Different Voices From Mexico

Joep van der Werff, Kristan Taylor, Luis Domínguez, Leigh Ann Thelmadatter, and Miguel Cabrera present their various perspectives on working in the field of English language teaching in Mexico. See Connie R. Johnson’s Out of the Box article, “EFL and the Deaf: Teachers Making a Difference,” Essential Teacher, June 2009.

Joep van der Werff

One of the Compleat Links articles associated with the September 2008 issue of Essential Teacher was Julie Mijangos-Guzzardo’s account of her experience as a teacher in Mexico(“Teaching English in Mexico: What’s Going On?”). Although I am sure that her impressions are valid on a personal level, I was left wondering whether this teacher’s opinions reflected the majority of English language teaching (ELT) professionals in Mexico. I decided to ask some colleagues for their opinions and quickly found that there are many long-term teachers in the country with vastly different impressions from those expressed by Mijangos-Guzzardo. In this article, several of us share our various perspectives about teaching English in Mexico.

Kristan Taylor

It would be easy to criticize the state of English education in Mexico. Certainly, horror stories abound. In working with university students studying to be English language teachers, I have noticed that they love to reminisce about the public school teachers they had in the past who expected them to learn the language via osmosis. When such stories come up, the class turns into a temporary group therapy session. The students laugh and marvel at the fact that they managed to learn English, not because of these teachers but in spite of them. Yet these conversations always turn into a comparison of the past and current direction that ELT is taking in Mexico.

An undeniable feather in the cap of Secretaría de Educación Pública (SEP), Mexico’s education ministry, is that English language courses exist at lower levels in Mexican public schools. I recently visited a rural secondary school with no running water—but it had an English course. Sure, the teacher didn’t really speak the language; she had barely even been out of her village. But the students had English class, and when I visited they were eager to practice. The impressive point here is that Mexico is exposing students to a second language at a young age, even in rural areas.

My personal experience with English language teacher training programs at the university level in Mexico reveals a formidable standard that, whether or not it existed in the past, will most certainly change the face of ELT in the country in the years to come. I am talking about a professional standard and demand for change that is being facilitated by a rigorous undergraduate curriculum for future English teachers. These preservice teachers take classes in areas of linguistic relevance, such as second language acquisition and language teaching pedagogy, which will undoubtedly strengthen the integrity of the field of ELT.

Luis Domínguez

Over the years, I have witnessed the professionalization of ELT in Mexico through the growing number of participants in the myriad specialized conventions offered by institutions and organizations such as MEXTESOL, the National Association of University English Professors, Best of British ELT (organized by the British Council), the National Union of Language Schools, and the Center of Foreign Language Teaching of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Professional development is now a relevant matter for most institutions. And although not all teachers have access to professional development events, most still seek opportunities to improve their teaching practice. As a teacher trainer, one of the most rewarding experiences I have had is working with a team of teachers from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec who commuted from surrounding towns to Lagunas, Oaxaca, to participate in a teacher training course. The majority of these teachers had earned their undergraduate degrees in fields related to ELT. In describing why they sought professional development opportunities, their primary objective was the benefits that these events could provide to their students.

It has been almost 6 years since SEP set the ball rolling for a paradigm shift in education in Mexico. The change was initiated with a 2-year research project involving nationwide preschool programs in hopes of redefining the standards for instruction with a constructivist-oriented curriculum. This project was known as the Programa de Educación Preescolar (SEP, 2004). As a follow-up, the Reforma a la Educación Secundaria and more recent Reforma Integral a la Educación Basica represent a formidable effort to hold language teaching in Mexico to the highest standards.

This model of reform is facilitated by integrating elements drawn from cognitive, constructivist, and humanistic theories into the English language classroom. In addition, levels have been benchmarked to measure teachers as well as learners according to the Common European Framework (SEP, 2006). This effort has been enriched with the incorporation of competencies at all educational levels in order to prepare students not only for academic studies, but for life in general. Because of these and other improvements, I can only foresee development and growth for the ELT profession in Mexico.

Leigh Ann Thelmadatter

I taught at a private school that boasts being one of the best in Mexico. Although it is known nationally as a school for the rich, this was not quite the case here in Toluca. Most of the students came from families that had just reached the socioeconomic level needed to be able to send their children to this school, rather than from families who have had money for generations. In addition, a large percentage of students received scholarships. Because of these two factors, my students did not have a sense of entitlement and many seemed genuinely appreciative of the opportunity to study at an institution with some degree of prestige.

One semester, I experimented with Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org) for a project in my advanced English class. Students had to integrate themselves into the online Wikipedia community in order to learn how to write acceptable contributions to the site. Given the experimental nature of the class, many unanticipated problems cropped up along the way. However, the students took most of them in stride and were even open to negotiating solutions with me and the Wikipedia community. This type of project supports my assumption that young learners in Mexico are much more open to innovative classroom activities than their teachers are, and this bodes well for the future of education in Mexico. It may be easy to criticize the system, but that same system is full of students who really want to learn and to make their lives better.

Joep van der Werff

I have had many gratifying experiences as an ELT professional in Mexico, including teaching English to blind people (van der Werff & Arredondo, 2004). Over the years, I have been involved in teacher training at a rural school in the state of Morelos, which I believe to be a good example of a different approach to rural education. This school, called El Peñón, relies heavily on donations for its survival. It has been recognized at the state and national level, most notably for its telesecundaria, which uses government-issued TV programs to support teaching. Three years ago, we revamped the English curriculum for the high school at El Peñón. In May 2009, our first students will finish the sixth semester of English and we will assess their progress with Test of English for International Communication Bridge exams. Preliminary testing has already shown satisfactory results.

Miguel Cabrera

I have worked in public and private high schools, and unfortunately the issues referred to by Mijangos-Guzzardo are not different from those I have seen myself and heard of from my colleagues. There are exceptions, of course, but in general the assessment of the situation is not particularly comforting.

Public schools usually lack adequate teaching materials, and teachers have to come up with all kinds of creative strategies to overcome this deficiency. Public school teachers also have to deal with union corruption and government authorities, who in many cases push teachers to play the same game that the system establishes. Whereas in private institutions, the critical issue is the lack of support from administrators. In the two private high schools where I have taught, we were instructed to pass students no matter how low their level of proficiency was or how restless and rude they were to teachers or peers.

In Mijangos-Guzzardo’s account, the only thing that struck me as out of the ordinary was the seemingly exaggerated statement that an error as grave as “Hello, ice to miet you” appeared on a national exam. It is important to be cautious and to defend ourselves and our programs when someone has a distorted view of us. Unfortunately, aside from the possible issue with that test item, Mijangos-Guzzardo was not misrepresenting the facts.

We don’t deny that ELT in Mexico needs to become more effective in government as well as private schools. Yet with the accounts and impressions we have provided in this article, we hope to have shown that teaching in Mexico can be and often is rewarding, inspiring, and valuable.

Several of us are foreigners, and obviously we don’t teach abroad to find the mirror image of the educational system in our home countries. Rather, we leave home to broaden our worldview and grow as professional educators. This means accepting the cracks and flaws in whatever system we work in while at the same time taking part in a movement toward positive change for future practitioners and learners.


Secretaría de Educación Pública. (2004). Programa de educación preescolar 2004. Mexico City, Mexico: Comisión Nacional de Libros de Texto Gratuitos.

Secretaría de Educación Pública. (2006) Educación básica: Secundaria Inglés, programas de estudio 2006. Mexico City, Mexico: Comisión Nacional de Libros de Texto Gratuitos.

van der Werff, J., & Arredondo, D. R. (2004). Teaching EFL to blind students in Mexico. Essential Teacher, 1(5), 46–48.

Joep van der Werff (joepvdw@yahoo.com) is a materials writer and coordinator at Interlingua, a leading English language institute in Mexico.

Kristan Taylor (kristanitza@yahoo.com) is an instructor and coordinator of English language programs in Mexico for the University of North Texas, in the United States.

Luis Domínguez (ldominguez@grupomacmillan.com) is the editorial development coordinator at Macmillan Publishers and a teacher trainer at Instituto Mexicano, in Mexico City, Mexico.

Leigh Ann Thelmadatter (osamadre@hotmail.com) is the language laboratory coordinator at ITESM-Campus Ciudad de Mexico, in Mexico.

Miguel Cabrera (mickabs@yahoo.com.mx) is the secretary of MexTESOL and a teacher at the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana, in Mexico City, Mexico.


Online tutoring: disruption, risks and opportunities

by Tim Gifford (Originally published by ELTJAM)

Digital migration

In the pre-digital world, language learners weren’t exactly spoilt for choice. Find a private tutor in the small ads? Enrol at a local language school? Get hold of some self-instruction audio cassettes?

Online technologies have blown language learning opportunities right open. With asynchronous online courses, videos, podcasts, MOOCs and blogs, there’s no end to the amount of content available. But content isn’t everything. And, while effective language bots may not be far off, most learners still opt for some form of human tuition. Here, too, there are digital options.

In the current culture of immediacy, we want what we want, and we want it now. So, the thought of contacting a language school, completing a level test and waiting to be assigned to a class is almost unthinkable. Not only is this process unacceptably slow, but the prospective learner is unlikely to have any say over the time and location of the lesson, let alone decide on the teacher.

The accessibility, individuality and flexibility of online tutoring is pulling more and more language learners away from face-to-face modes of learning.

But what does this shift away from the classroom mean for teachers, learners and the ELT industry?

The rise of online tutoring models

Online tutoring is an educational format that looks set to grow, well into the next decade.

In part, this rise has been driven by improved internet speeds, increased international connectivity and the developments in telecommunication software.

