Today's Minneapolis StarTribune (May 4, 2006) had a very interesting article about Minnesota ranking at the bottom of states in its use of technology in education. See "State's education tech grade dips to a D." From the article:
But the report [Education Week] says nothing about a link between technology and student achievement. In fact, the report's authors acknowledge that many of the lowest-scoring states on this list have some of the highest student test scores.
Yes, boy and girls, that seems to be correct. Want better test scores? Use less technology. At least in Minnesota where, despite our failing grades in technology, we still manage to place among the top 2-3 states in nearly any measure of student achievement.
A tech director in the state, having read this, quickly asked:
Any thoughts on the test score issue?
Dr. Scott McLeod at the University of Minnesota quickly responded (e-mail used here with his permission):
On the whole, I agree with all of Scott's observations and would add a couple of my own.
You mean as an excuse for not needing more tech? Sure, here are a few:
- We have lots of research and practical evidence that technology, when used WELL in classrooms, can have positive effects on achievement. Unfortunately, this is still the exception rather than the rule - we've been tinkering around the margins.
- We also know that intelligent, strategic investments in administrative technologies can help teachers, administrators, and other district personnel be more efficient and effective in terms of time, cost, impact, reach, etc.
- Minnesota's coasting on its relatively high standard of living, low levels of minority/poverty/ELL kids, multitude of small schools/districts, and few large urban school systems. There's nothing magic happening in Minnesota schools compared to other places - we haven't discovered the "silver bullet."
- Our society is getting more technological, not less. Schools are one of the last domains in which day-to-day activity has not been substantially transformed by technology.
- All of this is a failure of leadership, at multiple levels.
Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D.
University of Minnesota
- To me technology use has NEVER been about increasing test scores - at least in our district. We've always seen it as a tool to help teach kids better information literacy/problem solving/HOTS skills. The only place where we've been using tech for the purpose of raising test performance is with our very low performing kids, especially ELL.
- I've always thought that we "leaders" look in the wrong direction when looking for technology models. We've traditionally (at least when writing our state tech plan) looked at high tech use states NOT high educationally performing states - which seems to me ironic. Why would we look to Kentucky, for example, as a model plan, when on almost every indicator of school success/student performance it does worse than Minnesota? It's not about who has the most tech toys winning; it's about who has the best prepared students. For me, the most worrisome thing about the Strib article is than MN doesn't have an tech/info lit skills curriculum.
- Of course there may be another way to interpret this study as well. In the mid '80's a pundit at the federal Department of Education, if I remember correctly, infamously predicted that eventually the best schools will be the ones that provide the most human teaching; the poorest schools will increasingly rely on the economical technologies.
Are we seeing this prediction come true?
(A bit coincidental that I addressed this same topic in a backward sort of fashion in this blog yesterday, remarking/complaining that it is tough getting teachers to try new approaches with technology when, as measured by test scores, teachers' traditional methods are quite successful.)