IT in Education – It’s Not All Good

Diane Ravitch has been a powerful voice in education in the US over the last few years, so i was interested to read her perspective on the risks and ills associated with the rapid inroads being made by IT in to all aspects of education.

In this article she shares three ways in which the technology infiltration is not positive or in the best interest of high quality education:

Scientific American – Diane Ravitch

Of the three negatives she highlights I don’t really have enough experience of virtual charter schools to comment. However, I am in complete agreement and share her fears about the second issue – computerized marking. I first became aware of Pearson’s moves in this area with EDEXCEL when I was in Bangladesh 6-7 years ago. One of my first fears was that the tests/ assessments themselves would get adjusted to fit with the capabilities of the programs, rather than IT adding real value to enhance the existing process.

I am also reminded of a not dissimilar situation that caused me concerns. I once sat through a number of meetings where fellow educators were advocating the appointment of junior teachers whose major responsibility would have been to do the marking for more senior teachers, thereby freeing them up to spend more time lecturing students! my biggest concern was that this over-emphasized assessment as testing, ignoring its formative role. In my view a piece of work isn’t marked just to determine how much was right and wrong. Equally important is the understanding of the teacher from the perspective of both the individual student and the class collectively – in what ways did they make mistakes, what types of errors were made, what can be deduced about their knowledge and what must be done to meet their need. The same problem arises with computerized marking. Thew teacher loses the connect with the nature of where students are in their learning and therefore will fail to respond sensitively in adjusting delivery to meet their needs.

Ravitch’s third concern is the ‘Big Brother’ fear which always arises with most new technology developments. With healthy skepticism and the right checks and balances this one can be addressed satisfactorily.

To me, the most important message coming out of the article is the need to be extremely wary of attempts to turn assessment over to technology. Whilst it continues to play such an important part in our children’s education i believe it must stay in the hands of real teachers.

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