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They're Blaming the Technology Again

I read an article in the Tacoma News Tribune today because I was fascinated by the assertion in the headline "Test of middle-school students shows learning, iPods don't mix.”

Washington teacher Andrew Milton, a teacher in DuPont, not too far from where I live, decided he would see what happen when he added electronic distractions to an 8th grade class already wrought with distractions typical of any middle school class.

Students completed a series of basic letter and number identification tests online. They first tested under normal classroom conditions, and then while listening to music on their iPods and subjected to numerous distractions like pop ups and sidebar videos. The results of the tests should not surprise anyone. The students’ scores were higher when they took the test numerous times under standard classroom conditions, and dropped when their attention was diverted.

Without delving into the many problems surrounding the experiment, suffice it to say that in my book, this was one of those scenarios set up in such a fashion so as to blame the technology. We all know well that for most people studying in a quiet environment is conducive to learning. But this experiment cannot lead me to conclude that iPods when incorporated properly into a lesson would necessarily impede the learning process. The only thing this experiment proves is that technology,like anything else, when used improperly in a learning environment can cause distractions that hinder performance. But the same can be said for any tool in the room including a classroom projector, interactive whiteboard, classroom audio system or a piece of chalk scratching on the blackboard.