The Real Story of Classroom Technology in the OECD Report

Two weeks ago the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a report on technology and learning that made big news. The BBC, CBC, and the Wall Street Journal – to name only a few – ran headlines like “Don’t bother buying computers for schools, says OECD report” and “Computers ‘do not improve’ pupil results, says OECD.” It was more or less the same story everywhere: big investments in classroom technology haven’t paid off with better education results. Nor have they meaningfully closed the skills gap between rich and poor students.

It sounds pretty damning and sensational. But anyone who cares about technology and learning should stop for a moment and take a deep breath. Then we should dig a little deeper, because beyond the headlines there are some very useful conclusions in, and from, the report.

The best way to understand those conclusions is to listen carefully to Andreas Schleicher, the OECD Director for Education and Skills. Andreas’s directorate conducted this study and published the report. I know Andreas well enough to say, with certainty, that he does not believe technology is inherently bad for education. In fact, he says in this BBC interview, it is a fantastic and perhaps necessary way to engage today’s students.

What Andreas does believe is that we all have a lot more work to do if we want technology to truly change education. “Schools simply haven’t become good enough at the kind of pedagogies that make the most of technology,” he tells Jordan Shapiro in a Forbes interview. In his introduction to the OECD report itself, Andreas encourages education policy-makers to provide better support for teachers as they learn and practice new pedagogies. When teachers are confident they can adopt new ways of teaching, he seems to say, students benefit more from new ways of learning with technology.

I couldn’t agree more. Here at SMART, we see it with real teachers and students all over the world. That’s why we’ve designed our latest education products to support teachers as they evolve their ways of teaching. SMART amp, for example, is great for teachers who want to increase and improve their use of project-based learning, whether they are just starting out with PBL or have been using it effectively for years.

Modern pedagogies depend on the natural curiosity and creativity of young learners. Most students today find it very natural to use technology to collaborate and create in a learning activity. In fact, I believe they find it a little strange, and not very engaging, when their teachers involve them in new ways of learning without using technology. What the OECD report really tells us is that the decision to invest in technology for schools should always start with this question: How do we really want to change teaching and learning, what must we do to enable teachers to make this change, and which technology solution will help us do all of that?

 

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David Lapides
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About David Lapides

David Lapides, a former educator, is SMART’s Director of Education Strategy. He has held several leadership roles at SMART since 2004, including head of education product management and head of education policy and practice. Prior to SMART, David was Vice President of Operations for ExploreLearning Inc., makers of the widely used online simulations for math and science known as Gizmos. He was Director of Product Development for Texas-based ActiveInk Corporation, providers of online curriculum and professional development materials. He was an instructor and researcher in the Computer Writing and Research Lab at the University of Texas at Austin, where he was also Assistant Director for Lower-Division Writing. David is a native of Memphis, Tennessee and a graduate of Amherst College and the University of Texas at Austin.

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58 thoughts on “The Real Story of Classroom Technology in the OECD Report

  1. I have been using SMART amp for a year now and the benefits are amazing. Children explore concepts through collaboration. As a result they develop skills which will help them in the future. They naturally interact and their collaboration enables them produce higher level independent learning afterwards.

    Technology needs the pedagogical knowledge of the teachers to be used to its best advantages. Used properly technology can open up a whole new engaging, highly motivating experience for learning and teaching.

    1. I couldn’t agree more, Stella :). It’s the teacher – and his/her teaching skills – that have the ability to make the most out of tech. Also, technology should be “open” (and not rigid) to allow teachers to implement it in numerus ways – to suit the teacher’s own way of teaching, as well as different settings and goals.

    2. Stella,

      I completely agree with your comments. It is important for both teacher and administrators to have the pedagogical knowledge to use technology effectively. If administrators can demonstrate how to use technology in engaging and motivating methods, teachers can learn first as students prior to transferring these methods into their own classrooms.

  2. I can’t stress enough that just having technology is not the answer. It’s how teachers use technology in real world ways that makes that real difference. With amp in my classroom, my students can connect t in and whatever level they are learning at and are engaging with technology. They are active learners utilizing technology and no longer just technology bystanders.

      1. Technology should not the dog and pony show that some people make it out to be, When someone walks in to your classroom, the events should look like the daily environment and not an “event” for your visit.

