Wiring classrooms for Internet access does not enhance learning?

Feb 02

I was about to blog about this article, but Clay beat me to it. I hate it when really smart people write exactly what I was going to write first. ;)

I’ll simply respond to the statement,

Wiring classrooms for Internet access does not enhance learning.

This is where these studies and reports lose any credibility. What this statement suggests is that we’d be better off not having internet access in schools since it’s apparently of no value.  This statement is made when talking about students ability to recall a lecture. The words “recall” and “lecture” tells you all you need to know about the bias towards instructional strategies and teacher driven pedagogy in the study.  This reminds me of the work of Larry Cuban who determined that technology in itself does not improve learning. We get that. Technology is an amplifier of good teaching. A skilled teacher is what’s required. I just figured we’ve moved past that issue. Apparently not everyone has.

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  • http://blog.core-ed.net/derek Derek

    I’m with you on this Dean – somehow I’d wish we could move past the issue, but we seem to be breeding more and more researchers who are content with coming up with these sorts of over-simplistic conclusions, not helped much by politicians who seem to thrive on these ‘one-liner’ research conclusions.

    Dereks last blog post..Hectic Week

  • http://edinatech.blogspot.com Michael Walker

    Dean,
    My favorite line from the Science Daily article:
    “Schools should make more effort to test students using visual media, she said, by asking them to prepare PowerPoint presentations, for example.”
    Just what students need to do…create more PowerPoints!!!

    I did follow Chris Craft’s suggestion and read the link provided by Jon Becker to Greenfield’s article in Sciencemag.org. She seemed to be all over the board in that piece, but it was a bit more balanced.

    Michael Walkers last blog post..What I’ve learned at EduCon 2.1 :I’m definitely a "Green Hat!"

  • http://www.wordsmith.edublogs.org Shannon

    Great point! I wonder what students would say if you asked them what they were using the internet access for? I think that the study really missed the point. If the talk is not engaging, students are going to use their time to do other things. I am assuming that their internet access was not purposeful. Unless the teacher who was lecturing had created an online learning experience to compliment what was occuring within her lecture, the internet access was really a miscarriage of technology integration. Not meaningful, not productive, not enhancing the learning experience. Yikes and sigh.

    Shannons last blog post..What is the Purpose of Learning? (reframing the question)

  • http://www.matthewktabor.com Matthew K. Tabor

    Dean,

    That quote doesn’t suggest that technology is useless – just that bringing in technology doesn’t affect achievement without proper or productive uses. In short, what you said at the end.

    The ed-tech blogosphere’s mistake here – and it’s a frequent error – is being overly defensive. We need to look closely at how media/technology is used, in what ways it’s effective, and in what ways it isn’t. When we’ve got a better handle on those, we can simply use the tech better.

    Burell’s mouth-frothing adds little to this debate. Just relax and be honest – rather than railing about biases here and non-Progressive there, consider what how this study might be useful. [And no, the line you cited doesn't tell us "all you need to know about bias," but that'll have to wait for another day.]

    There are times – oh God, brace yourself, folks – when simple memorization and recall are necessary and tremendously useful. If we were to use a multimedia presentation that was to be viewed by students learning the endings of a few declensions in Latin, we may want to stick with fairly simple video. That would ensure that they would learn the endings quickly and easily so we could move on with the language – and perhaps utilize more complex, multi-faceted technologies, if appropriate, in those lessons. The value in that section of the study is so we can use technology efficiently rather than risking overkill.

    Just because we want to use technology effectively [and in a fiscally responsible way] doesn’t mean that we’re all anti-progressive zealots out to get the likes of you and Burell. If the education technology sector wants an issue to move past, perhaps they’ll consider that one.

    Matthew K. Tabors last blog post..BREAKING VIDEO: Progressive Educators, Conservatives Fight Over Arne Duncan’s Secretary of Education Appointment

  • http://ideasandthoughts.org Dean Shareski

    Matthew,

    The quote does state that internet access does not improve achievement. If you have to add….”without effective teaching” to the end of it, that seems like a useless statement. Of course it requires good teaching.

