Technology as Cure-All for Standards, and Even Snow Days


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Technology is viewed by some as the elixir or cure-all for education, and school districts, with lots of money available through grants such as Race to the Top, technology investments from organization such the Gates Foundation, and law edicts,  have embraced technology as a magic bullet.  Virtual classrooms, digital textbooks, flipped classrooms (use of video), lecture-based content websites are examples of the types of technologies that have emerged.  Could it be that these are Trojan Horses being used to drive the Common Standards?

Ed Johnson an Atlanta systems educator and advocate for quality education wrote to me today and reinforced the last two blog posts connecting the Gates Foundation, Common Standards and technology.  He pointed out that the Atlanta Public Schools are using technology by setting up an “Inclement Weather Makeup Materials” website.

In “Why Bill Gates Defends the Common Core,” I argued that,

There is a growing body of evidence that the Common Standards are not the solution to make America more competitive, to make kids smarter in math, reading and science, and any of the other ills that have been cast upon the education system. I’ve reported on this blog that independent research questions the efficacy of a standard-based approach to education as it is now conceived. The standards-based system is a top-down authoritarian system that disregards the professional decision-making ability of classroom teachers. I’ve reported research by Wallace that shows that this authoritarian accountability system is a barrier to teaching and learning.

And in “Is Technology the Trojan Horse of the Common Standard’s Movement?,” it was added,

It is quite clear that Gates is investing (his term) in technology in schools. It’s no surprise. But we must keep in mind the word technology is a seductive term, especially when used in the context of schools. But the history of top-down technology projects has not served classroom teachers very well. Too often, the technology is used to replace what was already going on in classrooms, or to use a tablet as a textbook.

Ed Johnson, then asked us to consider this:

Atlanta Public Schools has developed a comprehensive plan to increase time and opportunity for students to receive the critical instruction lost this school year during the district’s six inclement weather days.”  APS Launches Virtual Classroom for All Students, Reported by East Atlanta Patch

Is Inclement weather being used as a Trojan Horse to carry out Bill Gates’ technology-dependent common standards?

To explore this a bit more, I went to the Inclement Weather Makeup Materials website, which is shown in Figure 1.   There are links, such as, for 3rd thru 5th and 6th thru 12th make up materials.  When we dig deep into the site, we finally come to content links for language arts, math, science, and social studies.   It’s not a very imaginative way to engage students in make up activity.  I have to wonder why this is being done in the first place.

Figure 1. Inclement Weather Makeup Materials Site. Source: APS

Figure 1. Inclement Weather Makeup Materials Site. Source: APS

For example,  the 3rd grade science link brings you to a three column page.  The first two columns are 3rd Grade science performance standards written in technical language of the Common Standards.   The last column lists Online Learning Support and Activities for the standards.  Some links take you to sites where students have to watch commercials, while others take you to “activities” that lack any sense of wonder, imagination, or inquiry.

Figure 2. Example of an Inclement Weather Make-up Site. Source: APS.

Figure 2. Example of an Inclement Weather Make-up Site. Source: APS.

It seems to me that it might be better to ask students to read an interesting book, and not spent time doing these types of activities. What do you think?

About Jack Hassard

Jack Hassard is a writer, a former high school teacher, and Professor Emeritus of Science Education, Georgia State University.