Open You Eyes: The Evidence Is There!

Article excerpt

It's happening again. The minute the education pendulum swings toward an innovation, there are folks who want to wrestle it back in the other direction. We've seen it with whole language and phonics, with electives and "basic skills." Technology is suffering the same fate.

Finally, the government wants to spend money to implement it; finally, there are discounts to wire the schools; finally, there is recognition that teacher training is necessary. Along come the critics who say, "The roofs are leaking; the textbooks are old; there are dangers out on the Internet. So quick, close the gate, rope in the kids and make 'em learn like we did in the good old days without this fancy, expensive stuff."

They ask, "Where is the proof that technology makes a difference?" Well, it may not exactly be bedtime reading, but it certainly is there. The soon-to-be-released "Report on the Effectiveness o Technology in Education, 1990-97," written by Interactive Educational Systems Design (IESD), Inc., and published by the Software Publishers Association (SPA), offers abundant evidence that educational technology is having a significant positive effect on achievement in all major subject areas, in preschool through higher education, and for both regular education and special needs students. Here are just a few examples cited in the SPA report:

* A team at Vanderbilt University studied at-risk, inner-city kindergartners for three months and found that a group learning in a multimedia language arts environment showed significantly superior gains in auditory, language, decoding-in-context and story-composition skills over a control group not using the computer. * In a study of Indiana's Buddy System, which places computers in the homes of upper elementary school students, Buddy students demonstrated gains in writing proficiency more than three times those of students in comparison schools. * Two studies by researchers at the Stevens Institute of Technology demonstrated the positive effects of commercially-available high school mathematics software on retention of math skills, based on their performance on a delayed post-test. * Two Israeli researchers found that adding computerized lab analysis tools and simulations to the high school biology curriculum led to significantly better content knowledge and science process skills. * Another study comparing elementary school students who received traditional classroom instruction to those using software with video vignettes designed to stimulate mathematical problem solving found that the video-using students showed less anxiety toward math, were more likely to see it as relevant to everyday life, and were better able to appreciate complex challenges. …