Why IBM’s ‘Reinventing Education’ Project Works

IBM’s Reinventing Education project has shown that technology can play an important role in improving students’ reading skills and facilitating communication between parents, students, and teachers, according to an independent review of the project by the Center for Children and Technology.

Here are the environments in which the program has worked best so far:

1. Schools in which senior-level administrators and educators backed the program as an element of system-wide reforms.

2. Schools and their partners that identified clear goals for the Reinventing Education programs.

3. Schools that did not consider technology in isolation from wider reform.

The program also has spawned the development of software for educators that can be used even in programs not directly participating in Reinventing Education. For example, IBM software engineers created Learning Village, a collection of software communication and data-sharing tools that teachers use for lesson plans and students use to create portfolios of their work.

IBM’s Reinventing Education program was started in 1994 to bring technology into schools and train teachers and administrators in its use. The company has spent an estimated $35 million on the program since then, plus untold numbers of hours of employees’ time to set up and troubleshoot technology, as well as support individual schools.

The original recipients of IBM’s computers, training, and support services (districts in eight urban areas, West Virginia, and Vermont) were studied. All but one of these districts has maintained its program even after IBM’s funding was reduced or eliminated, according to the commitment that IBM originally made. IBM added new cities to the program in 1997.

The study declared only one program as a “failure.” This was in Dallas, which planned to improve students’ math and science performance. Dallas education officials did not commit enough time or attention to the program, and they and IBM agreed after a year to disband the program.

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