Just giving people devices has a really horrible track record. You really have to change the curriculum and the teacher. And it’s never going to work on a device where you don’t have a keyboard-type input. Students aren’t there just to read things. They’re actually supposed to be able to write and communicate. And so it’s going to be more in the PC realm—it’s going to be a low-cost PC that lets them be highly interactive.
I agree with the first part of his statement because the curriculum and pedogy need to change to make any technology worthwhile. However, he is wrong about the need for keyboards. My middle school students have done complex work on our iPod Touches, such as creating documents that use desktop publishing skills involving typing, creating charts and inserting images. Due to Apple’s intuitive software design, students are quickly able to get past the lack of hardware keyboard. Moreover, they don’t necessarily see the lack of keyboard of as a limitation. Since a third of their lives have been dominated by touch devices, they don’t see keyboards as a prerequisite for using a computer.
This finding doesn’t surprise me, but I also don’t think it is a problem. I have long thought that standardized tests focus on a very narrow range of skills, not including 21st century skills such as applying technology to solve problems. Thus, technology use in schools has great value beyond teaching just basic skills. The article addresses this as well, quoting Karen Cator, Director of the Office of Educational Technology:
“In places where we’ve had a large implementing of technology and scores are flat, I see that as great,” she said. “Test scores are the same, but look at all the other things students are doing: learning to use the Internet to research, learning to organize their work, learning to use professional writing tools, learning to collaborate with others.”
The article also explores other factors affecting student performance in fair detail, such as economic factors and the difficulty of doing long-term studies of student performance related to technology.
Steven Frank, the co-founder of Panic Software, creators of Transmit, my favorite ftp program, recently published an ebook titled How to Count: Programming for Mere Mortals, Vol. 1. I highly recommend buying a copy as unprotected pdf or epub for ¢299. While there are many introductory articles available for free that explain how to count in binary, this book quickly moves on to more advanced topics such as hexadecimal, signed integers and floats.
I love this new iPad 2 commercial. From my experience with iPods in the classroom, getting technology out of the way increases time on educational tasks. My students don’t spend ten minutes watching the computers login, then another 30 seconds for an application to launch. Instead, they get right to work with a device that is barely noticeable in a room full of learning.
Writing for Slate.com, Linda Perlstein recently proposed the Laura Ingalls test. Imagine if this prairie girl were to time travel to the present day and consider how she would respond to modern-day technology. If you brought her to an Apple Store or handed her a cell phone, she wouldn’t know what to make of it. Yet, if you brought her to the nearest 5th grade classroom, she would immediately recognize it as a school, something nearly unchanged from her time. Perlstein then asks her readers to describe the ideal modern-day classroom. Their ideas are recorded as comments to her post.