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### School Tech Overload: Why More Isn’t Always Better

Greenfield Recorder – My Turn: More tech isn’t better for school

In this Nov. 29, 2019, file photo, a metal head made of motor parts symbolizes artificial intelligence, or AI, at the Essen Motor Show for tuning and motorsports in Essen, Germany. AP FILE PHOTO/MARTIN MEISSNER

The suggestions put forth by the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy regarding education reform in the commonwealth were initially captivating. Emphasizing the importance of flexibility in scheduling, exploring ways to distribute responsibilities, and proposing variations in the students’ daily routines all present significant positive prospects.

However, my enthusiasm waned when the latter part of the article revealed that these recommendations were primarily expected to be implemented online or through shared computer programs. Consequently, the center acknowledged that their strategies would require investments to enhance access to computers and the internet.

Throughout my tenure as an educator, the prevailing belief in the educational realm was that integrating technology into our classrooms was an absolute necessity, with the promise of remarkable outcomes and inadvertently serving as a measure of our effectiveness as teachers.

Under this pressure to embrace an ostensibly beneficial advancement, school districts nationwide poured vast sums of money into technology investments encompassing hardware, software, licensing, internet connectivity, teacher training, and technical support in a bid to sustain operational functionality. Despite these expenditures, in the decade leading up to the COVID-related closures, schools in Massachusetts and across the country witnessed a consistent decline in overall test scores.

Could the escalating reliance on technology within educational settings have contributed to the diminishing effectiveness of education nationwide? This question warrants thorough examination, particularly given the stark decline that culminated in a complete breakdown during the period of online education enforced by the shutdowns.

Regardless of the potential link, it is evident that technology, despite exorbitant financial outlays, has failed to yield any tangible improvements in educational outcomes over an extended period.

Yet, the Rennie Center continues to advocate for the notion that transitioning students to online “distance learning” will somehow enhance educational results, contrary to substantial evidence suggesting otherwise.

However, cracks may be surfacing in the pervasive belief in the infallibility of technology. Two quotes from the article stood out prominently. Firstly, a rather ominous statement from a representative of the center asserting, “There is no stopping the infiltration of artificial intelligence, or AI, into the schools.”

The choice of the term “infiltration” carries a sinister connotation. Is this perceived inevitability akin to a hostile incursion? Does the somber tone of the statement hint at a sense of resignation? While the potential applications of AI in classrooms remain nebulous, there are looming concerns surrounding the technical, academic, ethical, and personal implications likely to arise. Despite these uncertainties, there are advocates eager to usher AI into educational settings without fully comprehending the ramifications.

Secondly, another quote acknowledges that “kids … more likely in middle or high school than elementary school, can function on Zoom.” The implication that students can “function” on Zoom, particularly with a stronger likelihood in secondary grades, underscores the speaker’s rather dismal outlook on the capabilities of technology. Setting the bar so low—merely achieving basic functionality after substantial financial investments—raises questions about the efficacy of such endeavors.

Thus far, there is scant evidence to support the notion that technological investments have positively impacted educational outcomes. Recommendations persist in defiance of this reality, largely due to the pervasive intimidation and influence exerted by technology, coupled with the unsubstantiated assurances of its proponents.

It is imperative for external entities to cease imposing ever-evolving technologies on our educational institutions, peddling promises of miracles while expecting educators to fulfill their own wishful visions.

Stephen Hussey resides in Greenfield.

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