Here’s a geographical breakdown of the current online tutoring market from Technavio.

online tutoring market

Key demand areas include tuition for STEM subjects, higher education entrance exams and, as we’ll see in more detail, languages.

Online language tutoring can be accessed via a range of services. The providers of these services can be categorised by their size, as well as by the underlying business model they follow.  We’ve identified five core categories – from the individual freelancer, through to some of the education industry’s biggest players.

1. Private 1-to-1 tuition

Attracted by the convenience and flexibility of working from home, the chance to develop a personal brand and increase earnings, many teachers are choosing to go it alone.

What do you need to get started? Jaime Miller, director of online school English Success Academy, recommends using a platform that’s user friendly, like Wiz IQ or Zoom.

As for online promotion, with easy-to-use website builders like Squarespace and Wix, it’s never been easier. The potential reach is enormous but, in this truly global market, creating an online presence as an individual is far from straightforward.

Success with this model lies in finding a niche and striking a balance between the time spent marketing yourself and the successful recruitment of students.

Read more about how to grow your online teaching business.

2. P2P learning platforms

Peer-to-peer (P2P) learning platforms were quick to capitalise on this problem of self-marketing. They serve to bridge the gap between learner and teacher. Examples include Skooli and, more specifically to languages, italki and Verbling.

These started out as little more than directories of qualified, verified, independent teachers. However, as they’ve grown, they’ve begun adding new features (e.g. virtual classrooms, scheduling tools, payment options) that facilitate the whole tutoring process.

Such features not only bring added value, but they also help discourage users from taking lessons ‘off-platform’, reverting to the previous model. After all, these companies take a commission of around 10-15% for each lesson taught.

3. Specialist online agencies

This next model consists of agencies that contract teachers and market their services. There’s an abundance of online work on TEFL job boards. In fact, there are now websites, such as Oetjobs.com, that exclusively post online positions.

Key players in this category include the Chinese-based companies VIPKids and  iTutorGroup. The former employs over 40,000 teachers to meet the needs of more than 300,000 students. Whereas the latter claims to be the largest English-language learning institution in the world.

Demand for teachers by these companies is high, but remuneration remains relatively meagre. Even so, with the promise of regular work and a fixed wage, this is a trade-off some teachers are willing to accept, especially those who are inexperienced and/or benefit from a low cost of living.

4. Established ELT providers

The big players in ELT have also been quick to embrace online tutoring.

In 2014, Pearson launched Pearson English Interactive (PEI), a 4-level online course. Similarly, EF have EF English Live, which superseded EF Englishtown.

The main problem with online tutoring for these providers relates to scalability: one of the main benefits of online tutoring for students is that it offers one-to-one attention. Unfortunately, that dynamic simply doesn’t allow for growth on a large scale.

The approach by companies like Pearson and EF has therefore been to provide blended e-learning programmes. They include some form of online tutoring, though the majority of the course content is completed independently by the learner, who then receives a mix of automated and human feedback.

The result is a product that can compete with the flexibility of online tutoring, while keeping human-hours to a minimum.

Following this approach, we’re also likely to see a development in the application of voice user interfaces (VUI) and chatbots, to assist learners with language practice, correction and feedback.

Potential winners and losers

Every technological disruption creates opportunities for some and spells the end for others. So who are the potential winners and who’s likely to lose out?

Most importantly, online tutoring puts the learner back in the driving seat. Tomorrow, they can wake up and choose from any number of languages, take their pick from thousands of teachers and start learning. This is especially good news for professionals in need of flexibility or individuals living in remote areas.

The next set of winners are the tech savvy teachers. Even with basic web skills and marketing know-how, teachers now have an opportunity to tap into an enormous market and work remotely.

Then P2P platforms, such as Verbling, have already established themselves in the industry and look well-positioned to increase their market share.

The fact that learners can now find teachers all over the world, at all budgets, is likely to hit bricks and mortar language schools hardest.

In particular, small to medium-sized language schools, which have previously benefited from being one of the only local providers of language courses, may find that their captive market is no longer captive. However, with change comes opportunity. Schools should be looking for innovative ways to meet the ever-changing needs of their learners. From simply offering online classes via Skype, Google Hangouts or Zoom, to developing their own blended learning or other on-demand solutions, there’s plenty of scope to take action.

Finally, the global access to tutoring may increase the competitive pressure on non-native teachers. Broadly speaking, the tide does seem to be turning in terms of discriminatory job ads, however some companies still uphold ‘native-only’ policies. Verbling, for example, only accepts applications from native teachers. Unless such policies are challenged, a significant proportion of professional language teachers may be excluded from the exciting new opportunities online tutoring can bring.

Do you teach online? Does your school offer Skype lessons? What are the advantages and disadvantages? Let us know in the comments.

I’m a teacher


One of the best decisions in my life has been, without a doubt, becoming a teacher. I have been blessed for over 27 years by amazing people who have shared life with me.

Life itself has been my greatest teacher.

I have been lucky enough to learn from the best around me. Every time I walk into a room, a magical connection and exchange of experiences takes place, and most of the times I walk out the room having learnt something rather than “teaching it”.

There’s been lots of wonderful stories and people. It is their their trust and eagerness to learn that have kept me aware of the fragility of life.

About teaching, I’ve learnt and seen a good deal of great stuff from outstanding mentors, some are still around and some have finished their journey here, but they must be helping others find themselves elsewhere, I’m sure.

About life, I’ve been lucky to have been trusted by so many people, I could write an endless list and still miss someone out. It is the light all these souls have shed that have helped me discover the true pleasure of being a teacher.

I’ve been blessed by meeting a life-changing teacher, who has shown me how wrong I could be and how much there’s still to go. She is now 3.5 years, but her wisdom is infinite.

I am lucky person, I have listened to others and be heard back. I’ve given and taken. I’m a teacher…



Why Publishers Should Author Content for their Adaptive Learning Solutions

There is a misconception that creating content for adaptive learning systems is incredibly complex.

Because of this, it’s often assumed that either the adaptive technology partner creates content for publishers, or it takes their existing content, performs some magic and returns it ‘adaptified’.

But we believe publishers can and should retain control of the content authoring process. Here are three reasons why.


1. You already have everything you need

While there are new skills to learn and new metadata considerations, publishers are often surprised to learn they already have the content they need and that their team’s existing skills are a great fit for the job.

At Adaptemy, we have developed a series of authoring tools that have simplicity at their core and a quick and proven process for training content teams in the principles and practicalities of this kind of authoring.

Our work with major publishers like Folens, AulaPlaneta, Klett Raabe, and others has shown that with these tools and approach in-house teams can effectively and efficiently create and own their content.

2. Huge volumes of content are not required

A key concern for many publishers is the sheer volume of content needed to deliver an adaptive learning solution.

But the truth is, even using existing or a relatively small volume of content, it is possible to create a really effective adaptive learning experience.

This is because of the algorithms and approaches, such as content sequencing, motivational feedback and individualised learning paths, within the engine.

In our experience, a project to create a digital workbook for students aged 12-16 takes a team of four to five authors three to four months to complete.

This will deliver ~2000 question templates (including questions, answers and worked solutions) across 200 concepts. A little goes a long way.

3. When you own and maintain a single source of content you’re in control

Increasingly, content teams are being asked to deliver content in multiple formats, such as teacher manuals, printed textbooks, digital textbooks and ePub, for multiple boards, regions or states. Economy demands that this content is as reusable as possible.

When content is not separated from the format of delivery, painful and costly conversions from format to format are a necessity. That means publishers must create new versions of each title, which need to be continually maintained. Indeed, entire industries have sprung up to take on these conversions for publishers.

One of the key principles of structured xml content is to maintain a single source of content and transform it into whatever format your market needs, now and in the future. Adaptive learning engines use this same xml content structure; by starting to create format-agnostic content today you will be ready for tomorrow.

With Adaptemy, you will always own your content and it will also be ready for conversion. We focus on interoperable and portable standardised xml formats like SCORM and DITA. Our authoring tool generates QTI 2.1 xml. Whether you want to repurpose the content for a print book or present it in a non-adaptive digital solution the power is yours.

A popular first step for publishers wishing to explore adaptive learning solutions is to create an assessment for learning workbook. By recreating something familiar to teams and customers you’re able to leverage existing content while exploring the power of adaptive learning.

The Limitations of E-learning Tools: The Possibilities of Adaptive Learning

-Taken from Adaptemy.com

The eBook has been a ubiquitous feature of the edTech landscape since the days of Flash. So, in a month where the CEO of Hachette called the humble eBook a “stupid product”, we’re taking time to review some of the missteps taken with eLearning Tools.[i]

It’s a headline-grabbing quote to be sure but reading deeper: Nourry is lamenting that the eBook is a derivative technology. A digital simulation of an existing solution that falls short of genuine innovation. Lacking the internal resources at Hachette to innovate in the digital space – he’s taking his cue from gaming.

With falling revenues across the board, the long foretold digital revolution is claiming its first victims. Innovation in the digital space is important whether you’re the established leader keeping the barbarians from the gates or whether you’re the barbarian sharpening the axe.


While there’s growing evidence that the “first digital divide” has been reduced across Europe – it hasn’t been closed completely.[ii] Anyone who has visited a school without its own groundskeeper will recognize that technical infrastructure remains a key blocker. eLearning solutions that cannot function on the lower rungs of the infrastructural ladder will stall quickly: the latest tech gimmick gathering dust in the corner of the classroom.

