Where should the blame lay?
I walked into my pod office to quickly drop of my lunch dishes before my next group of students walked into the room. A colleague had walked into the office just before me. He sat down and began to talk about what he just “stirred up.” To be fair, I only had a moment and I didn’t stay for the entire conversation, but I heard enough to become concerned. Yes, it bothered me, and yes, I am concerned.
What my colleague was talking about was our building’s drop in standardized test scores – across the board. Yes, that’s concerning for a number of reasons: the drop itself, what this means for our school accountability-wise, statistics in general, the general discussion regarding standardized tests, and where he is placing the blame. My colleague is placing the blame for our drop in scores on what he calls “too much time spent programming” and not reading and writing.
What he is referring to is the use of tech tools in the building and more specifically wikis.
Wow. In my brief moments in the office, I was able to add that there has been discussion about this one particular class of students since before we ever received them as students. That is something within the scores that really needs to be looked at – not just one 10th grade class to another, but this 10th grade class longitudinally. Blaming tech, and those teachers that i]employ tech tools, however, isn’t the answer and it was difficult to hear.
I’m hoping to use this as an aha moment in my own technology trainings: technology should be tools seamlessly integrated into the educational experience, they are not toys and not the product.
It does take some initial time to train students in how to use a tool, but that’s not programming. At one point it took time to teach students how to use a word processing program, but now it is second nature to most of them. Technology tools can be like that as well: give them the proper training, and students will be able to use those tools in ways that we may not be able to imagine.
Using technology tools is not a replacement for reading and writing. Using technology tools just brings students to the information faster and allows them to collaborate in ways that they weren’t able to at an earlier point. Using technology tools in the classroom is teaching them how to approach the workforce that they will be walking into. They key is to be using them as tools, seamlessly integrated into the instructional environment, ones that foster skills development.
Standardized testing may or may not be catching up to 21st Century learning and workforce, but that’s a different discussion entirely.