wasting bandwidth since 1999

It’s Got Star Power!

Reading or watching a story in the popular media about how technology is being used in schools usually makes me cringe.  Take for example a recent article in the New York Times about schools embracing iPads.

The two digital pages include several extremely superficial examples of classroom use that include over-the-top quotes like “I think this could very well be the biggest thing to hit school technology since the overhead projector.” from a principal.

And this observation, “It has brought individual technology into the classroom without changing the classroom atmosphere”, which is rather scary since a truly successful 1-1 program should change the classroom in some very significant ways.

Plus the incredible instance of the school that “converted an empty classroom into a lab with 36 iPads – named the iMaginarium – that has become the centerpiece of the school because, as the principal put it, “of all the devices out there, the iPad has the most star power with kids.”

Don’t get me wrong, I think the iPad and other touch tablets have a lot of potential as learning tools and, if we are ever going to break out of the teacher-centered, lecture/demo, traditional classroom, students will need to have some kind of easy to use, always connected, personal communication device.

However, until that potential is better realized, I wish reporters at the Times and elsewhere would pay closer attention to people like Larry Cuban who very correctly observes “There is very little evidence that kids learn more, faster or better by using these machines.”

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3 Comments

  1. It’s a poorly written article for sure, eager to simultaneously declare the iPad as “The Answer!” to the timeless problem of classroom engagement and at the same time warn that “You could do all the same things for hundreds of dollars less” without any examples whatsoever to back such a claim up.

    What sticks out the most to me is that pull quotes seem to come mostly from superintendents, directors, and headmasters. I’d like to know if these schools have technology resource teachers in place to help guide them in the purchase and use of these devices. I think (or hope) that’s what Cuban was getting at (since I hardly believe given a choice between funding a 1 to 1 program and simply hiring more teachers that the latter is the better choice in every case).

    You could replace the word “iPad” with “laptop” and the article would likely not be news at all, or even perhaps as controversial. I don’t call that “star power” as much as I simply see these devices replacing existing technology that some are ready to get rid of, and others are ready to defend. It seems in every case those schools that have made the purchases are looking to expand. That tells me they are pleased with what’s happening in their classrooms. But again I wish the reporter had gone that angle and asked more about actual results instead of focusing on the device and only talking to the people who bought them, not the ones using them.

  2. Come visit me. I’m doing 1-1 deployment in my class. I think its working.

  3. Tim

    Tim: You certainly could replace iPad with Smartboard for even more breathless gushing over star power technology. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t be experimenting with using these devices in the classroom, only that we need more of that evidence Cuban refers to before declaring anything to be a new educational standard. As I said, the iPad has a lot of potential but we have a lot of work to do before it’s worthy of being anointed as the next big thing.

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