  3. I believe that in order to see the improvements in education with technology, teachers must first be given the training necessary for them to change their teaching. A device alone will not improve educational outcomes.

  4. The big poblem with technology and education is that many times the relationship comes without new pedagogies: you can’t keep teaching in the old way with new tools. And today students need to learn differently because the world they live in is different: technology by itself cannot improve their learning.

    1. Well said Gonzalo! Too many schools want to use the technology as a “special day” instead of integrating it as part of their curriculum.

    2. It’s very true. Teachers must to get not only new technologies, but also the correct information on how to use them effectively.

  5. What stands out to me is the comment that we have a lot more work to do if we want technology to truly change education. We continue to dump resources/technology into classrooms but we aren’t providing the staff development to truly train teachers in order to meet the true possibilities.

  6. “Schools simply haven’t become good enough at the kind of pedagogies that make the most of technology,” – I think this is the key to the whole argument. We have all this great new technology, but we’re still teaching the same way we were taught. Until pedagogy catches up to the times, we’re going to continue seeing lackluster results. As an Instructional Technology Specialist, I whole-heartedly believe in the power of educational technology, and I’m excited to see the new tools that emerge. As teachers, though, we need to realize that technology is just that: another tool in our tool belt. It’s the instruction itself that is powerful, as well as the relationships we foster with our students. I’m still waiting for that shift to “21st Century” instructional practices.

  7. Most students today find it very natural to use technology to collaborate and create in a learning activity. I believe because of this, educators, administrators, and school directors need to integrate technology into lesson, but not focus on the technology. Focus on the learning, technology is just the support or environment in which they can collaborate and learn.

  8. I agree we as an educational community need to provide educators with ways to implement technology effectively into the learning environment.

  9. The teacher must very carefully manage lessons and he must sense when technology moves students forward, and when this is unnecessary. Technology is a wonderful thing, but there should not be exaggerated so that it then had the opposite effect.

    1. I agree with you. I think there are lessons that are actually best taught without the use of technology and I have taught great lessons using the board, chalk and a worksheet. Then again, I also know there are topics that lend themselves to be taught with the new educational technology. Teaching map scale using Notebook really made it easier for my students to understand the concept, for example.

      I think when schools make decisions about investment, they should think about what will improve learning the most. Perhaps investing on their teacher’s professional development or their library is more worthwhile than buying educational technology devices. It depends on each school’s context.

  10. In order for technology to be utilized fully in the classroom, teachers have to have thorough training on how to implement it into their lessons and teaching. Just putting a computer in front of a students doesn’t count has using technology in the classroom. Unfortunately with the push to 1 to 1 districts are not wanting to admit this fact especially with the next generation of textbooks being online.

  11. sorry – in German:
    Oberste Voraussetzung ist, dass der Lehrer sich im Umgang mit der Technik und einem pädagogischem Konezpt sicher ist. Dazu muss das Klassenzimmer die Voraussetzungen hinsichtlich Technik mitbringen. Nichts ist schlimmer als ausfallende Technik wie z.B. überlagernde WLAN etc. Neben der Technik ist die Pädagogik die größte Herausforderung. Das SMART-Board nur als Präsentationsfläche für eine Präsentation zu verwenden wäre Verschwendung, hier sind die neuen Möglichkeiten SMART amp und vieles mehr hervorragend.

  12. One of the biggest problems with buying technology for schools is that they buy the “stuff” before teachers are ready for it. That is, before they are ready to change the way that they do things. The Apple Classroom of Tomorrow study from the 1980’s found that for educational technology to be used in transformative ways, 75% of the budget the first several years must go for teacher training on new ways of doing things that the tech tools make possible. It all has to start with a paradigm shift in the teachers. Then the tools, which change quickly, don’t matter. The teacher can use any tech tool to transform learning for their students.

  13. Great points, David. I agree that we need to do more to help teachers understand how to use technology to best effect. It can be so amazing when done well, but it does take a new pedagogical approach, and this isn’t happening all the time!

  14. Andreas Schleicher and the OECD report is telling us that we need to connect technology with the pedagogical sound principles that will allow the 21st Century student to be able to reach their full learning potential. We need to stop applying old methods to our present and future learning and dig deeper and search out technology like SMART amp that embraces the learning and the technology becomes a tool within the process.

