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Drill & Kill and Digital Equity

Continuing my sniffing through the NAEP Data Explorer, today I “explored” differences in digitally-infused pedagogy by race.  One of the items on the background questionnaire of the 8th grade NAEP in 2007 was as follows: “When you are doing math for school or homework, how often do you use these different types of computer programs?”  One of the listed programs was “A program to practice or drill on math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division).”   Looking at the results for that item disaggregated by race, we get the following (click on image to enlarge):

Overall, African-American students are much more likely to use computers to practice or drill on math facts than White students.  Given the significant achievement gap that exists, these differences partly explain why, overall, the there is a negative correlation between using computers to practice or drill on math facts and math achievement.  I can’t be entirely sure about the degree to which race confounds that overall relationship without access to the raw (restricted-use) NAEP data.

But, more importantly, is the figure above problematic?

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7 Responses to “Drill & Kill and Digital Equity”

  1. Tina K. says:

    So my thoughts are that somehow African-American students are doing remedial drill on computers instead of being instructed on perhaps more rigorous math problems. I can see a teacher seeing that a student does not have the basic computation skills, sending them to the computer to practice and continuing the lesson without them. The computer then becomes a baby sitter instead of a technology tool and the student falls further and further behind. The question also should be asked… can students who have not mastered basic math skills understand more rigorous math concepts? I would say that depends on the teacher and the student. It would be interesting to see if there is a study of struggling math students and how much computer time they are given as compared to those not struggling.
    Interesting stuff, thanks Jon.

  2. Ed says:

    Yeah, what Tina said…

    Its hard to imagine much drilling going on in an algebra class…or is it?

    Yet see the John Morrow video for the high school converted to an eighth grade building–for 15 year olds who probably aren’t ready for 8th grade!

  3. technicolor says:

    It’s obviously problematic. Black students aren’t learning critical thinking skills by those drill and kill computer programs! They use it because thats what they know! One program, that shall remain nameless, is not a success! Kids hate to go to the lab and take the same tests day in and day out, and if the students don’t progress past a certain level, they continue to get the same questions….all year! They need to be taught how to think more critically, how to figure things out, not just do the same thing over and over again. Whats that saying? If you keep doing what you have always done, you will keep getting what you have always gotten…or something like that.

  4. Jon Becker says:

    Good stuff, all. Miguel Guhlin has taken this discussion a step further at his blog. Check it out…

  5. Tina K. says:

    Jon, Thanks for yet another great blog resouce. The fact that studies show that drill on isolated skills and facts do nothing to increase overall learning is an important concept for teachers, parents , and society to know. Teachers use the drill method way more than is needed and I can say as an new teacher I did also. Setting kids infront of a computer to do drill after drill I agree is just teaching obedience. Creative teaching can include drill but it involves so much more. I do not thing teachers use the computer to drill students in basics because they are tyring to control students or not teach them. Teachers are told to use the programs that drill by the text series who sell them. It would be interesting to see if students of teaching are taught to evaluate computer programs that drill.

  6. Jon, it’s amazing I didn’t know who the author of this blog was until tonight. How silly of me. You’ll want to read:

    Warm regards,

  7. [...] are referring to Americans of African, Hispanic descent, a point emphasized by this quote from this Educational Insanity blog post: Overall, African-American students are much more likely to use computers to practice or drill on [...]

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