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In October 2015, a large international study titled Students, Computers and Learning (OECD, 2015) reported that access to computers had no significant impact on students’ proficiency in reading, math, and science. In many countries, using computers frequently at school actually worsened performance. While these findings may relate to differences in professional development or implementation, it was clear that drill and practice software had a negative effect on student performance. The report’s authors appropriately acknowledged that “building deep conceptual understanding and higher-order thinking requires intensive student-teacher interactions, and technology sometimes distracts from this valuable human engagement.”

Nevertheless, schools districts are rapidly adopting 1:1 laptop initiatives coupled with blended learning models aimed at increasing the amount of time students spend working independently at a computer at home and school. Proponents of blended argue that the model helps teachers customize digital lessons designed to meet individual needs and allow learners to work at their own pace. Yet, as I listen to teachers and principals, I worry that personalization has come to mean something very different from the personally relevant student-directed experiences that today’s learners crave most.