Trust and Risk

Reducing the digital divide is the result of a concerted and explicit series of national and European programs of investment over many years. Investment in training has been poor by comparison. When a teacher stands in front of a classroom of students they are taking a risk: Will their lesson go to plan? If not, can they improvise? Can they manage the classroom and avoid teaching to the middle?

In this context – who in their right mind would take the risk of adding in the possibility of technical problems? It’s hardly surprising that ‘Reliability’ and ‘Simplicity’ feature so heavily in focus groups with our teachers. You need a partner that can guarantee the stability of service at scale. You also need to develop products that have simplicity in the interface. Yes, even if that means fighting with your product owners to have fewer features.

Role Play

There’s considerable appetite for more training but the role of the teacher in the Digital Classroom is still underdeveloped in teacher training programs. Although we could reasonably expect this to improve in the future – teachers can feel vulnerable, exposed or even intimidated by new technology rendering them obsolete.

You need to be crystal clear about the role of the teacher in the delivery of learning using your technology. If you cannot understand and communicate the teacher’s (and for that matter the students’ / parents’ / schools’ administrators) role in your eLearning solution – how can they?

Genuine Innovation

eBooks, of course, are not inherently good or bad, stupid or smart: Nourry could just as well be talking about any other derivative technology (Interactive Whiteboards spring to mind for me). It’s the unfulfilled potential that this opening horizon offers that resonates with me and the team here at Adaptemy.

The bad news is that succeeding in the above is only the price of admission. If you are still struggling with these problems, there are a growing number of companies that can build you an app that might help.

But, if you believe that eLearning partnerships can create Smart products that solve the more interesting problems like:

– Personalizing the Digital Experience.

– Measurably Improving Engagement, Motivation and Retention.

– Empowering teachers with actionable information.

– Making teaching the best job in the world again.

[i] https://publishingperspectives.com/2018/02/france-arnaud-nourry-describes-ebooks-as-stupid/

[ii] http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/JRC109311/jrc109311_digedupol_2017-12_final.pdf#page=13

10 Signs of a 21st Century Classroom

Originally published by:https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/10-signs-21st-century-classroom?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

One of my early challenges in coordinating my school’s STEM efforts has been determining exactly what is meant by a STEM school.  There are probably as many answers to this question as there are educators, but I have decided to focus on what goes on inside the classroom.  Not just in a science or math class, but in all classrooms.  There are some activities that have traditionally been done well by the STEM disciplines that can be cross applied to all subjects.

I have narrowed these down to a list of 10 signs of a 21st Century classroom.  I have been slowly introducing these concepts to the faculty at my school through informal discussions and incremental training during in-service days.

A few notes:

  •  I am sure that there are many similar lists in existence.  This one is originally based on a reference I found in the article “Considerations for Teaching Integrated STEM Education”.
  • I have opted to drop the word “STEM” from this list because these ideas, while often associated with science and math fields, are applicable to and indeed seen in all disciplines.
  • Each of the following could fill an article or a book by itself, but I have provided just a few explanatory lines for clarification.

And, in no particular order:

Technology Integration

Rather self-explanatory and covered very well in other sections of this site.  It involves more than just use of technology, but students using technology to achieve goals in a different way than was possible before.

Collaborative Environment

Many students prefer to work alone.  However, this is an option not often granted in careers.  In addition, collaboration fosters the development of new ideas and exposes students to opposing viewpoints.

Opportunities for Creative Expression

This is where many schools will add an ‘A’ to form STEAM.  Creative expression not only yields surprising outbursts of understanding, but also builds student confidence.

Inquiry Based Approach

Much could be shared here about the difference between guided inquiry vs. open inquiry.  The core idea of students approaching a new topic in the context of answering a question is a cornerstone of the current teaching models.

Justification for Answers

The largest problem that I encounter in my students reasoning is an almost complete lack of it.  Fostering an expectation of well-developed thoughts encourages students to approach a problem from a number of angles and discover what they truly believe.

Writing for Reflection

Journal writing is often considered a dying art.  This is a shame because as self-reflection goes, so does strong metacognitive reinforcement of learning.  If students use a blog for reflection, they may even be surprised to learn that others are interested in their thoughts.

Use of a Problem Solving Methodology

Problem solving goes well beyond engineering classrooms.  Having a go-to method of approaching new difficulties can aid students through writing a short story or solving an economics challenge.

Hands-on Learning

Long a staple of science courses, labs provide a wonderful opportunity to provide students with another anchor for learning.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Any opportunity to connect to the outside world is a chance to enhance student achievement.

Teacher as Facilitator

Modern realization of best practice in education no longer supports the idea of the teacher as an authoritarian figure standing in the front of the room scrawling on a chalkboard.  As educators, our role can be reshaped so that we work beside students providing support and encouragement for their personal journey.

Transparent Assessment

Students perform better and form stronger connections with material if they are able to understand what demonstration of knowledge will be expected of them.  Portfolios, rubrics, and formative assessments can help meet this goal.

I’d be interested in hearing the ideas of others who have introduced an integrated STEM approach at their schools.

Classroom Management in the EdTech Classroom

By Matthew Lynch

Classroom management is a skill that educators struggle with daily. Management strategies have to be adapted to fit different classroom sizes, age group, and behavioral patterns. Technology brings with it excitement, but in the classroom, it is another aspect that educators have to police. Younger students naturally require more observation, but regardless, classroom management is an important aspect of any successful class. So, below are some ideas on how to use technology in the classroom but still be in control of the happenings behind the screens.

Historically, the classroom has changed very little in its layout. Teachers speak at the front and students are aligned in desks towards the back. Technology aims to bring students to the forefront of education and so a traditional classroom set out is not conducive to this new type of learning nor does it aid in classroom management. Educators need to now have an eye on their students and their screens. In higher grades, this can be accomplished by walking around and teaching from the back of the class, but with younger children, it proves more of a challenge.

Station rotation is a classroom management tool that is explored  Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools by Michael Horn and Heather Staker. This classroom management technique is encouraged in K- 12 classes and has shown to have positive results in regards to classroom management and overall effectiveness of technology use. By having a number of stations with different tasks, educators can keep an eye on smaller groups using technology and can walk around and do micro-teaching. Students are given the freedom to work on a task but not without the control that comes with the job at each station. This method also changes the classroom set out and allows for student-centered learning.

Keeping students on task is hard for any educator. Devices bring with accessibility to the internet and other apps. As much as the classroom management is necessary, the upkeep of the technology is equally as important. This means ensuring that security functions are up to date, search options are child safe and that no additional apps are downloaded to act as distractions. Clearlock and AppBlock are free apps that allow educators to manage what apps a student can access and for how long. Apps such as they aid in curbing

 In 2014 only 16 % of students were provided with a personable tablet by their schools and the statistics on other devices is not much better. What this suggests, regarding classroom management, is that sharing of devices is a reality. Educators need to be ready to ensure that every student has a chance to engage with edtech if they are to reap the rewards. The station rotation method works well here as does group work.  By encouraging students to work together, educators foster relationships and make the use of a technology a social and an educational tool.

Another tried and tested classroom management technique is the policing the types of technology that are allowed in a particular class or lesson. “No Phone Zones” and rules around when technology is appropriate, ensure that educators have control on what can be out on desks and what can’t. Students need to understand that technology is not a free pass and that there are rules that exist around their use. This

So, new technology comes with new classroom management obstacles. Classrooms need to adapt to include technology, and if this is to be done effectively, then the traditional classroom will not do. Station rotation, group work and ensuring that the technology is secure is a good place to start. Students need to know what is expected of them and how technology is an aspect of the classroom and not a replacement of one.

3 Technologies Bolstering STEM Learning

By Matthew Lynch

According to the STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Math) Coalition, there are 26 million STEM jobs in the U.S., comprising 20 percent of all jobs. By 2020, there will be 9.2 million STEM jobs in the U.S. Despite the need for these workers, only 45 percent and 30 percent of high school seniors are prepared for college-level math and science courses, respectively.

As the American K-12 system continues to look for ways to increase student interest and aptitude in STEM learning, technology is playing an increasingly pivotal role. Children who come to classrooms today have an inherent aptitude for technology and educators should encourage that skill set with resources that integrate STEM learning. Just a few of the ways to do that include making use of:

Virtual laboratories

Scientific experiments are no longer just reserved for physical labs. Through interactive technology, students can now do experiments remotely through use of virtual laboratories. The virtual labs at New Mexico State University, for example, give high school and college students access to food-based experiments. Students can test for corn mold, milk bacterial contamination and prevent C. Bot growth in salsa from a remote website. There is certainly something to be said of in-person experimentation, but student access is usually limited based on actual class times and resources. A virtual lab means that a student can do an experiment multiple times, and learn from mistakes in real-time and make adjustments. It also means that experiments are not limited to a determined class time and can be done on a student’s schedule. So students with an appetite for experimentation have greater access to it, and the others are not easily discouraged by “one shot” experiments.

In-class mobile devices

A student with a tablet or smartphone in hand has a portal to hundreds of apps that support STEM learning. There are a lot of things that students can do on basic tablets and phones, but there are also products like the einstein Tablet+ from Fourier Education that have a specific focus on STEM initiatives. Instead of going out and searching for STEM-centric lessons, the einstein Tablet+ comes preloaded with experiments and modules that cover physics, biology, human physiology, chemistry, and environmental science. This STEM-specific tablet can be connected to classroom projectors and monitors so that all the students can participate at once, or can be used as an individual tablet for customized learning in grades K-12. Teachers can search mobile apps for highly-reviewed ones, some of which are completely free, to use on the screens in their classrooms.

