I came across some blogs about ‘myths’, so I thought I’d put them together.

Myth No. 1: ‘A university education is becoming so costly – in the USA – that it’s not worth the investment.’

Proto, R. (2010) Is college still worth the investment? HICE SCHOOL, 30 June

Randy Proto, the President and CEO of the American Institutes school group, does a pretty good demolition job on this myth on Joe Hices’s excellent blog. Randy points out that the average student college debt in the USA on graduation is about $20,000, less than the average loan taken out to buy a car. More importantly the lifetime return on investment is about $450,000 in earnings more for those with a bachelor’s degree over those without a degree. (The compound interest on $20,000 over 40 years is $140,000 at 5%, so you’re still about $7,750 a year better off with a degree, even if you had $20,000 to invest instead of paying to go to college). Furthermore 63% of jobs will require a degree by 2018.

The ELT@Traceyo blog drew my attention to a recent survey of k-12 classroom teachers in the USA commissioned by Walden University (Eduventures Inc. conducted the research)

Grunwald Associates LLC (2010) Educators, Technology and 21st Century Skills: Dispelling Five Myths: A Study on the Connection Between K–12 Technology Use and 21st Century Skills Minneapolis: Walden University

The report identifies five myths, all of which the survey indicated were untrue:

1. Teachers who are newer to the profession and teachers who have greater access to technology are more likely to use technology frequently for instruction than other teachers. I found it interesting that the report found the opposite: it was the more experienced teachers who were more likely to use technology.

2. Only high-achieving students benefit from using technology. I actually did research many years ago on students’ use of television at the British Open University that did indeed find the opposite. The students who benefited most from math television programs were in fact the ‘borderline’ students. The ‘A’ students didn’t need the extra help, and the fail students were so lost that even the TV programs didn’t help. However, the borderline students found the linking of the abstract formulae to real world examples in the TV programs helped their understanding. (For more on the role of video, see my book, ‘Technology, e-Learning and Distance Education.’)

3. Given that students today are comfortable with technology, teachers’ use of technology is less important to student learning. The report states that: Teachers who use technology frequently to support learning in their classrooms report greater benefits to student learning, engagement and skills from technology than teachers who spend less time using technology to support learning. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? The psychologists call this cognitive dissonance. Once you make a decision, you tend to find evidence to support the correctness of the decision and ignore evidence to the contrary. It may be true that technology leads to better learning outcomes, but you need to measure the outcomes, not ask for opinions about outcomes.

4. Teachers and administrators have shared understandings [I think they mean ‘agree’] about classroom technology use and 21st century skills. The report found that administrators overestimated technology use by teachers and were more supportive of the use of technology on the whole than were the teachers.

5. Teachers feel well prepared by their initial teacher preparation programs to effectively incorporate technology into classroom instruction and to foster 21st century skills. In fact, most teachers do not believe that their pre-service programs prepared them well in either technology or 21st century skills. Teachers place more value on advanced training programs. This doesn’t say much for Faculties of Education, who are supposed to provide pre-service training – but then this is Walden University, a private online university focused on adult learners.

Now I suspect that the report writers put up these ‘myths’ as straw men to be knocked down, but the findings themselves are valuable. As the excellent discussion of this report by ELT@Traceyo makes clear, though, the link between the use of technology and generic 21st century skills is less well made in the report. Tracey also notes that this was a survey of teachers in the USA, and wonders what the results would have been in other countries.



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