I was speaking with my friend and co-book-maker John Glenn about my last post, and it suggested an idea. I am seeing huge sums being spent by schools on technology — ereaders, iPads, ELMO projectors, not to mention smart boards, laptops, netbooks, etc. What if someone were to create an experimental charter school in which students were given only pencils and paper, the classrooms had blackboards with chalk, and the libraries had books. I would love to see how that school’s students would fare as compared with a school with a similar population of students and teachers, outfitted in the usual haphazard fashion with the usual mix of devices, support, and training. And then after seeing what difference in outcomes there is — if any, and accounting for the fact that the community of the pencil school might have an initial esprit that skews that stats, we would need to compare costs. What has our retro school saved, what has our typical school spent, and what benefits have accrued.
Isn’t this the thought experiment every school and district must conduct before spending money? And yet, has a single school or district conducted that thought experiment?