  15. David, I fully agree. Technology alone is not going to positively impact education since it’s merely tool. It’s up to the teacher as how to use it best. It’s imperative that teachers are provided with proper training in order to use the tool(s) properly.

  16. Exactly. Tech isn’t going to do much for education in an of itself. A tool without a user of that tool is useless. Tech needs to go beyond existing and become transforming by providing access to resources and opportunities once in accessible to the students.

  17. Just buying computers doesn’t do the job… Teachers are! Help teachers use technology. I belive that all schools need to have a Educational Support Consultant that is an expert on using ICT in the classroom.

  18. Most kids I meet love technology and love using it to learn with. I appreciate this article because it remains positive that we can change teaching and learning. And kids will embrace a teacher that engages their curiousity and allows them to be collaborative learners.

  19. Technology needs the pedagogical knowledge of the teachers to be used to its best advantages – sadly this particular link in the chain seems to be missing. I teach staff in my organisation how to use the Smart Products and although some of them grasp the reality of using the Notebook Software – most do not.

  20. Technology should support good pedagogy, and not be used just for the sake of using technology. Ask the question “How does this help my students actually learn something?”

  21. It doesn’t end with training for teachers. It has to be followed up with positive experiences and ‘warm fuzzy’ feelings! SMART doesn’t require complex training, and everyone is always happy to jump right in with their easy to use tools!

  22. “Schools simply haven’t become good enough at the kind of pedagogies that make the most of technology,”- this is what have to change to get the best out of technology in education

  23. I have found the the interactive white board has revolutionized my teaching. The kids absolutely love our ability to interact with content and it has become my single most important tool.

  24. “Most students today find it very natural to use technology to collaborate and create in a learning activity” – I agree! We – the teachers have to only give them possibilities.

  25. If technology will work, depends on the teacher for so much. We need to take care for collegues, and help them with al the usefull tools

  26. “Modern pedagogies depend on the natural curiosity and creativity of young learners.” Children have had the same level of curiosity for years. They want to learn, try, challenge and achieve success using all the tools they can get their hands on. Educators need to see that and admin need to provide the technology, training and follow thru to make sure those tools are being used effectively.

  27. I agree. Moreover, I think technology should be introduced to students by means of showing its practical purpose and place in the real world.

  28. Students need to be taught in a variety of ways, including technology. However, teachers need to be trained before the technology is implemented. Technology really enhances the way students can learn.

  29. I think that it all depends on how you use the technology. If teachers are well trained and forward thinking then they can use the technology well. Also there is a timme and a place for a variety of teaching methods.

  30. There needs to be a balance between “traditional approaches” and technology with high quality instruction and learning. Leaning too far in either direction will not be successful.

  31. There is something that we, as ICT teachers, should never forget. Technologies are just tools that can help us to improve our teaching practice, but what is really important when we use any kind of technology in our classes is to change the way we do things, the ICT with the right methodology to redefine the tasks that we offer to our students. That the real way to use the ICT as an educational resource.

  32. We are preparing student for tomorrow’s world and jobs so it’s impossible not to use technology. But, it has to be one of the ways but not the only way.

  33. “That’s why we’ve designed our latest education products to support teachers as they evolve their ways of teaching.” It is that comment that shows why SMART products are so valuable to teachers, “They” understand and listen to “Us”!

  34. With using technology in the classroom it is more effective. We start to work with tablets and parents and their children are really very enthusiastic about it. They are motivated, they want to compete, I can support their reading skills with technology and I can have an imediate feedback, which is very useful, because I can adapt the rest of the lesson to my pupils results. Above all children tend to teach one another in their own words. Fantastic!

  35. Students need to be allowed to use technology in a way that comes natural to them. Don’t force it. Allow them to explore the technology then show you and teach you what it can do for them and the educational process in general.

  36. Ofcourse Technology does not work alone, but the right tools wirh the right educator make difference. My students now beg me for more homework as they can do it digitaly.

  37. One crucial factor necessary to reach better education results with technology is teacher technology professional development. This doesn’t mean just formal classes, however. Establishing a educational technology rich personal learning network (PLN) is essential consistent growth and feedback.

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