Another dot in the blogosphere?

Ranting at rants

Posted on: November 30, 2011

Barely a month goes by without a blogger or a journalist saying that we should reconsider providing students with technology because it does not improve test scores. These reports might take the form of research reviews or newsworthy articles [example].

But let us call a spade a spade. Many of those blog entries and news articles are thinly disguised rants. And this is my rant against those rants.

Of course technology alone will not improve test scores! Technology alone cannot change anything other than lightening wallets and thinning budgets. There are so many things that improve test scores: Immediate feedback, good students, good teachers, drill and practice, and formulaic tuition to name a few.

Another reason why technology does not increase test scores is because we are measuring the effectiveness of a new intervention with an old method.

Testing, particularly standardized testing, was invented and implemented in the industrial age. We have already moved on to the age of information and interaction but the metric has not adapted fast enough or changed much.

Testing as we know now does not measure information or media literacy. It does not measure current forms of online collaboration and creation. Testing does not measure emergent social value systems.

So I agree that technology alone is not likely to improve test scores. After all, Facebook, Twitter, Google Docs and mobile devices were not created with test scores in mind. But that is not a good enough reason to exclude them from classrooms.

Educators who leverage on progressive technology-mediated pedagogies may or may not increase test scores. But they will use the tools and hopefully the strategies that are relevant to the generation they are nurturing.

Do I have any evidence that these technologies are helping them at all? No, not really. Not when all we have at the moment are tests and debates about tests.

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