Stats in the other Direction

Here’s another follow up to the dreaded article in the New York Times about a school district in Arizona that has had declining test scores in spite of significant spending on technology.

An article in the Washington Post on October 2 about the adoption of online textbooks in a Fairfax County, VA school district rehashed all the negative things about online textbooks and digital learning. These issues have merit, such as access for all students. The district is finding some creative ways to overcome that challenge.

Finally, the positive reasons for moving to digital texts are explored, including this quote from the Assistant Superintendent, Peter Noonan:

“Many of our kids — if not all of our kids — are coming to us as digital natives,” Noonan said. “We should really allow our students to learn the way they live outside of school.”

Other compelling reasons are cost, ability to have up-to-date material, and one I really appreciate – no more heavy textbooks to lug around!

Adds history teacher Mark Stevens,

Those are helpful features, Stevens said, but the online books won’t revolutionize teaching by themselves. They’re only textbooks, after all — “just one tool,” he said, “not the magic bullet.”

Test data from Mooresville High School shows significant improvement since the introduction of a 1:1 program.

According to the earlier New York Times article, increasing technology is not leading to increasing test scores. (OK, of course the argument is there if test scores are in any way an appropriate measure of learning, but for the sake of this post, I am accepting it – a bit.) Yet, this Washington Post article links to a report from a school district in Mooresville City, NC, that has demonstrated significant test gains after thoughtful introduction of a 1:1 program.

These gains are impressive. Their 1:1 program likely contributed to the gains, but also consider these quotes about the learning philosophy in the district:

  • In several classrooms, I couldn’t tell where the front of the classroom was… The whole space was a learning environment, and the technology was just part of the infrastructure. (page 3)
  • …you’ll find that Mooresville isn’t just passing out laptops — it’s changing the very dynamics of the classroom… Teachers say it fundamentally has changed the way they do their jobs… Now students direct much of their own learning… In such an environment, teachers must learn to “trust kids like you never have before,” says Todd Wirt, principal of Mooresville High School. “The scary thing is giving up control.”
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