Education Technology Companies, Cause Or Effect?

There are certainly some quite good ed tech products out there but I’m skeptical of what I’d say is a new ed tech bubble in education (I say new because it’s hardly the first).  Yet while accounts like this weekend’s LAT ed tech column may elicit cheers from the usual suspects, they leave me unsatisfied. The column trots out the usual assertion that it’s greedy companies fueling the drive for classroom technology.  But doesn’t this critique have the causal chain backwards? I’d argue ed tech companies are responding to education’s faddishness and lack of attention to quality, not driving it.  In other words, in a market-driven economy does it make a lot of sense to blame companies for taking advantage when a group of people find it impossible to resist shiny new things?  The companies can’t sell their stuff unilaterally – someone within a school system makes that decision.

3 Replies to “Education Technology Companies, Cause Or Effect?”

  1. I agree that many times it is the schools who drive the fads in technology. Our new superintendent keeps stating that he wants to put more technology in the classrooms, but does not state for what purpose. I am all for technology in the classrooms, but only if it is driving instruction. I cannot support spending money on ed. tech. just for the sake of saying “look at all of the great tools our student now have”.

  2. Well, here in Texas it is actually the State that is driving the process as a money-saving measure. In Texas the state buys and distributes textbooks to school districts. They normally do that on a 5-8 year cycle which is about the life span of traditional textbooks.

    However, last year when the cycle for new science textbook adoptions came up they decided instead to not buy $80+ textbooks for all secondary students but instead adopt “electronic curriculum” as a money saving measure. Instead of providing $80 textbooks per student per science class to each district they instead gave each district something like a $15 per student budget to go out and purchase supplemental electronic science curriulum. What happened is that dozens of electronic curriculum companies large and small descended on Texas and tried to sell their products to individual districts. The State BOE didn’t even try to screen or provide a list of approved companies or products so every fly by night edu-tech company showed up to promote their products however unappropriate or unfinished. My district ended up buying the package from Pearson which was one of the more polished one. But I don’t know of any science teachers who are really using it because we don’t have computers for every student and science teachers have already developed plenty of their own material over the years that they prefer. So it was basically a waste of money. Kids are still using the 8+ year old textbooks that are falling apart.

    If they wanted to do something like buy iPads for every student it would be a different story. But $15 per kid doesn’t buy much.

  3. I think the educational community needs to move with the times and arm themselves with the tools that will lift their classrooms to the next level. Education applications really help collaboration, synergizes the many levels of communication that exist within a classroom community (between teachers for professional development; between parents and teacher and obviously between teachers and their student body). I believe the problem lies in our inability to move away from antiquated teaching practices because it’s too scary to learn something brand new. But guess what, this is how our students learn! we need to provide them with the tools that are RELEVANT to them. That said, ed tech companies will exploit us as much as they can. It’s our job to prevent them.

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