All that glitters is not chrome: Chromebooks education’s latest shiny object?

This opinion piece is not a staff editorial, but the personal opinion of its writer offered as a perspective.

Chrome books are the latest device foisted onto the educational system, preceded by the incorporation of websites, electronic boards, i-pads, and other such innovations of the twenty first century. For all this supposed progress, how have schools reacted? Lest my eyes deceive me, negatively. Despite the incorporation of new technology, US test scores continue to decline and sink below rival countries such as China. To account for this failure, however, the solution remains the same as its failed predecessor; add more clunky, unreliable technology to the education system.

From personal experience, technology does not improve education. My freshman and sophomore year of high school incorporated  I-pads. Despite the promises of this thrusting learning into the future, nothing seemed to come of it. Test scores continued to decline from the previous year. Unsurprisingly, considering most of the time spent with I-pads by students consisted of playing games or browsing the web mindlessly.

Brown County High School didn’t take note, however, as it demanded a 1/1 ratio of chrome books to students. Though the results have yet to present themselves, the complaints are numerous and the praise few and far between. The first five minutes of class consist of powering them up or telling students to put them away. Teachers frequently complain about students wasting class time watching Netflix on them or some other frivolous activity. In addition, Canvas has garnered some complaints from older teachers as the core of online learning. Some of the complaints garnered consist of clunky, often troublesome to use, and suffers from frequent inadequacies in explanation.

So, does technology improve education? From both a test score overview and personal experience, no. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, as motivation and dedication form the core of a good student, and technology makes for a poor substitute. Chrome books are the latest grasping at straws from an underfunded and creatively bankrupt education system. In the future, perhaps the staff thereof will take lessons from countries that garner frequent praise from the global community. For now, however, the situation will stagnate.

1 Comment on All that glitters is not chrome: Chromebooks education’s latest shiny object?

  1. First off, nice use of the word “foisted.”

    Beyond that, I’m not sure where to begin so I’ll take a cue from Julie Andrews and start at the very beginning. Chromebooks were not forced or imposed on the educational system. They were a welcome addition to schools on a tight budget that wanted to provide technology experience to their students.

    The comparison to the Chinese education system is interesting. Tests, of course, are not identical from one nation to the other and are very “high stakes” in China. Their system has been accused of producing “robot students” and not the ability to learn. However, if you would like to institute an extremely rigid where every step of education is decided for you (students are placed in schools and courses based on test performance and electives are unheard of until the final years of school), feel free to suggest such an idea to your classmates or at the next board meeting.

    The question of technology improving education is null. Of course it does or we wouldn’t have calculators or be able to create multimedia presentations. The iPad initiative in math was a pilot project and a new undertaking in more ways than one. It was far from a perfect implementation and changes have been made to improve the effectiveness of the iPads in class. Tying anything to test scores is a poor measure of the overall effectiveness of that something. More about that later.

    Who is Brown County High School? Students? Teachers? Administration? Who made a demand and was a demand actually made? The reason for the 1:1 device to student ratio was more to provide access to technology that was previously provided by clunky laptop carts or space-consuming computer labs. The actual ratio was nearing 1:1 already so having a unified device and putting it into the hands of students was more effective for management and more efficient in terms of class time. If your Chromebook takes 5 minutes to power on, we have a serious problem. If it takes you 5 minutes to sign-in, we have a bigger problem. Telling students to put them away takes no more time then telling them to be quiet or sit down. All-in-all, that’s a wash.

    Where are these complaints? If they are spoken under breath then they will never be corrected. As for time-wasting, that’s nothing new for students in class. If it isn’t a device, it is something else. The teacher has full authority in their classroom to take the device away, discipline the student, or grade them accordingly.

    Canvas is new. It’s a little different for some teachers but it’s important that students be acclimated to a learning management system. It is something that will be used in college and even some workplaces. Beyond that, it is an efficiency improvement for teachers in providing documentation of their courses. We also have a complete support package from Canvas so anything that is troublesome or lacking in explanation can be handled with a few clicks, connecting a teacher to a Canvas support representative.

    Back to the test scores. The intention of the technology, and education in general, is not to improve test scores. Test scores are intended to measure learning, not provide a blueprint of teaching. The implementation of technology, especially 1:1, is to provide access to tools that make things more efficient or provide more information or allow for a deeper understanding of a subject. Having the internet available to you provides you with more access to information than ever before. All of this occurs while providing students with something that they will have to know how to use in the future. That is why education exists, afterall. In preparation for the future, you will have to use a computer. You may be doing research in college or in your career, you may have to do accounting for your small business, or maybe you just have to be able to communicate with your coworkers. Many students don’t have access to technology at home. 1:1 allows an equal playing field and opportunities for students that they would not get otherwise (and yes, I know we still have issues with broadband access but we’re working on that).

    To say that devices in education in the US is a symptom of being creatively bankrupt is missing the point all together. The device gives you more creative access than has ever been available. Has it been implemented to its fullest? Not yet. That mixed with the fact that very little time has passed means that a judgment can’t really be made regarding the effectiveness of technology in education just yet.

    If you ever have any questions regarding technology at Brown County Schools, please feel free to contact me via email or come down to my office.

    Thank you,
    David Phelps
    Director of Technology

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