shallow reading, and emotionally disconnected students.  Some teachers are now banning the use of computers in their classrooms.  

The 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) throws even more taxpayer money at school technology programs through grants for such programs as “Student Support and Academic Enhancement.”

Texas is currently implementing ESSA, which focuses primarily on social emotional learning and its assessment rather than academic learning. ESSA calls for use of computer adaptive assessments, a highly useful tool in shaping mindsets of children with pseudo-psychoanalysis and Pavlovian training of students. Computers are being used to brain map, probing how a child’s brain works so learning can be “personalized” --  code word for digital learning.  The goal of mapping is more difficult if a student is reading books and writing on paper.  

A major reason for the opting out of computerized tests across the nation is the data mining of highly personal information.

Technology companies are making billions from the sale of technology products to schools.   They promote laying off teachers so more money will be available for technology, ignoring the volume of research that shows how critical teachers are for student learning.  Ignored, too, is the high cost of building the infrastructure and maintaining and upgrading equipment.

As a former teacher, I agree wholeheartedly with Google Executive Alan Eagle who told the New York Times, “I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school…The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that's ridiculous.”

Good teachers don’t require fancy tech devices to impart a solid academic education. Good teachers can teach anywhere and with no more than a chalkboard or even pencil and paper…even without textbooks.

Progressives advocate for equal outcomes and are looking for a magic bullet to achieve what will never be achieved. Humans are uniquely different and will achieve at different levels in life…always and always.

The problems in public education are far too complex to be covered here but many have been created by the federal government’s policies.  No amount of money thrown down the technology rat hole is going to solve those problems. But that is a topic for another day.

For now, our Texas leaders need to get off the E-rate bandwagon and spend that money in higher pay for outstanding teachers.

What You Can Do:  Call Governor Abbott  (512) 463-2000     Texas House     Texas Senate  
•    Tell your Texas elected officials you want the federal E-rate program eliminated

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