Power, Ideology, and the Use of Evidence

Consider the three-decade long, unrelenting promotion of classroom computers and online instruction. A recently mobilized corporate and civic-driven coalition chaired by two ex-state governors issued a report that touted online instruction as a way to transform teaching and learning in U.S. schools. (p. 19 of Digital Learning Now Report FINAL lists corporate, foundation, and top policymakers who participated).

Evidence that regular instructional use of these machines will transform teaching and learning is barely visible. Furthermore, evidence of students' academic achievement gains attributed to online instruction, laptops, and other hardware and software in schools is missing-in-action. And the dream that school use of these machines and applications will lead to better jobs (except in programs where technical certificates can lead to work - e.g., Cisco), well, I won't even mention the scarcity of evidence to support that dream.

So what do these two-governors champion in their Digital Learning Commission report?

"Providing a customized, personalized education for students was a dream just a decade ago. Technology can turn that dream into reality today. The Digital Learning Council will develop the roadmap to achieve that ultimate goal."

Sure, this is an advertisement pushing for-profit online outfits such as for-profit K12 and non-profit projects such as the Florida Virtual School and "hybrid" schools. See here and here. These ex-governors want states to alter their policies to accommodate this "Brave New World" where students get individual lessons tailored to what they need to learn.

Question: After decades of blue-ribbon commissions issuing utopian reports promising "revolutionary" and "transformed" schools, where is the evidence that such futures are either possible or worthwhile?

Answer: When it comes to technology policy, evidence doesn't matter.

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