Frank has a great post over on Geekwire that does a great job of explaining why Dumbo Drops of tech don’t work in schools.
The question he didn’t completely address is why do people keep making this mistake?
One explanation is that a massive initiative that “attacks” a “problem” is far sexier than a thoughtful program to incrementally improve classroom practice. Don’t forget that many Superintendents are politicians. These things get headlines.
Another perspective is that our school systems are so resistant to change that some kind of shock to the system is required to make incremental changes. Technology is often seen as a magic bullet that by its very presence will force changes. Frank does a nice of touching on why that is usually a false hope.
Arne Duncan has been leading the charge on digital textbooks. I’ll leave the whole “digital textbook” concept for another day. There are far far better ways to use technology in the classroom than aping the form and structure of textbooks. Its like putting plays on TV, mildly interesting but not an optimal use of the medium.
A year ago I penned four questions for Secretary Duncan that in many ways echo Frank’s sentiments. We don’t have better answers today than we did then. The questions are:
1. Funding. Where is the legislation that will provide a minimum of $65 billion over the next 10 years to launch and sustain this effort?
2. Evidence. Given the costs, where is the evidence that this investment will be worth it?
3. Market behavior. Current purchasing patterns show that educators believe a blend of digital and print is best – will this be valued or dismissed?
4. Quality. Transitioning 54 million students to digital textbooks in two years is a moon shot – how do we maintain the quality of learning resources in the mad dash to get it done in that timeframe?
Bubble bursting time. The call a year ago was to move 54 million students to digital textbooks in two years. We have a year left and according the stats I’ve seen only 2.7 million students have access to a tablet device. We are 50% through the time period and 95% off the end goal.
Of course Congress could always appropriate the funds to make this happen pronto. Um, right.
Barring that perhaps we ought to be looking at a more measured approach.
Related Post: Apple’s iPad Textbooks Cost 5X More Than Print