It’s a given that technology is being used in schools more today than even a few years ago. What’s been missing, though, is outspoken proof that this trend has increased schools’ overall productivity. The reason: Political interests have policy makers and educators tip-toeing around what this author says has been an undeniable, nationwide success.
The author notes there are two actions schools can take to increase student achievement. Option one: Cut class sizes and hire more teachers. Option two: Add instructional technology. Both options will work. The problem, he says, is that hiring additional teachers “is more than seven times more expensive than the technology method.”
In 1991, West Virginia40th among American states in per capita incomeranked 33rd in student achievement. In 1999, although the state’s income level did not change, it moved to 11th in student achievement. According to the author, an independent study linked these gains not to an increased number of teachers, but almost entirely to the state’s “Basic Skills/Computer Education” program, which supplemented classroom instruction with computer skills practiceat a per-student cost of roughly $86 per year (compared to an estimated $636 per student, per year, for traditional class-size reduction).
Besides the per-student cost savings of supplemental instruction via computer, here are four additional areas where technology can save schools money and increase productivity, according to the author:
• Teacher recruitment. Instead of spending millions on recruitment fairs and airline tickets, schools can use “a web-based simulation developed to attract, screen, orient, pre-qualify, and place prospective teachers for a mere $1.25 per candidate.”
• School processes. One online curriculum company estimates that 12 to 15 hours per week in teacher lesson preparation can be done more efficiently with online resources. St John’s County, Fla. estimates that its use of wireless networking is saving the equivalent of 30 instructional days a year through economies in attendance, test scoring, and grade reporting.
• Professional development. In New York City, some 8,000 uncertified adults are teaching students. Though staff development delivered online or via CD-ROM technology costs one-sixth of what face-to-face training does (and is available anytime, anywhere), state regulations forbid schools from spending professional development money on any trainer who is not a union member, the author says.
• Dollar recovery. After installing 4GL’s data mining software, which tracks the eligibility of students for federal Medicaid funds, Baltimore City’s Medicaid recovery went from $2.5 million to $25 million, and Detroit went from $3 million to $15 million.
Whether educators are reluctant to embrace it or not, technology does work for schools, the author says. Schools and teachers should begin to look at technology not as a replacement for the human element, but instead as an “additive strategy” to increase student achievement, thereby making everybody’s job easier.