August 25th, 2006

priate fish

Just so...

Just so you don't think that we never have any fun in Hartford, here are two images showing a coworker and me addressing ourselves to the "hidden" security camera in our main storage room.

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This may sound a little odd coming from me, but I have a couple of points to lay out about technology in the classroom.
  • Children under age eight should not use computers. The only computer in K-3 classrooms should be sitting on the teacher's desk.
  • The model of scattering a few (two to six) PCs in every classroom is dumb. It's a waste of resources and make the classroom harder to manage. [1]
  • Student computers should either be in the library, in computer labs, or on laptop carts. In the latter two cases, there should be one computer per student, or they shouldn't be there.
  • Providing Internet access to the classroom (even the filtered Internet mandated by law) is a bust. It has nothing to do with academic success, and a lot to do with distraction and wasted time. [2]
  • The goal should be for every teacher to have a computer, before the first student gets one; make the teacher more effective and you make everything more effective.
Every year, in late summer, we cram hundreds of new PCs into schools. My cablers pull miles of new cable. My crew installs piles of switches and scores of wireless access points. This exercise is repeated in thousands of school districts across the nation and across the world. I have this unshakable feeling that we're wasting a hell of a lot of money and not doing the students very much good.

ETA: In response to a comment from katymulvey I have detailed why I think that kids shouldn't have classroom computers before the third grade.

[1] Laboratories and shop rooms where computers are there to fill a specific function, such as running scientific instruments are a fine exception. Throwing four PCs in the corner of every room because "technology is good" isn't.

[2] I did some research a while back looking at elementary school Internet use rates vs. Connecticut Master Test (CMT) scores here in Hartford. There wasn't one. Or, more precisely, there was a very interesting one. Schools with the very highest and schools with the very lowest rates of Internet use had the best scores. Schools muddling along in the middle of the pack had the worst scores. This tells me that conventional tech-free teaching works just fine, and that there are a few who can teach really well by using the hell out of technology. But that bathtub-shaped curve was completely overshadowed a far stronger determiner of academic success. When I plotted CMT scores vs. the percentage of students in the school who were eligible for free or reduced-price hot lunch, the two lines moved in near lock-step.
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