How to Use Technology in Education (Frederick Hess and Bror Saxberg)

 Frederick M. Hess is director of educational-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Bror Saxberg is chief learning officer at Kaplan, Inc. They are the authors of  Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age: Using Learning Science to Reboot Schooling. This appeared in National Review Online, December 16, 2013

The book provides an invaluable template for how to best think about digital learning. Promising education technologies won’t “fix” schools or replace terrific teachers. Instead, they make it possible to reshape the teacher’s job, so that teachers and students have more opportunity for personalized, dynamic learning.

How can we expand on the book’s transformation of education? Well, the book has real limitations. Students learn best when eye and ear work in tandem — but books are a silent medium. Books are fixed, providing the same experience to every reader, every time. The material and language will inevitably be too difficult for some readers and too easy for others. Books can’t offer a live demonstration or a new explanation to a confused reader.

Online materials can be rapidly updated, are customizable to a student’s interests and reading level, and feature embedded exercises that let students apply new concepts and get immediate feedback. Virtual instruction makes it possible for students to access real, live teachers unavailable at their school; this can be a haven for some students, especially those reluctant to ask questions in class. Researchers have found that intelligent, computer-assisted tutoring systems are about 90 percent as effective as in-person tutors.

None of this will happen just by giving out iPads or mouthing platitudes about “flipped classrooms.” Rather, it requires getting three crucial things right. First, new tools should inspire a rethinking of what teachers, students, and schools do, and how they do it. If teaching remains static, sprinkling hardware into schools won’t much matter. Second, technology can’t be something that’s done to educators. Educators need to be helping to identify the problems to be solved and the ways technology can help, and up to their elbows in making it work. Third, the crucial lesson from those getting digital learning right is that it’s not the tools, but what’s done with them. When they discuss what’s working, the leaders of high-tech charter school systems like Carpe Diem and Rocketship Education, or heralded school districts like that of Mooresville, N.C., brush past the technology in order to focus relentlessly on learning, people, and problem-solving.

All of this is too often missed when tech enthusiasts promise miracles and tech skeptics lament that technology is an “attack on teachers.” What to make of such claims? The book didn’t work miracles or hurt teachers. It did allow us to reimagine teaching and learning, even if we’re still struggling to capitalize on that opportunity five centuries later. Here’s hoping we do better this time.

About these ads

9 Comments

Filed under school reform policies, technology use

9 responses to “How to Use Technology in Education (Frederick Hess and Bror Saxberg)

  1. Good grief. Did I just read an endorsement of Rocketship “schools”? Quick question to the authors: have you looked at those schools? Would you send your children there? Is that what you want for the future of education?

    Actually, don’t answer that.

    • larrycuban

      I won’t answer your questions since Hess and Saxberg wrote the post. They are making a point about how some programs and districts are more concerned about classroom use of technology to advance learning and less concerned about simply distributing devices.

  2. Pingback: How to Use Technology in Education (Frederick H...

  3. “Promising education technologies won’t “fix” schools or replace terrific teachers. Instead, they make it possible to reshape the teacher’s job, so that teachers and students have more opportunity for personalized, dynamic learning.”

    I completely agree with the end of this statement…personalized, dynamic learning will engage more students than any lecture or other one-size-fits-all approach to learning and today’s confluence of technology makes this more likely than any time before. Furthermore, I believe school districts need to consider how to unbundle courses but keep them within the domain of the district and teacher allowing students to customize the content they learn for their high school diploma.

  4. Reblogged this on Reflections of a Second-career Math Teacher and commented:

    “Promising education technologies won’t “fix” schools or replace terrific teachers. Instead, they make it possible to reshape the teacher’s job, so that teachers and students have more opportunity for personalized, dynamic learning.”

    I completely agree with the end of this statement…personalized, dynamic learning will engage more students than any lecture or other one-size-fits-all approach to learning and today’s confluence of technology makes this more likely than any time before. Furthermore, I believe school districts need to consider how to unbundle courses but keep them within the domain of the district and teacher allowing students to customize the content they learn for their high school diploma.

    • larrycuban

      Thanks for the comment and re-blogging the Hess and Saxberg post.

      • It’ll be many many years from now before we can look back and make sense of the impact of the latest technologies. Studies of chimp babies, as I recall, needed their mother’s “touch” for healthy growth. When we disconnect “touch” from human relationships can we substitute it with other things, and at what price?

      • Hopefully, Deb, we do not need to disconnect students from the human relationship side…While its a little trite, I believe “high tech and high touch” can coexist in the hands of most teachers who understand the benefits of both modalities.

      • larrycuban

        Thanks, Deb, for your comment on the Hess/Saxberg post

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s