Television programming

While statistics show that too much television watching among children leads to higher obesity rates, behavior problems and less interest in things like reading, kids ages 8 to 18 are still watching television programs on various screens for 4.5 hours every day. It isn’t all bad news though. The value of children’s programming is increasing though. Programming is no longer created for the purpose of entertainment alone. On PBS alone, STEM-learning programs like Sid the Science Kid, Curious George, Cyberchase, Nature and Nova run the gamut of childhood ages and interests. In some cases, teachers are even able to incorporate some of these learning programs in classrooms and build entire lesson plans around the content.
Math, science and engineering are all intrinsically linked with technology. This gives educators an advantage with the current generation of K-12 students who arrive in Kindergarten classrooms with a technological edge. As learning technology improves, STEM education will continue to be the beneficiary if educators use it resourcefully.

What do you think can be done to improve student interest in STEM pursuits?

25 Ways that EdTech Benefits Teachers and Students

By Matthew Lynch

EdTech is everywhere in today’s classrooms, with more teachers using technology than ever before. But what are the real benefits of using tech in the classroom? Let’s take a look at some of the ways EdTech benefits both teachers and students.

  1. Increased student engagement

When students get to use technology, they’re automatically more engaged. Kids love technology, and incorporating it into lessons gets students excited about learning. Adding technology to existing lesson plans can boost student engagement without requiring teachers to do a lot of extra work.

  1. More collaboration

Technology makes it easier for students to collaborate with one another. Students can work on projects together, communicate effortlessly at home or in the classroom, and share their work online.

  1. Improve digital literacy

Digital literacy is a fundamental skill for students in the 21st century. Knowing how to use technology and the internet will be required in almost every job that students might have in the future. By incorporating EdTech into the classroom, teachers can help students improve their digital literacy.

  1. Automate grading

In the past, teachers have spent hours after school and on weekends grading papers. There are tons of EdTech tools that can cut down on this time, automating grading and making measuring student progress simple.

  1. Get student data

EdTech can also make measuring student progress through data much easier. Many programs can automatically give teachers data on students, quickly and easily showing what skills students have mastered and what they need to work on.

  1. Stay in touch 24/7

With technology and the internet, students and teachers can stay in touch all the time. There are a variety of apps that allow students to communicate with teachers (without teachers giving out their personal email or phone number). Students can get homework help and teachers can send important reminders.

  1. Keep up with classroom management

There are lots of EdTech tools designed to help teachers with classroom management. Teachers can keep track of student behaviors and keep parents informed using technology.

  1. Flip the classroom

The flipped classroom, where students learn through reading or lecture videos at home then do projects or discuss what they learned in the classroom, is only possible through EdTech. This innovative new way of teaching and learning is taking the world of education by storm.

  1. Have more fun

EdTech can make learning more fun. There are tons of educational games and apps that get students excited and turn learning into a game instead of a chore.

  1. Get creative

With EdTech tools, students can do more creative work. Students can create online presentations and digital art to showcase what they’ve learned.

  1. Go paperless

Going paperless is a popular way for schools to save money (and reduce their carbon footprint). By putting more materials online and utilizing technology, teachers can cut back on the number of copies they make and save paper.

  1. Publish and present student work

Instead of creating a presentation that no one outside the classroom will see, students can use the internet to publish their work for the entire world to see.

  1. Do more research

Learning how to do research is an important skill that teachers have always taught. EdTech just makes it easier. Students can complete research projects without spending hours in the library and can even continue their research at home.

  1. Learn to code

Computer programming is an increasingly in-demand skill. There are a variety of tools for teaching students how to code, even in elementary school.

  1. Teachers save time

Before the rise of EdTech, teachers spent long hours creating lesson plans and grading papers. With technology and the internet, teachers can find lesson plans and free materials online. Plus, apps and programs designed to grade student work can save even more time.

  1. Raise test scores

EdTech can help improve student achievement and raise test scores. Tools that help with test prep and measure students’ progress can help teachers bring up scores.

  1. Bring the classroom home

With EdTech, learning doesn’t have to stop when students go home. Students can continue their learning at home using the internet.

  1. Find free materials

Teachers don’t have to pay for workbooks anymore. There are tons of free materials online that can help busy teachers throw together lesson plans in minutes.

  1. Turn review into a game

There are tons of apps available that turn review activities or test prep into fun games for students. This can make otherwise boring review fun and exciting.

  1. Personalize learning for every student

EdTech helps teachers differentiate learning. Students can each work on something different on their individual devices, with each student focusing on their own areas of weakness.

  1. Include ELLs

Technology can help English Language Learners feel included in the classroom. The internet makes translating materials easier than ever, allowing beginning English learners to participate in activities that would otherwise be too difficult.

  1. Stop buying expensive textbooks

Thanks to the internet, schools no longer have to spend money each year on new textbooks. Information is readily available online, and it’s more up-to-date than with old print books.

  1. Provide remediation

There are lots of resources available to help remediate students using EdTech. Students who are below grade-level can use EdTech tools to get caught up.

  1. Provide acceleration

EdTech isn’t just for remediation—it can also be used for acceleration. Students who are bored with the material the rest of the class is working on can complete additional projects and accelerate their learning using EdTech.

  1. Bring your classroom into the 21st century

It just makes sense to incorporate more EdTech into the classroom. Teachers are responsible for preparing students for a 21st century world, and exposing them to technology is a part of that.

What other benefits does EdTech have for students and teachers? Tell us how you’ve seen EdTech benefit classrooms.

Why marking students’ books should be the least of a language teacher’s priorities

1. Introduction

Never, as in this day and age, secondary schools in the UK have made such a big fuss about the importance of marking student books and never has giving feedback been so tiresome and time-consuming for teachers. Based on the intuitively compelling notion – supported by recent research claims by the likes of Hattie – that a more cognitively demanding student involvement in the feedback-handling process significantly enhances learning, Modern Language teachers are now asked in many cases to place marking at the top of their priorities and engage in elaborate corrective approaches.

The trending remedial methodology prescribing a conversation-for-learning approach to marking, whereby the feedback unfolds in the form of a dialogue between corrector and correctee, book-marking has become a very taxing process for both parties but especially for teachers. Chilling horror stories of teachers forced to three to four-hour book-marking marathons per day using 3 different ink-colours or stamps (a different one for each stage in the feedback dialogue) to the detriment of their family life, keep resurfacing on online teacher forums and Facebook pages. SLT’s frequent book checks obviously adding to teacher stress.

This article was written in response to dozens of messages I have been getting from UK-based colleagues distressed by this state of affairs and asking invariably the same question: is the time and effort I put in book marking justified? In the below I intend to answer this question by drawing on thirty years of error-correction research, my personal experience as a learner of 14 languages and teacher of five and, more importantly, neuroscience and common sense. I will also suggest alternative remedial approaches to MFL learner errors which are as or even more effective than the trending methodologies.

2. What L2 error-correction research says

  1. Surveys of students and parents’ opinion have consistently indicated that they want books to be marked (Ferris,1999);
  1. Students often find teacher corrections confusing and unhelpful, hence do not learn much from them (Hedgcock and Lefkowitz, 1998);
  1. Students do not possess effective feedback-handling strategies and have a very superficial attitude to teacher corrections. They simply look at the mark or comments on their work, make a mental note of them but invest very little – if any – cognitive effort in processing teacher corrections (Cohen, 1987; Cohen and Cavalcanti, 1990; Conti, 2004). My PhD study (Conti,2001) found that students writing an essay per week and regularly and timely receiving detailed corrective feedback on the latter are clueless as to what the most common errors in their written work are and can only recall about 10% of the errors corrected by the instructor in their latest piece.
  1. Many errors appear to be impervious to error correction (Truscott, 1996). Despite repeated corrections, the vast majority of errors, especially the ones which refer to more complex grammatical points or less salient features (e.g. article, prepositions, word endings) keep re-occurring.
  1. Intensive grammar and editing instruction targeting specific errors has also shown to be largely ineffective (Polio et al, 1998).
  2. Once errors are automatized (or ‘fossilised’ as psycholinguists say) nothing can be done to completely eradicate them (Mukkatesh, 1988). Hence preventing students from automatizing mistakes seems to be more effective than treating them.
  1. An excessive concern with error treatment may affect students’ motivation negatively (James, 1998).
  1. An excessive concern with error treatment can also lead to error avoidance which stifles creativity with the language by inhibiting risk-taking (Krashen, 2000).
  1. Both direct and indirect correction do not impact students’ accuracy more effectively than no correction at all. Indirect correction has negatively impacted students’ motivation in some studies (Semke, 1984, Robb et al, 1986, Kepner, 1991).
  1. In studies in which the writing of students whose essays received only feedback on content was compared to the writing of students whose work was corrected, the former condition had a better impact on certain aspects of their writing proficiency (the no-correction group producing more higher order propositions than the correction group). These studies concluded that error correction may actually damage the development of written proficiency.
  1. Extensive strategy training in self-monitoring and feedback-handling strategies occurring over a long period seems to enhance essay-writing accuracy in the areas of grammar, vocabulary and spelling in university contexts . My study (Conti, 2001), which pioneered a feedback technique aimed at enhancing student involvement in the corrective process (a more elaborate version of what today is referred to as D.I.R.T. = Dedicated Improvement Reflection Time) obtained impressive gains in writing accuracy and even proficiency; however, it required a huge diagnostic effort, many hours of learner training and high levels of expertise on the part of the instructor (I spent countless hours of research and piloting before implementing the program).
  1. Students who are more motivated and have higher levels of self-regulation are more likely to benefit from correction (Conti, 2001; 2004)
  1. For errors to be reduced or eradicated, students need to engage in a conscious and sustained long-term effort (Conti, 2004)
  1. Errors are more likely to be eradicated when they refer to structures our students process frequently both receptively and productively (Loewen, 1998).
  1. Some errors are caused by lack of knowledge. Others by processing inefficiency or cognitive overload (i.e. the brain cannot juggle all the demands of the writing process successfully because they are simply too many and some errors slip through). The latter mistakes are usually self-correctable by the students.
  1. It is useless to correct errors which refer to structures the learners are not developmentally ready to acquire as they do not have the cognitive maturity to internalize them.