    No one suggested memorization or lecture has no value. This study simply juxtaposed the use of technology in a lecture setting. Not a very balanced or useful study. If you want a better piece of research, check out the Bertelsmann study. http://it.coe.uga.edu/~treeves/edit6900/BertelsmannReeves98.pdf

    Anyway, Clay does a much better job of critiquing this and you’d likely find a much richer debate over there. Not that I’m opposed to a thoughtful discussion, I’m just deferring it to someone who spent more time on it than I have. Thus the link to his post.

  • Dave

    Given the number of education issues that boil down to “A skilled teacher is what’s required.”, you’d think most people would “get” that it should be the top priority: classroom technology (which is a great tool for great teachers), teaching techniques (which work great when implemented by great teachers), school and district structures and management styles (which are all successful when filled with great teachers), curricula that vary in content and priorities (great teachers use all of them to great effect), etc.

    And you know what? Great thinkers get it. I think the edublogosphere gets it.

    But most people don’t get it. Principals who simply must take care of urgent student discipline problems, never mind there wouldn’t be so many if they led teachers to improve their skills. Teachers who drill for standardized tests, never mind they wouldn’t have to if they (and the preceding teachers) were really getting through to the students. Parents who struggle to keep control of their kids, never mind that they wouldn’t have so many problems if they had ever tried to be a good teacher for their kids.

  • http://www.matthewktabor.com Matthew K. Tabor

    Burell’s post wasn’t worth review or commentary, so I didn’t – and won’t – weigh in over there.

    I think you might be a bit spoiled by engaging with so many movers, shakers and thinkers in ed tech. When you read a Wes Fryer or a Will Richardson or Vicki Davis or anyone else with a large presence in the sector, you’re reading someone who truly wants to implement or make use of whatever they’re writing about. They aren’t always as critical as they should be, but that’s what we’re all here for – to evaluate their ideas and, hopefully, come up with something useful and practical at the end of it all.

    Contrast those guys with school administrators and board members who really do think that wiring up a classroom and ordering a fleet of SMARTboards is in itself a worthwhile addition to a school. There are a hell of a lot of administrators who think that “[w]iring classrooms for internet access” enhances learning – or any number of expensive, irresponsible ideas.

    Matthew K. Tabors last blog post..BREAKING VIDEO: Progressive Educators, Conservatives Fight Over Arne Duncan’s Secretary of Education Appointment

  • http://ideasandthoughts.org Dean Shareski

    Matthew,

    I think the fiscal responsibility is an interesting issue. Locally, we’ve given schools high de-centralized budgets. We’ve encouraged them to be sure teachers have clear plans and guidelines if they want to purchase Smartboards, laptops, whatever. I agree that there is a waste outfitting classrooms with oodles of stuff that makes no difference in learning.

    But that’s somewhat a separate issue from this post. The research seemed flawed and I was simply addressing one very bold statement that might be used inappropriately. In fact, I was alerted to the article from a colleague who wanted my opinion. I choose to blog about it.

    Regarding Clay’s post. I think that it would be worth your time. Clay marches through that article, point by point. To say it wasn’t worth reviewing or commenting on seems odd. Not sure why you would dismiss his work other than the fact that you have diametrically opposing political views. Still, it’s a well written piece and if you want to debate the article, I’d either suggest doing it there or writing one yourself. Again, not that I’d discourage a conversation here, but my intent was more to point folks over Clay rather than try re-inventing the wheel.

  • Alan Stange

    QUOTE:
    Among the studies Greenfield analyzed was a classroom study showing that students who were given access to the Internet during class and were encouraged to use it during lectures did not process what the speaker said as well as students who did not have Internet access. When students were tested after class lectures, those who did not have Internet access performed better than those who did.

    “Wiring classrooms for Internet access does not enhance learning,” Greenfield said.

    I really have to agree with Greenfield’s conclusions in this instance. I have found that allowing students to play Nintendo DS during my lectures also distracts my ten year olds from listening. Low tech distractions, like a pile of Lego, also distract. These findings have been replicated by generations of action researchers (is that phrase even used now?) in the classroom. Yet we also know certain students learn better with a piece of Plasticine in their hand, or a pencil doodling on a page. Sometimes multitasking does seem to enhance retention. The challenge of multitasking has alway been the careful balance of attention required.

    If the only tool you have is a hammer, then all your problems look like nails, and wonder of wonders, most of your problems do not go away. Asserting that the Internet does not enhance learning strips learners and their mentors of a valuable tool.

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