‘Never send a human to do a machine’s job:’ Five big mistakes in education technology and how to fix them

Reblogged from the Answer Sheet at The Washington Post

“Cyclic amnesia best characterizes the history of technology in education.” That is part of the following post about the mistakes in educational technology that keep being made decade after decade — and about how to fix them.  This is adapted from the introduction of a new book titled “Never Send a Human to do a Machine’s Job: Correcting the Top 5 Edtech Mistakes,” by Yong Zhao, Gaoming Zhang, Jing Lei and Wei Qiu.

Yong Zhao is presidential chairman and director of the Institute for Global and Online Education in the College of Education at the University of Oregon. He is also a professor in the Department of Educational Measurement, Policy and Leadership at the university. Gaoming Zhang is an assistant professor in the School of Education at the University of Indianapolis. Jing Lei is an associate professor in the School of Education at Syracuse University. Wei Qiu is an instructional designer and part of the adjunct faculty at Webster University.

By Yong Zhao

A few weeks ago, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development released a report that essentially says investing in technology does not lead to better education outcomes, measured by PISA scores. The study finds

“no appreciable improvements in student achievement in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in ICT [information and communication technology] for education. And perhaps the most disappointing finding of the report is that technology is of little help in bridging the skills divide between advantaged and disadvantaged students.”

The report is new, but the finding is not.

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Education sent a report to Congress with the conclusion that “test scores were not significantly higher in classrooms using selected reading and mathematics software products” based on findings of a multiyear experimental study involving hundreds of schools and thousands of students. In 1998, the Educational Testing Service released a report that found “negligible” positive relationship between computer use and National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores in math for fourth-graders, and only a slightly more positive relationship between eighth-graders’ math achievement and “professional development and using computers for higher-order thinking skills.” But using “computers to teach lower-order thinking skills was negatively related to academic achievement and the social environment of the school,” it said.

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