Don't expect Education IT to "fix" your school

Is educational software worth anything?  What a ridiculous title!
Written by Marc Wagner, Contributor

Is educational software worth anything?  What a ridiculous title!  If you've read my posts for any period of time, you remember my admonition: They’re tools, they’re just tools!, and here's the perfect example of a meaningless Department of Education Study which draws conclusions based upon unfounded assumptions. 

The study starts out by pointing out that under-achieving schools It's time for our society to start doing something about the challenges of the working poor... are not seeing improvements when they turn to educational software to solve their achievement problems on standardized tests.  (The very testing model which was discredited during the 1980s and 1990s as being inherently flawed and discriminatory.)  Well, duh!  Should that lead us to conclude that the software is worthless?  Of course not! 

Ask any educator "in the trenches" and they will tell you that there is a direct correlation between the socio-economic make-up of the school and the overall success of the students in that school.  Can the school develop programs that help?  Sure they can -- but they won't "fix" the problem of under-achieving schools.  All such programs can do is help individual students who are motivated to achieve.  From where does this motivation come?  Certainly not from software -- and educators can have only a minimal impact on motivation.  Student motivation starts at home, and in a home few economic opportunities, there is often little motivation. 

Quoting the article above:

Many under-performing schools have purchased the software packages that often include videogame-like programs played on Sony PlayStations, as well as repetitive learning exercises.

"We are concerned that the technology that we have today isn't being utilized as effectively as it can be to raise student achievement," said Katherine McLane, spokeswoman for the Department of Education.

This is certainly a legitimate concern but concluding that the software is to blame because it is not being properly utilized is foolish.  My colleague, Chris Dawson, and I have repeatedly railed about a lack of funds for training in the schools and lack of preparedness of our educators-to-be by our Schools of Education who make minimal effort to teach their undergraduates anything about Instructional Systems Technology. 

Instead of blaming our schools or our educators or our Education IT tools for our economically-deprived students' inability to achieve -- maybe it's time for our society to start doing something about the challenges of the working poor so that yet another generation of children will not grow up without the motivation to achieve. 

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