Elliot: Sometimes it’s hard to see that the future is going to make what you are doing now irrelevant.
Cathie: Elli---oooot, you’re being enigmatic again.
Elliot: Picked me off! Let me try it again.
Elliot: De Nada. A great deal of effort is being expended trying to prove that the use of computers by students leads to increased achievement.
Cathie: That’s certainly true. Over the past 8 years or so, while the Department of Education’s Institute of Educational Science ruled the research roost, essentially all the efficacy studies – the studies that tried to show that computer use improved test scores – were inconclusive. Millions of tax payer dollars were spent on those studies, and over and over again, there was no significant performance difference between the group using computers when compared to the group who didn’t use computers.
Elliot: What a waste of resources. The only reason folks ask if computers are educationally effective is because they are expensive. Once the price of computing devices drops from about a thousand dollars per unit to about a hundred dollars per unit – the price of the ubiquitous TI calculator, no one will ask whether or not computers are effective in helping kids learn. They will just buy the computing devices for the kids.
Cathie: You called them “computing devices” not computers. You are referring to the low-cost netbooks and cellphone computers. These are devices that students are already bringing to school so the school won’t have to buy a computing device for a student. And the “they” that you mention are parents, not schools.
Elliot: We can finish each other’s sentences.
Cathie: Not when one of us enigmatic.
Cathie: In general predicting the future is challenging. But predicting that in 2-3 years every student in the U.S. will be bringing a powerful computing device to school in his or her pocket or backpack is like predicting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow.
Elliot: And once computing devices are 1:1, are ubiquitous, no one is going to ask IF computing aids learning. And all the efforts that were spent and are still being spent on trying to answer that question will be forgotten.
Cathie: Readers in BlogLand – it’s your turn. Do you folks agree with our prediction? In 2-3 years, every K-12 student in the U.S. will be bringing a computing device to school? Are we right?