Technology in the classroom (!)(?)

Hoping to prompt some discussion, I’d like to theme this post around the use and abuse of technology in the classroom. Coming in to the GK-12 program, without any in-classroom experience at the middle school level, I was all for using as much technology to teach kids as possible. All my experiences with classroom staples such as laptops, Powerpoint, and projector screens have been positive; both in teaching undergraduates at the university and in facilitating my own learning. However, my classroom experiences at Central Middle are beginning to call my ‘technology-faith’ into doubt.

Let’s take this past week as an example. Thursday I observed 7th graders taking the MAP Science test for the first time in the district. District testing, for both checkpoints and MAP tests, is done on personal laptop computers that automatically calculate student scores. Sure sounds easier than the waste and time-intensive scoring of paper-testing, right? Nope-It was chaotic and exasperating. Students had to log-in through various clients and portals to access the exam (avg. class time = 15 minutes), with each student’s access controlled remotely by a teacher laptop. Once the exam was running, an average of 7 computers per class would freeze up, requiring exam resetting by the instructor (avg. time to fix one computer = 5 minutes). Exam resetting took a minimum of 10 operators and the manipulation of both the instructor and student laptops. One unfortunate incident caused a student to loose her electronic test-taking privileges for the entire day.

To be fair, I realize that the problems we encountered in test-taking were due to software, networking, and user error but I wonder how often technology actually slows learning progress in districts/classrooms that 1) can not afford quality equipment, 2) do not staff competent IT who prevent technology breakdown, and 3) do not provide instructors and students with enough training to smoothly operate technology tasks? (Note: My intent is not to call KCK schools out for this, I’m merely using my school as a contrast to the university with all its IT folk and expensive equipment).

What do you think of the use of technology in classrooms? Are the problems with technology that we experience in K-12 schools due to lack of autonomy in individual classrooms (e.g. district-wide mandated laptop testing?). Certainly technology is a critical component to classroom learning, but in what cases does it fail and what can we do about it?

 

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About Sarah Roels

I'm a former Ph.D. student at the University of Kansas in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department. I study mating system evolution in plants, using the model system Mimulus. I now work at Michigan State University as their GK-12 project manager.
This entry was posted in 2011-2012 GK12, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Technology in the classroom (!)(?)

  1. benson3 says:

    I think the third time I visited my school last semester I came upon the exact same situation during the checkpoint testing. They students were taken downstairs to the computer, but there weren’t enough working computers, so we had to go get some laptops. Then the login information didn’t work on the different computers. And there was no computer “tech” person around to help, I had to fiddle around with it until I figured it out and then go around to everyone’s computer and log them on. This was a whole 25 minutes wasted out of 40 minutes to take the test! It was like that for every class. I think for this test taking portion, paper and pencil would be worth it, because at least the students get the full 42 minutes.

    In my classroom we don’t have computer hookups, so I haven’t had the ability to really work with them. But i feel like it would be chaotic with it, and I would also be stressing about the students breaking things because they love breaking and stealing everything else out of the classroom.

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