3. Should we stop correcting then?

The obvious answer is ‘No’ as students and parents do demand we correct. Moreover, as a language learner I have personally benefitted greatly from correction, so I do know it can work. The above research findings and what we know about how the human brain acquire languages cannot be ignored, though, and should inform our pedagogy.

What the 16 points above tell us is that to simply highlight a few errors and ask students to self-correct or do some research on the erroneously applied grammar rule is not going to enhance accuracy or language acquisition. This is because the acquisition of a grammar item is a complex process that takes months or even years of practice; it does not happen as a sudden revelation resulting from a correction. If the mistakes are made in speaking they will require extensive speaking practice; if they are made in writing, extensive writing practice. Simply telling a student you made mistake ‘X’ and asking them to self-correct it, do research on it, have a conversation with their teacher about it, or even all of the above,  will not be enough; it will only be the beginning phase of a very long process.

Thus, if I correct a student at the beginning of term 1 on item ‘X’ I will have to consistently keep that item in their focal awareness for the months to come, whilst providing spaced practice in the usage of that item week in week out until the end of Term 3. This is because learning a language is about acquiring automaticity in the execution of a specific set of skills which are acquired through masses of extensive (not intensive) practice. Note that I said ‘in the months to come’, not in a one-off remedial lesson

Other subjects, such as the Humanities or the Sciences, are less about automaticity and more about intellectual retention of knowledge and facts, hence they require a different type of corrective intervention. So, whereas in such subjects one can write in a book ‘it is fact X not Y’ and all the students will have to do is memorize that fact, in languages this will not be enough. The acquisition of a given grammar rule will require masses of spaced practice across a wide range of contexts coupled with positive or negative feedback on each and every application of that rule.

In tennis or football coaching, one cannot hope to improve a player’s dribbling skills by telling them what they are doing wrong, asking them to think about what they can do to improve and hope that just because they have understood the suggestions they are (a) going to take them on, (b) implement them and (c) act them out often and skilfully enough to automatize them. The player will first need to WANT to heed the advice and then practise it over and over again, even when the coach is not there to support him, and, only when it has worked many times over, he may finally internalize it. This example encapsulates all the challenges that effective error correction poses to teacher and learner alike, i.e.:

(1) the student must understand the correction;

(2) must want to learn from it (intentionality – the most important factor in the success of error correction);

(3) must practise it consistently over a long period of time at spaced intervals;

(4) must receive feedback that tells him/her that s/he is performing it correctly every time.

Can an overworked teacher even remotely hope to be able to successfully take each individual student in the classes s/he teaches through all of the above four stages with every single problematic item they target? Not really, that is why error correction, whether through D.I.R.T. or any other form of error correction is bound to have little impact on students’ proficiency.

And often it is not even an issue of time or resources; the greatest obstacle to the success of error correction relates to the issue of intentionality (the desire to act on one’s problems). The fact that a student engages in a dialog about error and responds effectively to the teacher’s corrective prompts does not mean that s/he will have the desire to eradicate the target mistake(s) which is essential for him/her to succeed. Cognitive engagement without intentionality rarely yields proficiency gains in language acquisition, because without intentionality the learner is unlikely to autonomously seek the opportunities for practice that lead to acquisition.

Not to mention another issue pertaining to the affective impact of an overemphasis on error correction: it skews learning towards remediation, towards ‘fixing’ rather than ‘creating’, towards form rather than content. Obsession with correction usually engenders fear of making mistakes, not a healthy catalyst of language learning.

4. Conclusions and implications for teaching and learning

What are the conclusions to be drawn and most importantly, what is the way forward?

The most important conclusion to be drawn, a huge U-turn from the recommendations I gave in the final chapter of my PhD study 12 years ago, is that book-marking should be kept to the minimum. What is much more important and more impactful in terms of teaching and learning is how the problem areas the teacher identifies in their students’ output inform our future short-, medium- and long-term planning. Thus, on finding that in doing homework ‘X’ or essay ‘Y’ most students made a given set of mistakes, it will be much more effective to focus on those mistakes in whole class activities through extensive practice over the weeks to come (at spaced intervals), rather than writing the same comments and corrections in every student’s book.

Secondly, students of similar linguistic background typically make by and large the same mistakes at various levels of proficiency. Instead of focusing on those mistakes in the remedial phase of teaching (correction) why not concentrating our efforts on pre-empting those errors by teaching the areas they refer to more effectively in the first place. In planning a lesson, for instance, I always try to predict the errors my students are likely to make and devise tactics and support materials to pre-empt or reduce their occurrence. Let us not forget that many of our students’ mistakes are caused by L1 transfer as well as by misleading explanations and/or examples, the materials we use and the translations we provide (e.g. J’ai 16 ans means literally ‘I have 16 years’ but by translating as ‘I am 16’ we lead the students to assume that ‘J’ai’ means ‘I am’). By the same token, scaffolding learning more carefully so as to gradually build up mastery rather than immediately throwing the students in the deep end can prevent many errors; for instance, as I always maintain in my blogs, teachers often go way too quickly from the presentation of a grammar point straight to production, missing out the all-important receptive phase (e.g. reading) which models target structure use in context. Last, but not least, let us ensure that we cover those problematic areas more thoroughly and extensively in our curriculum planning (more recycling and less coverage!).

Thirdly, instead of marking student output a few hours or days after the error has occurred, by focusing on the product, why not marking it as things happen as much as possible, focusing on the process? This approach, known as ‘live marking’ means going around the classroom as students grapple with a new language structure monitoring their output as they read, speak or write and intervene as soon as a serious mistake takes place by asking questions which promote self-correction such as ‘are you sure about this?’ and maybe probe into the causes of that error if it does not disrupt the task-at-hand.

Fourthly, the motivation to take an active and more responsible role in the feedback process can be fostered through L.I.F.T. (learner initiated feedback technique) whereby the students ask the teachers for feedback themselves. E.g., in writing an essay, a student unsure about the use of a grammar structure may ask in the margin of the essay ‘ should I use the perfect tense or the perfect tense continuous here?’.  By so doing, it is the student who is initiating the feedback process. The teacher is merely responding. The fact that the student chooses item ‘X’ himself, as the focus of the teacher’s intervention, may enhance the students’ depth of engagement in the learning of that item.

Personalised editing checklists to be used by the students in the editing phase of their writing prior to handing in their work, may also help enhance learner responsibility and the accuracy of the final product; if applied consistently over a long period of time they might even end up improving their self-monitoring skills – not necessarily written proficiency though.The students make a list of a few mistakes that keep cropping up in their work which they elect to eliminate from their writing. The list may grow as the year progresses, of course. They will then use that list to go through each new assignment when they review their drafts, one item at the time. Useful with exam classes in my experience. Better for the list to include only 5 to 6 items at a time, although more keen and able students may include more. I tend to use editing checklists in synergy with L.I.F.T. (students apply checklist and ask questions in the margin when they have doubts).

There are other strategies that can be implemented to tackle errors that are more effective than the trending dialogic and/or D.I.R.T.-based corrective approaches as they are usually applied in many foreign language classrooms. But I reserve to deal with such tactics in my next blogpost, for reasons of space.

In conclusion, by all means, if you are a teacher on a very light timetable and teach small classes, as I was when I carried out my PhD experiment, do carry on with D.I.R.T. and/or conversing with students in writing in their books using three or different pen colours. It might pay dividends at least with some of your more motivated students.  However, if you are a snowed-under practitioner in a busy state school, you may want to heed my advice and spend more time planning and working out ways to teach more effectively, as that is more likely to advance your students’ learning.

The problem is that school-wide policies are rarely drafted by language experts or educators who understand how language acquisition occurs so you may have to carry on as you are told… For many non-language specialists MFL learning is about memorising grammar rules and vocabulary lists – a purely intellectual endeavour. As current accounts of L2 learning posits, though, language acquisition is not about accruing intellectual knowledge and errors are more often than not the result of ineffective performance linked to working-memory executive function than lack of understanding or knowledge gaps. And performance deficits can only be addressed through practice, not reflection.

As Mark Solomon and Keith Netcher, the facilitators of a very useful workshop on feedback I attended last Friday at my school said, one should only provide feedback if it is likely to have an impact. If not, it is simply a worthless box-ticking endeavour.

Do get hold of the book I co-authored with Steve Smith ‘The Language Teacher Toolkit‘ to find out more about our ideas on error correction and smart book-marking


In the age of robots, our schools are teaching children to be redundant | George Monbiot

George Monbiot

In the future, if you want a job, you must be as unlike a machine as possible: creative, critical and socially skilled. So why are children being taught to behave like machines?

Children learn best when teaching aligns with their natural exuberance, energy and curiosity. So why are they dragooned into rows and made to sit still while they are stuffed with facts?

We succeed in adulthood through collaboration. So why is collaboration in tests and exams called cheating?

Governments claim to want to reduce the number of children being excluded from school. So why are their curriculums and tests so narrow that they alienate any child whose mind does not work in a particular way?

The best teachers use their character, creativity and inspiration to trigger children’s instinct to learn. So why are character, creativity and inspiration suppressed by a stifling regime of micromanagement?

