Academic Success Isn’t Just About IPad.
March 8, 2011- Psychology-Advice.net
Why academic success depends on technology AND people
When you think of the “typical” American high school student, the words highly motivated, engaged, and working for a better future might not be what immediately comes to mind. As we note in our book, a lot of recent research on education shows that taking short-cuts to succeed seems to be rather endemic among American youth. But today, President Obama and Secretary
of Education Arne Duncan are in Boston to visit the Tech Boston Academy – a schoolwhere 95% of the students go on to college even though the majority of students come from one of the poorer areas of urban Boston and are first generation college applicants (you can see CNN’s coverage here). This school has many advantages – it is supported by philanthropists of many types – from the Gates Foundation to Apple, Dell, and Cisco. All of them are providing technology from SMART Boards to laptops. And, undoubtedly, this technology is providing a huge advantage. But we don’t think that’s the only reason for Tech Boston Academy’s success.
More and more research is showing that learning is not just enhanced by the dissemination of information, but rather by the social aspects of the classroom as well. Our minds were designed to learn from our parents, not from computers. As work by Patricia Kuhl and her colleagues is showing, social phenomena, ranging from the expressions we make to the social identities we have, greatly impacts learning. Our colleague Paul Harris at the Harvard Schoolof Education, for instance, has shown that kids are more willing to learn from instructors they trust or that are more similar to them.
What does this mean for Tech Boston? If you read between the lines, the stories the principal recounts aren’t just about technology. It’s about the older students who come back to teach there (i.e., instructors who are similar to students and whom they can trust), it’s about the notion that once the students enter the building they’re all in there together and separate from the outside world (i.e., building a social identity), it’s about working for the future (i.e., taking a long-term view on what’s important). How we behave is always a function of the battle between short-term and long-term focused mental mechanisms. In Teach Boston, it’s clear that the environment favors the long-term view, and the student’s decisions are guided accordingly.