NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How Teachers Can Use Technology

January 15, 2014

Simply purchasing the newest technology for students is not going to improve schools, say Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Getting Smart.

Bulk purchasing tablets and smartboards is not a magic recipe for school improvement. Instead, schools need to assess their problems and only then analyze whether new technologies could possibly solve those problems.

Hess and Vander Ark list four keys to maximizing educational opportunities provided by new technology:

  • Establish clear goals for what students should know and be able to do. Buying devices, on the other hand, should be the last thing to which schools resort.
  • Focus on the school's educational problems. Are the most intelligent students, for example, not being challenged enough in classes?
  • Then, determine what technology can do to help with those problems. If a problem is that more students need tutoring, online, computer-assisted tutoring could expand the pool of support for those students, instead of the school being limited to finding enough adults who can assist them in person.
  • Continue to reconsider how funds are spent, especially as new technologies open up new opportunities. Some expenditures may no longer be necessary as a result.

Mooresville, North Carolina, and Danville, Kentucky, have both completely rethought the way that their instructors teach and their schools function, and they each used technologies to make those changes even better. Mooresville not only has the second-lowest spending out of North Carolina's 115 school districts, but it was recently named the best school district in America by Scholastic.

Source: Frederick Hess and Tom Vander Ark, "How Teachers Can Best Use Tech," The American, January 9, 2014.


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