There is, as Graham Brown-Martin explains in his book Learning {Re}imagined, a common reason for these perversities. Our schools were designed to produce the workforce required by 19th-century factories. The desired product was workers who would sit silently at their benches all day, behaving identically, to produce identical products, submitting to punishment if they failed to achieve the requisite standards. Collaboration and critical thinking were just what the factory owners wished to discourage.

As far as relevance and utility are concerned, we might as well train children to operate a spinning jenny. Our schools teach skills that are not only redundant but counter-productive. Our children suffer this life-defying, dehumanising system for nothing.

The less relevant the system becomes, the harder the rules must be enforced, and the greater the stress they inflict. One school’s current advertisement in the Times Educational Supplement asks: “Do you like order and discipline? Do you believe in children being obedient every time? … If you do, then the role of detention director could be for you.” Yes, many schools have discipline problems. But is it surprising when children, bursting with energy and excitement, are confined to the spot like battery chickens?

Teachers are now leaving the profession in droves, their training wasted and their careers destroyed by overwork and a spirit-crushing regime of standardisation, testing and top-down control. The less autonomy they are granted, the more they are blamed for the failures of the system. A major recruitment crisis beckons, especially in crucial subjects such as physics and design and technology. This is what governments call efficiency.

Any attempt to change the system, to equip children for the likely demands of the 21st century, rather than those of the 19th, is demonised by governments and newspapers as “social engineering”. Well, of course it is. All teaching is social engineering. At present we are stuck with the social engineering of an industrial workforce in a post-industrial era. Under Donald Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, and a nostalgic government in Britain, it’s likely only to become worse.

Schoolchildren taking their GCSE exams.
Photograph: Alamy

When they are allowed to apply their natural creativity and curiosity, children love learning. They learn to walk, to talk, to eat and to play spontaneously, by watching and experimenting. Then they get to school, and we suppress this instinct by sitting them down, force-feeding them with inert facts and testing the life out of them.

There is no single system for teaching children well, but the best ones have this in common: they open up rich worlds that children can explore in their own ways, developing their interests with help rather than indoctrination. For example, the Essa academy in Bolton gives every pupil an iPad, on which they create projects, share material with their teachers and each other, and can contact their teachers with questions about their homework. By reducing their routine tasks, this system enables teachers to give the children individual help.

Other schools have gone in the opposite direction, taking children outdoors and using the natural world to engage their interests and develop their mental and physical capacities (the Forest School movement promotes this method). But it’s not a matter of high-tech or low-tech; the point is that the world a child enters is rich and diverse enough to ignite their curiosity, and allow them to discover a way of learning that best reflects their character and skills.

There are plenty of teaching programmes designed to work with children, not against them. For example, the Mantle of the Expert encourages them to form teams of inquiry, solving an imaginary task – such as running a container port, excavating a tomb or rescuing people from a disaster – that cuts across traditional subject boundaries. A similar approach, called Quest to Learn, is based on the way children teach themselves to play games. To solve the complex tasks they’re given, they need to acquire plenty of information and skills. They do it with the excitement and tenacity of gamers.

The Reggio Emilia approach, developed in Italy, allows children to develop their own curriculum, based on what interests them most, opening up the subjects they encounter along the way with the help of their teachers. Ashoka Changemaker schools treat empathy as “a foundational skill on a par with reading and math”, and use it to develop the kind of open, fluid collaboration that, they believe, will be the 21st century’s key skill.

The first multi-racial school in South Africa, Woodmead, developed a fully democratic method of teaching, whose rules and discipline were overseen by a student council. Its integrated studies programme, like the new system in Finland, junked traditional subjects in favour of the students’ explorations of themes, such as gold, or relationships, or the ocean. Among its alumni are some of South Africa’s foremost thinkers, politicians and businesspeople.

In countries such as Britain and the United States, such programmes succeed despite the system, not because of it. Had these governments set out to ensure that children find learning difficult and painful, they could not have done a better job. Yes, let’s have some social engineering. Let’s engineer our children out of the factory and into the real world.

A fully linked version of this column will be published at monbiot.com

Delete the “Thank you!” slide – how to end your presentation

Brian McCarthy

The most important sections of your presentation are the beginning and ending. The beginning is when you will grab the attention of the audience and hopefully persuade them you are worth listening to for the next 20 minutes, and the ending will be where you summarise your main points and key message in such a way that it will be easier for them to remember and take home.

In this post I would like to talk about the five best practices for ending your talk confidently and with impact.

1. Repeat something from the opening.

When you begin your closing section (your summary or conclusions), it’s a good idea to repeat or link to an idea from the opening of your talk.  One great way to do this is to begin your talk with the first half of a relevant personal story and end your talk with the second half. Or, if you talk about a problem in a specific context at the beginning, refer back to that context at the beginning of your closing. Or, if you open with an impactful picture, show that image again at the end. Doing this will signal to the audience that you are coming to the end of your talk. It completes the circle – you end up back where you started. This is the classic structure of a story that recounts a journey – the hero usually ends up back he started at the end of the movie. Doing this will give a sense of harmony and completeness to your talk.

2. Show how each of your main points support your overall argument.

At the beginning of your talk, it’s important to map out the main ideas you will talk about. An audience that doesn’t know the stages of the journey you are about to take them on will be less at ease than one that knows what lies ahead. At the end of your talk take them back over what you’ve spoken about but don’t just list the different ideas you developed, show how they are related and how they support your main argument.

3. Don’t show a Thank-You slide.

I see so many presenters that show a slide that says “Thank you!” at the end of their talk. Some even include smiley faces or happy photos to make the slide more visual. Others finish with a slide that says “Questions?”. Neither of these slides is a good idea and neither helps the audience in any way (every slide you show should help the audience understand what you are saying). “Thank you” should come from your mouth with a smile and with eye contact, putting it on a slide cheapens the sentiment and looks naff. When my wife gives me a birthday present I don’t make her a powerpoint to say thank you! The last slide you show, the one that should stay up until every last audience member has left the room, is your summary slide. A summary slide shows all the main points you have made, along with your main argument and your call to action. It should also show your name and contact details. This slide is the only slide you use that can contain a lot of text, you’ll probably need to use bullet points to separate the text (this is the only slide you use that should have bullet-points!). Having all this information visible during the questions and answer (Q&A) session will help the audience think of questions to ask you. It will be interesting reading for them while you are answering questions they’re not interested in. And many people will take photos of this slide with their phone to take home as a summary of your talk and to have your contact details.

4. I know you’re tired, but finish with energy and enthusiasm.

It’s only natural that you’ll feel tired when you get to the end of your talk. The adrenaline that was racing through your body at the beginning has now worn off, your voice is tired and you’d love to sit down and have a beer. But you’re only half way there. Now comes the Q&A session, probably the most important element of a presentation, as it is this part that differentiates your talk from a video of you talking (you can’t ask questions to a video). Its crucial that the audience feels that you are enthusiastic and open for questions. What happens if no one has any questions? First of all, some people surely do want to ask you something, but no one wants to be the first to ask a question. You might need to break the ice and get the ball rolling. A good way to do this is for you yourself to ask a question to the audience. Make it an open, non-threatening question. Ask the most confident looking person in the room for their opinion, or get them to discuss the question with the person sitting beside them (this gives them a chance to rehearse their answer before speaking in front of everyone and also gives people a chance to network).

5. Your presentation doesn’t end with questions and answers.

When the Q&A session is over, stand up, get their attention and close the presentation. This isn’t always possible to do (e.g. At academic conferences where Q&A sometimes happens after every three presentations) but if you can, do it. In your closing give your main argument again, your call to action and deal with any doubts or criticisms that out in the Q&A. So, a closing is more or less a condensed version of your conclusions and an improvised summary of the Q&A. It’s important that the audience goes home with an image of you confidently presenting your main argument, and not with a memory of a Q&A that may or may not have gone well or may have been dominated by someone other than you.

Children’s screen time doesn’t have to be scream time


by: Joanne Orlando

Parents have been struggling to contain their child’s technology use to the recommended screen limit of two-hours-a-day. With schoolwork, homework, communication, social media and fun, that limit doesn’t acknowledge our new reality.

But at last authorities have listened and the guidelines for children’s screen use have caught up to the digital age. The guidelines used by the federal Department of Health are based on those developed by the American Academy of Pediatricians. The academy’s new guidelines acknowledge the dramatic change in our device use and the need for children to use technology throughout their day. Even the long held recommendation that children less than 2-years-old should get no screen time at all has been dropped.

The important message from the new guidelines is to shift our thinking away from “screen time” to “screen quality”.

Some new time measures are provided for younger children: one hour a day for children 18-months to 5-years. For children aged six- to18-years, the academy has passed the baton to parents to decide. Parents are asked to take a more nuanced approach and keep check of what their child does on a tablet, computer, TV or other digital device rather than counting minutes.

This is a sound approach as 30 minutes of playing a game that centres on stealing cars and dealing with drug lords (one of the most successful online games in the world) is quite different to spending 30 minutes creating music on a device.

The previous guidelines were developed in the 1990s in response to research on children’s viewing of violent and sexual content.  But the new guidelines are based on recent research that shows that use of today’s interactive devices can have valuable learning benefits. Technology can enhance the development of children’s language and literacy, stimulate creativity and allow children to work with ideas in deep and meaningful ways. The research does not suggest 24/7 usage, but that select quality technology experiences can have benefit.

