New Technology is Poised to Disrupt Schools
In a small school on the South Side of Chicago, 40children between the ages of five and six sit quietlylearning in a classroom. In front of each of them is acomputer running software called Reading Eggs.Some are reading a short story, others buildingsentences with words they are learning. As theycomplete each task they move through a cartoonmap that shows how far they have progressed inreading and writing. Along the way they collect eggs which they can use to buy objects in thegame, such as items to furnish their avatar's apartment. Now and then a child will be takenaside for scheduled reading periods with one of the two monitoring teachers.
The director says this sort of teaching, blending software with human intervention, helps herpupils learn faster It also allows teachers at this school to spend more time teaching and lesstime marking written work and leading pupils through dull drills of words and numbers.
The idea that technology can revolutionize education is not new. In the 20th century almostevery new invention was supposed to have big implications for schools. Companies promotingtypewriters, moving pictures, film projectors, educational television, computers and CD-ROMShave all promised to improve student performance.
In many classrooms, computers have been used to improve efficiency and keep pupilsengaged. But they did not transform learning in the way their boosters predicted. It is wise,therefore, to be sceptical about the claims made for the current wave of innovation. Yet thereare also reasons to believe that a profound shift is occurring.