from the Director's Desk

Musings about school library media and instructional technology programs from NCDPI's Instructional Technology Divison.  Subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

According to this morning's News and Observer (, the US Department of Education released a study yesterday that states: "Educational software, a $2 billion-a-year industry that has become the darling of school systems across the country, has no significant effect on student performance, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Education. The long-awaited report amounts to a rebuke of educational technology, a business whose growth has been spurred by schools desperate to meet the testing mandates of President Bush's No Child Left Behind law." ( )

Let's be frank. This is not new information. The researchers are looking at Math and Reading drill and practice programs, not authentic uses of technology that help students become 21st Century life-long learners. Authentic technology skills include using the tools that are and will be a part of their lives. Drill and practice programs, no matter how sophisticated, will never give students authentic learning experiences. They only attempt to prepare them for 20th Century multiple-choice tests--our present, not their future.

Furthermore, research has always warned teachers that as soon as students begin to progress on these programs, they should be moved to the types of technology tools and programs that promote higher order thinking, problem-solving skills, and more authentic learning experiences. In truth, higher level students' test scores often slide when they are put on these drill and practice programs.

Yes, technology can make a difference in teaching and learning. Even drill and practice programs have their place in the academic environment. After all, core skills are essential for both 20th Century and 21st Century learning, and we're still testing students primarily in this environment. But the collaborative, problem-based teaching and learning environment that emphasizes authentic tasks that require higher order thinking skills--those things that technology resources allow us to embrace--WILL make a difference.

And it just makes good sense. Technology resources are the tools that adults use daily. Why would we want our students educated any differently than we work?