While loosening the guidelines is a great move for families, it may bring a new kind of stress. Parents often feel uneasy about guiding their child’s technology use. This is fed by the constant berating of messages that tell us that technology is bad for children. It’s a strong message that has led to parental uncertainty about what is best for children and how to guide their tech use.

The guidelines ask parents to take the lead and encourage educational content. However the term “educational” can be quite hard to pin down if you’re not an educator. There are more than 80,000 apps labelled as educational in the iTunes store but not each of them is a quality learning experience. Unfortunately many “educational” apps are not designed by an educator, nor even someone who knows anything about education. A maths app for a 4-year-old that focuses on completing addition sums may have an educational theme but the learning experience the child actually engages can be poor.

The best way to assess if a site or app is educational is to consider what is beneficial for your child to learn and check if the app works towards that. Educational does not necessarily mean a school lesson. Activities that are creative, that stimulate imagination and that allow meaningful connection with others are great. Think developing a music playlist, video-chatting with mum while she is away, using an online recipe to cook, taking photos of the family and creating an online album, using a video to learn how to draw.

Encourage children to apply what they have learnt on their device to an off-screen scenario. Follow-up what your child has learnt online by looking at real-world examples. The more ways a child can apply their knowledge, the better the educational experience.

Doing things together on a device is a great way to understand your child as a technology user and what makes quality educational experiences for them. This can be as simple as playing a game together. Many parents separate their child’s technology use from family activities and this exacerbates their unease in parenting around technology.

Not only will playing or creating together online help with decisions about screen quality, but it is also a great way to bond with and connect with your kids.

The Failure of the iPad Classroom

thefailureoftheipadclassroomBy David Sax·Nov. 7, 2016

How technology is hurting students

One arctic February morning in 2015, Christopher Federico and Karen Wolf stood front of a class­room of teachers at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Man­agement. Federico and Wolf are both full-time teachers themselves: he teaches problem-based learning at the gifted high school run by the University of Toronto and she teaches English at North Toronto, a public high school.

The twenty-odd teachers before them came from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from kindergarten educators to community college professors, and were here for a two-day course the university offered in Integrative Thinking for educators. Integrative thinking is a methodology for complex problem solving used by management con­sultants, which the Rotman School taught to its MBA students. A few years back, Rotman began offering short courses to educators in integrative thinking, so they could teach these methods to their own stu­dents and build problem-solving skills into the curriculum.

Federico drew a line down the center of a whiteboard. “What is the future vision of what school looks like?” he asked the class.

This was not a rhetorical question, but the problem these teachers would tackle today, first by comparing and evaluating two apparently contrasting models of education and later using the data to create a new approach for schools. One model was the brick-and­-mortar school, the analog bedrock of teaching that exists the world over, and the place where all these teachers worked. The other model was the online-only, virtual school, a digital alternative that Federico said seemed to be the way of the future.

Wolf then asked the teachers to list only positive attributes of each model, as they would be making something called a pro-pro chart. “Nothing negative,” she said, “only pro here.” Teachers called out ideas for each: Online-only schools could connect students to teachers anywhere and anytime. They could be more cost-effective, and nearly every aspect of the experience was customizable to the individual needs of students. Teachers could even work from home, in their pajamas—a comment that elicited whoops of approval.

In terms of advantages, brick-and-mortar schools were situated in a particular community, and students could form deep social bonds with teachers and peers there, what Federico called the “hidden cur­riculum” of socialization. Educators in traditional schools got a job, a sense of belonging and purpose, and the reward of seeing students learn in front of their eyes.

Presented here as brightly as possible, these two models for ed­ucation showed a harmonious, positive future for schooling, whether in-person or online. But out in the real world, the future of school and the role of digital technology in it have become one of the most hotly de­bated issues in the public interest. Education, especially in the United States, is often referred to as “broken” and “failing.” In global assess­ments and test scores, American students perform meagerly, far worse than those in other wealthy nations, and often less than some developing nations. Education reform has become the great cause in America, and various stakeholders champion a host of solutions to save it.

Few industries have embraced the desire for radical, transfor­mative change in education with the zeal, enthusiasm, and commit­ment of the digital technology industry. This makes sense for two key reasons. First, education is a prized pig, ready to be roasted and devoured by digital disruption. Today, total spending on education technology remains low, around 5 percent of total education budgets in the United States, and less than 2 percent globally, but worldwide spending on K–12 classroom hardware technology alone is expected to reach $19 billion by 2019, and 2014 saw more than a 50 percent in­crease in venture capital funding for education technology companies. That’s a lucrative market to tap into.

Second, the high-tech world is fueled by education. Its businesses are created by highly educated individuals, often at universities, and many of the products and services it sells appeal to an educated popu­lation. Education has become the pet cause of digital’s business leaders. Bill and Melinda Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and the venture capitalist Jim Breyer are among the top supporters of education philanthropy, funding everything from university scholarships and research grants to experiments in school reform stretching from inner-city Newark to remote African villages.

Underlying this is the belief that digital technology can transform education in the same way it transformed business, media, and com­munications. What emerges is a vibrant, multibillion-dollar market in education technology (ed tech, as it’s commonly known) that promises nothing less than a radical rethinking of education. Here is where the utopianism and manifest destiny of Silicon Valley meet your child’s el­ementary school, and where pedagogy and philosophy intersect with politics and business. Attend a presentation of an ed tech company, watch a TED talk about education, or listen to a school superinten­dent talk breathlessly about the new virtual-reality goggles she just bought for your kid’s school, and the future is bright indeed.

It is a future where every child has the ability to learn at their own pace, in the most stimulating way possible, from wherever and when­ever suits them best, at a lower cost but with greater accountability and results. It is a future where school will be dynamic, where teachers will truly be able to unleash their creative potential, where inner-city teens will have the same advantages as those in wealthy suburbs, and the greatest university in the world will not be some ivy-covered campus, but anywhere your device gets a signal. The old, ineffective system of sitting in rows of desks, listening to a teacher regurgitate information from the pages of books, will be turned on its head. We won’t need their education. We won’t need their thought control. The walls will come down, and a bright new future will emerge.

That’s the promise, at least.

The reality of digital education technology, which has attempted to realize this future for much of the past thirty years, is that of trou­bled students who have shown tremendous promise but consistently gets D’s on their report card. It is a cautious tale of what happens when schools, communities, and educators place their blind faith in digital innovation while ignoring the proven evidence and research around the benefits of analog education.

This story is not unique to the digital era. The inventors, manufac­turers, and evangelists for radios, mail-order correspondence courses, television, VCRs, and even the printing press all made grandiose predictions that their technology would either transform traditional schools or eliminate them entirely. Thomas Edison himself proclaimed that books and teachers would soon disappear from class­rooms, because students would learn through the motion pictures he helped invent. The birth of the digital computer just added more claims to this long history. The latest educational software or device is always unveiled with the same breathless belief in technology’s po­tential to disrupt school.

“This pattern goes back well over a century,” said Larry Cuban, a professor of education at Stanford University. Cuban, who lives and works in the heart of Silicon Valley, began as a hopeful evangelist for education technology, but slowly turned into one of ed tech’s most prominent skeptics after witnessing, time and again, the failure of ed tech to deliver on its promises. He calls it the hype cycle. “There is this pattern of extreme claims for transformation, and then a kind of bumpy landing and disappointment.”

Why does this happen, over and over again, without the tech­nology industry, the educational institutions, and other stakeholders learning from their mistakes? It is not as though the evidence is lack­ing, or industry leaders lack the ability to learn from mistakes. Rather, Cuban attributes the persistence of ed tech’s hype cycle to deeply held values around technology and innovation. “In this culture, like other developed cultures, technology is seen as an unadulterated good,” he said. “The presumption is that the technology will improve one’s life, in whatever it is.” Education’s stakeholders are often blinded by this presumption of technological progress as the ultimate good and can­not look at its actual performance critically.

“The skepticism that one would ordinarily raise about inflated claims comes pretty late in the process when it comes to anything technologically innovative,” Cuban said. “Any skepticism about de­cisions that buy and distribute electronic devices [for schools] tend to be rushed into very quickly. And a lot of money gets spent. Why? It doesn’t matter what the research studies say, or what any doubters in this field say. Anyone who doubts is called a Luddite. When it comes to technology, it’s very important for school boards and trustees to say ‘We’re at the cutting edge. We bought these iPads for kindergartners!’ Teachers are rarely involved in those decisions, and these devices show up at the classroom door.”

Cuban cites three reasons that policymakers typically use to jus­tify the purchase of new technology for schools. First, the technology will improve student achievement and marks. Second, the technology will change traditional teaching to nontraditional teaching. Third, the technology will better prepare students for the modern workplace. At best, Cuban says, there is contradictory evidence for the third rea­son, little for the second, and none for the first.

To understand why education technology fails so frequently, it’s im­portant to start at the beginning of our learning life, a period known in the field as early childhood education (ECE), which covers daycare, preschool, and kindergarten. While many activities during this time may seem like a lot of aimless playing, naps, colds, and di­aper changes, it is actually the most crucial educational experience of our lives, because it provides the foundation for all our learning that follows. Young children learn about the world through physical senses: grabbing and touching, smelling and hearing, seeing, licking. The widely held recommendations by pediatricians the world over to avoid exposing children under age two to screens is not out of concern that the content on those screens will damage their brain, but for fear that they will replace more valuable, sensory activities, such as putting their hands through a box of sand, or eating a tub of Play-Doh.

