Ignore Shiny Objects

Sep 16, 2013 by

…But the anecdotal evidence suggests that Americans waste an extraordinary amount of tax money on high-tech toys for teachers and students, most of which have no proven learning value whatsoever….“In most of the highest-performing systems, technology is remarkably absent from classrooms.”
 
ignore shiny objects 
 
Old-school can be good school. Eric’s high school in Busan, South Korea, had austere classrooms with bare-bones computer labs. Out front, kids played soccer on a dirt field. From certain angles, the place looked like an American school from the 1950s. Most of Kim’s classrooms in Finland looked the same way: rows of desks in front of a simple chalkboard or an old-fashioned white board, the kind that was not connected to anything but the wall. 
 
Tom’s school in Poland didn’t even have a cafeteria, let alone a state-of-the-art theater, like his public school back home in Pennsylvania. In his American school, every classroom had an interactive white board, the kind that had become ubiquitous in so many American schools. (In fact, when I visited Tom’s American high school in 2012, these boards were already being swapped for next-generation replacements.) None of the classrooms in his Polish school had interactive white boards. 
 
Little data exists to compare investments in technology across countries, unfortunately. But the anecdotal evidence suggests that Americans waste an extraordinary amount of tax money on high-tech toys for teachers and students, most of which have no proven learning value whatsoever. As in all other industries, computers are most helpful when they save time or money, by helping to sort out what kids know and who needs help. Conversely, giving kids expensive, individual wireless clickers so that they can vote in class would be unthinkable in most countries worldwide. (In most of the world, kids just raise their hands and that works out fine.) 
 
“In most of the highest-performing systems, technology is remarkably absent from classrooms,” Andreas Schleicher, the OECD international education guru, told me. “I have no explanation why that is the case, but it does seem that those systems place their efforts primarily on pedagogical practice rather than digital gadgets.” In the survey conducted for this book, seven out of ten international and American exchange students agreed that U.S. schools had more technology. Not one American student surveyed said there was significantly less technology in U.S. schools. The smartest countries prioritize teacher pay and equity (channeling more resources to the neediest students). When looking for a world-class education, remember that people always matter more than props.
 
 
Ripley, Amanda (2013-08-13). 
The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way (pp. 214-215). 
Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.
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