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Education in the Media

Technology Does Not Make a Classroom Succesful, the Teacher Does

cross posted from my blog Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension

It appears that technology is sweeping the nation as the answer to the “broken” education system in America.  Everywhere you turn school districts are touting their Interactive Whiteboards, their iPads, their one to one systems and anything else tech related.  Since I am techie myself, most people assume that I think this is a good thing.  Well, you’re wrong.

I love technology and more specifically integrating it into my curriculum.  So my students blog to create writing portfolios, learn how to write for a specific audience, and document their learning.  We also journal every day in a notebook using that great tool; pencils.  My students create wordle’s on our computers to watch for main ideas or overused words.  We videotape science experiments so we can post them for parents to ask us questions.  We use computers to do our research.  We participate in the Global Read Aloud so that we can share a book with classrooms around the world.  We project videos that boost our understanding, and yes, we even have a SmartBoard.  But the thing is, this doesn’t mean anything if I don’t know how to properly use the technology and then pass that on to your students.

You can stick a SmartBoard on any classroom teacher’s wall and then claim that they are 21st century.  Well, guess what?  They are not.  Unless they know how to use the tools provided all you are doing is dressing up a dog and passing it as a circus horse.  The race to be more 21st century seems to be clouding the judgment of districts everywhere.  It is not about the tools, it is about the teachers.  So yes, some technology is phenomenal and does help student learning, but all tech is not created equally.  So it shouldn’t be judged equally.

So when test scores don’t rise even though a district is heavily tech integrated, people tend to blame the technology.  “See it isn’t working.”  And yet, the technology shouldn’t have been part of that equation really.  I don’t care how many computers you stick in a room, if a teacher is not facilitating them properly, or the wireless is awful, or they are outdated etc then they wont make a lick of difference.  The teacher is what will raise test scores, that is if we ever have enough time to actually teach in between all of the tests we have to give.

The truth is there is no simple answer to create a successful classroom.  You need to have a teacher that is invested, students who know that their teachers care about them and that they are in a safe environment.  You need administrators that actually trust their staff and engage them in discussion.  You need parents that are invested in the classroom as well.  And yes, computers make my classroom work better and I would say that classroom computers are a must-do investment.  But everything else? It’s nice, but not absolutely necessary.  So perhaps we should be investing in teachers, raise their salaries so they don’t have to work 2 jobs.  Stop cutting their benefits so they don’t have to look for a new job.  Rather than investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into technology that may or may not get used.

About Pernille Ripp

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.


8 thoughts on “Technology Does Not Make a Classroom Succesful, the Teacher Does

  1. Isn’t this like saying ‘the printing press didn’t change anything, it was the people who used it that changed everything?’ Sure, you’re right, but you could say that about any technological advance. The bottom line is that these digital technologies are transforming everything around us. People can learn to tap into their affordances or sit aside and be left behind. For educators, these technologies do certain things that analog environments can’t. To make the argument that ‘it’s the people, not the technology’ is true but also incomplete: It’s the people AND the technology.

    Posted by Scott McLeod (@mcleod) | September 9, 2011, 7:33 am
    • Scott, I think you are selling teachers short. Sure the technology enhances what I am doing but what you are saying is that without it we cannot be effective teachers. I don’t believe in that since there are many school districts across the United States and the globe that have very successful teachers without technology in their classrooms due to budget. I am discussing the frivolousness in which districts purchase technology just to say they are 21st century classrooms and not to have teachers effectively use it. I appreciate you comment because you are indeed pushing me to expand my thinking. Thank you.


      Posted by Pernille Ripp | September 9, 2011, 7:47 am
      • Pernille, I really appreciate this post as it does highlight one thing for me: how and why we purchase technology in the first place.I try to integrate technology into my classroom as much as I can and where I think it will enhance teaching and learning at school. School Boards are told to buy technology and they buy the first set of devices they can get with grants and funding (laptops, IWBs). Teachers are then expected to put this into practice because this will be the way we lead our students into 21st century learning. This is the main problem as I see it. Every new technology we use needs to be chosen thoughtfully.

        Scott, I agree with you that the technology is important. To not use the tools the students are already accessing outside of class and meet them “where they live” is to be stuck in a model of learning that is struggling to keep up. I think we need to be ever mindful of the tools we use in the classroom both digital and analog.

        Thanks very much for the post. It gave me a lot to think about.

        Posted by leewin (@leewin) | December 30, 2012, 12:28 am
  2. Your second last paragraph was the most interesting for me in this blog post.

    So technology isn’t effective unless it raises test scores? … even though we know that test scores and real learning are two very different entities?

    Is the measure of effectiveness really valid?

    Posted by Mitch Hughes (@mr_mitch_hughes) | September 9, 2011, 11:17 pm
    • Hi Mitch, and thank you for your comment. I should have put in the post that I was inspired by this article from the NY Times “In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores.” IN that article they are so heavily slanted toward testing being the only measure of success in the classroom that they then justify crucifying technology because of it. So no, I do not think at all that test scores measure much indeed. Thank you for helping me clarify this.


      Posted by Pernille Ripp | September 10, 2011, 8:13 am
  3. I wonder often about the “stuff” and our attitudes towards it. I don’t hear much about technology that I don’t hear about arts-infused instruction, game-based learning, project-based learning, or any kind of pedagogy that challenges the status quo.

    Pernille, in your mind, what are the attitudes a teacher needs “to have a teacher that is invested, students who know that their teachers care about them and that they are in a safe environment?” What role should students play in making a classroom successful? What are the fundamental issues of teaching, learning, and spaces of which technology, as you critique it, is a symptom?

    With curiosity,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | September 13, 2011, 1:58 pm


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