“The big organizing ideas around our formations of relationships are that physical experience,” said Diane Levin, professor of early childhood education at Wheelock College in Massachusetts. “ECE theorists say that’s the foundation for both learning [and] social, emo­tional, and cognitive development.” Levin used my own daughter’s experience at daycare that day as an example. At the time, she was  one and a half, and was finger painting in her class. That activity not  only involved her ability to create an image on paper, Levin said, but the sensory feeling of the wet paint running down her arm, the vi­sual learning of the colors mixing as she moved her fingers around the paint, the spatial learning when she moved her arm off the paper and the paint dripped onto the floor, and the social learning when she flung paint at another kid and they cried, and the teacher told her why that wasn’t cool and why she had to apologize.

Finger painting was a full-body, full-mind experience. Compare that to numerous finger painting apps available for a tablet, and the sensory learning expe­rience is reduced down to the tips of her fingers dragging across a  small glass surface, without texture, smell, taste, or other physical and social consequences. “When you’re pushing buttons, it’s an abbrevia­tion of all of that,” Levin said. “You’re just not getting it.”

Even the best educational computer programs and games, de­vised with the help of the best educators, contain a tiny fraction of the outcomes of a single child equipped with a crayon and paper. A child’s limitless imagination can only do what the computer allows them to, and no more. The best toys, by contrast, are really 10 percent toy and 90 percent child: paint, cardboard, sand. The kid’s brain does the heavy lifting, and in the process it learns.

All of this is necessary, even as children inevitably grow up to use computers in their later schooling or work. Education is a lifelong building process that starts with a foundation of very basic skills and increases, year after year, in its complexity and abstractness. When I am typing these words on my laptop, I am using spatial and social reasoning skills that I learned as a three-year-old playing with LEGO bricks. “With parents, there’s the belief that we live in a digital age, and it’s a good idea to give them the technology early,” said Jeff John­son, an early-childhood-learning author and partner in the business Ooey Gooey, which makes play sand and other learning toys for pre­schoolers. “But just because they’ll use a piece of technology when they grow up, doesn’t mean we have to give it to them now.”

A quick caveat: I am not damning the wholesale use of dig­ital technology in education. Digital technology can make education more effective when used appropriately. Schools run more efficiently thanks to the use of computer systems, which manage everything from report cards to budgets. Teachers and students can use com­puters to research, write, create, evaluate, correct, and manage their own educational environment. Academics from around the world can coauthor studies, evaluating far more data, far more quickly, while kids with special needs (autism, ADHD, dyslexia) have been shown to respond effectively to digital learning tools and environments in many cases. The criticism around educational technology also does not apply to the teaching of computer technology itself. Computer programming, coding camps, maker clubs, and robotics competitions are all valuable and necessary for teaching the knowledge and skills of those who wish to learn about digital technology. These are growing  and increasingly important fields.

But including a mandatory course in computer programming for students is a very different thing from what the majority of ed tech evangelists hope to achieve, which is the integration of digital tech­nology across all schools and subjects. It is rooted in the idea Cuban spoke to—that technology equals progress—and the more it can be woven throughout the school experience, the better off students will be.

At its most optimistic and dangerous, education technology ar­rives as the transformative panacea that will fix education and leaves a trail of disappointment and failure in its wake. The evidence for this just keeps on piling up. Study after study seems to confirm how the implementation of educational technology produces little net ben­efit to student performance, and in many cases, actually makes things worse. The examples cited here, which represent just a fraction of the existing and ongoing research into this, show the various ways edu­cational technology falls short.

One of the big beliefs in the ed tech movement is the need to bridge the so-called digital divide between those who have access to com­puters and those who don’t. Increase access to computers and the Internet, in schools and at home, the thinking goes, and watch inequality fall. This is a project politicians, parents, school administrators, philanthropists, and the media have taken to with great gusto.

A 2010 study by Duke University tested this theory out by looking at North Carolina public school students who were given free laptops, and what it found was the diametric opposite. “The introduction of home computer technology is associated with modest but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores,” the study’s authors wrote. “For school administrators interested in maximizing achievement test scores, or reducing ra­cial and socioeconomic disparities in test scores, all evidence sug­gests that a program of broadening home computer access would be counterproductive.”

The same logic of bridging the digital divide was behind the wildly ambitious One Laptop per Child (OLPC) nonprofit, spearheaded by MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte and set up in 2005 with the backing of a vast coalition of philanthropists and technology companies. OLPC’s goal was to produce and distribute rugged, inexpensive, Internet-enabled laptops to the world’s poor with innovative features such as solar panels and hand cranks. OLPC successfully created several devices that met this goal, but in every other respect, OLPC was a colossal failure that typifies the hubris of tech-centric educational utopianism.

From the outset, education ministers and development profes­sionals pointed out that what children in rural Pakistan or Rwanda needed most were safe schools, clean drinking water, and trained teachers—not computers. OLPC nevertheless pressed ahead, and sold nearly 3 million of its custom laptops to schools around the world. Negroponte loved telling the story about OLPC distributing tablet computers to remote villages in Ethiopia with no schools so children could teach themselves.

Then the evidence emerged. Across conti­nents and countries, from Peru and Uruguay to Nepal, well-funded academic studies demonstrated no gain in academic achievement for OLPC students when compared with those who didn’t participate in the program. The evidence mirrored other laptop and computer handout programs in such countries as Israel and Romania, where the introduction of computers also did nothing to improve learning. Last year, a report from the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development concluded that “students who use computers very frequently at school do a lot worse in most learning outcomes,” and technology did nothing to improve scores across subjects, and less to bridge gaps between rich and poor students. In 2014 One Laptop per Child closed its Boston headquarters and drastically cut down on staff and new programs.

OLPC’s great mistake was presuming the universal importance of a shiny imported technology in spite of the recommendations of people closer to the problem at hand. This problem is not confined to inter­national development. In 2001, the Los Angeles Unified School District spent $50 million on a com­puter system called the Waterford Early Reading Program, created by the education publisher Pearson to improve language instruction in kindergarten and first grade. Shortly after, research by the district discovered zero or negative reading improvement for students who used the program. When Waterford was abandoned in 2005, the school board’s president at the time, Jose Huizar, told the Los Angeles Times, “How could anyone continue to argue that it’s working when it’s not? It’s underutilized and ineffective.”

Nine years later, the very same LA school board announced a plan to put an iPad into the hands of all its 650,000 students. The iPads were loaded with Pearson educational software and coupled with a big push to improve Internet access at LA schools, all at a total cost of $1.3 billion, one of the largest single ed tech investments worldwide. Shortly after the first batch of iPads was distributed, the rushed, ill-conceived folly of the entire enterprise became apparent.

The iPads had no keyboards, which made them useless for students to do homework on, and the software that was supposed to prevent students from using the iPads for games and social media was easily hacked. The iPads frequently malfunctioned, were lost or stolen, and the software was inadequate for learning and assessment. To top it all off, the FBI launched an investigation into whether Apple and Pear-son had received preferential status as vendors over other potentially less expensive competitors. Barely one year after launch, LA’s iPad program was canceled and the city’s school superintendent resigned in disgrace.

From failed laptop implementations in Hoboken, New Jersey, to the tales of cracked screens, melted chargers, and tremendous finan­cial losses for News Corp’s Amplify tablet program, time and again the mass “airdrop” of new ed tech devices into schools has fallen flat. But the attraction of politicians and policymakers to ed tech’s charms remains irresistible for a number of reasons.

One is political. Announcing you are going to give out iPads to every child in a community appears as a bold, clear signal that you are investing in the future and aligning your schools with the biggest, most innovative company in the world. It steers clear of any sticky issues with powerful teachers’ unions, and provides for great photo opportunities and news stories.

Another big reason behind the eager embrace of technology, es­pecially with public school boards, is the promise of savings. With the help of digital technology such as computer-assessed standard­ized materials and tests, a school board can theoretically achieve economies of scale. And the hope is that once the learning becomes effective through devices, a school board should need fewer highly paid teachers and professors, who can be replaced with facilitators and teaching assistants hired to aid in the digital learning and exams, while the computer does the heavy lifting.

The temptation for eventual savings is powerful, but it under­scores that the implementation of technology in schools carries a financial burden. Not just the initial capital cost of acquiring the technology, but continual expenses to maintain, repair, replace, and update it. A school gymnasium can last decades, a good textbook sometimes fifteen years or more. Some of the desks at my university  were damn near a hundred years old. But any digital technology, no matter how well designed it is, becomes obsolete in just a few years, and inevitably stops working. My only memory of school computers was of dusty relics in the corner that didn’t even turn on.

Dollars spent on digital education technology are dollars that cannot be spent on teachers, building maintenance, or textbooks. It is money that has been pulled from programs in art, sports, music, and drama. Even though the research shows one of the greatest factors in reading improvements in students is the presence of school libraries, the number of libraries across school boards in the United States has declined dramatically. The logic behind this is often that libraries are pointless in the age of Google and eBooks, and that money would be better spent buying tablets or drones.

In his riveting book The Flickering Mind, Todd Oppenheimer chronicled the failure of various education technology initiatives in America, and the real cost they imposed on the schools that adopted them: “In debates about the importance of classroom basics, the technologists often argue that they aren’t trying to displace solid fundamentals. Tech isn’t meant to be a replacement, they say, it’s a supplement,” Oppenheimer wrote. “The line is hollow . . . an ‘e-lusion.’ Trying to fully support technology initiatives is extremely costly. Beyond the financial expense, there are the demands that comput­ers make on a school’s time and energy . . . these are not flexible re­sources; every community can only offer a fixed amount of each one, and any amount devoted to technology leaves less available for other practices. So when technologists argue that tech is only meant as a supplement, they’re either fools or liars.”

Excerpted from The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matterby David Sax. Copyright © 2016. Available from PublicAffairs, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.