edutech
It would be easier to create art with lasers

Right now, teaching is a carpenter with a hacksaw, wearing a hood, cutting away at a huge block of wood, while imagining the Venus de Milo.

What it could be: a laser-like robot-enhanced craftsmen’s hand tracing a 3-D image of each and every student’s internal thought processes.

Efforts to boost surgical teaching and student learning get mussed up by too much money spent and not enough good practice brought into schools that want to implement laptop schemes. There’s no evidence launching pad.

And there won’t be until something changes. Most failed laptop schemes are fails because the focus in studies about them doesn’t even rest on implementation, say a couple of researchers.

Mark Weston and Alan Bain suggest that studies on laptop effectiveness need to be revamped so that researchers can see where good implementation practice enhances student laptop use.

[T]he results from 1:1 efforts do not match the expectations of their advocates. However, Cuban’s other assertion – innovative teaching as the best source for sustainable and scalable achievement gains – exposes a more disconcerting naked-truth about educational change, innovation, and reform. Most efforts to improve education, as many indicate, fail to effect teaching, learning, and achievement across schools, districts, and states.

So you spend a lot of money to deliver laptops and boost student learning and best teaching practices, but fizzle…. pop. The intended users — learners and teachers — are frustrated and left out of the picture.

The two researchers say this is because of two things: studies that analyze the effectiveness of such campaigns to improve teaching and learning don’t focus on implementation, so nobody is paying attention to designing the environment and implementation correctly to avoid wasting money and creating gaps in coverage and use.

The second problem is that teaching practices largely remain non-collaborative across classes, throughout schools and certainly between schools and districts. Schools, classes and teacher practices, generally speaking, remain segmented and isolated, with little or no use of data to focus any implementation of technology, or study what becomes of such efforts at standardization.

In a riff on the can’t see the forest for the trees approach, the work of teachers and students is lost deep in the forest gloom. We haven’t even traveled in there yet. And there is no map. Nobody has made one.

So where is the opportunity? With the right focus teaching and technology can merge, so that the focus rests not on the incompatibility between education and technology, but in how effective technology makes teaching, accelerating student learning.

When technology enables, empowers, and accelerates a profession’s core transactions, the distinctions between computers and professional practice evaporate. For instance, when a surgeon uses an arthroscope to trim a cartilage (Johnson & Pedowitz, 2007), a structural engineer uses computer-assisted design software to simulate the stresses on a bridge (Yeomans, 2009), or a sales manager uses customer-relations-management software to predict future inventory needs (Baltzen & Phillips, 2009), they do not think about technology. Each one thinks about her or his professional transaction.

It sounds a little like what we’ve said before. Put more tools in the hands of teachers, learners and families. Collect data. There needs to be a substantial data platform, end to end, to create evidence that would make any technology scheme work. Or, it would increase the likelihood that technology schemes invented to enhance learning would start first in a primordial ooze of data.

We’ve got a long way to go, but there are more companies than before trying to boost data use and learning.

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