Guest post by Steven Baule, Superintendent at Muncie Community Schools, Indiana:Under the heading, “Should professors ban laptops?” a study by Education Next, conducted at the United State Military Academy at West Point, may be used to support just such actions. Reading the entire study is worthwhile as the differences among scores are minor, only about 2.4 percentage points. However, the study does find a significant difference among the exam performance. A thorough review shows female students with access to technology actually exceeded the scores of those without technology, but not significantly so. Another interesting point, the study only addressed the 85% of the exam score that was multiple-choice and short answer. Generally, those items tend to fall lower on Bloom’s taxonomy. Technology has historically been touted as helping improve higher level thinking skills rather than the most basic recall knowledge found in many multiple choice or short answer exams. Some examples of technology to support higher level thinking skills are available the Global Digital Learning Foundation.
The Education Next article, taken in conjunction with a recent interview with Glenda Ritz, the former Indiana State Superintendent, about virtual schools simply preying on the “most vulnerable students,” does show a trend to advocate for less classroom technology. While the Ritz interview was directed at a single virtual charter school that has routinely underperformed, the West Point example is the second study from that school showing negative results from technology use. As the researchers admit, USMA doesn’t have a “typical student body” but the study does urge that educational leaders continuously review the impact of technology in the classroom and ensure it is helping to improve the teaching and learning process. If technology becomes a distraction or otherwise impedes learning, it needs to be reconsidered.