Platform for criticism

I read most of your articles, and gather useful information out of some, but pieces like this (School’s computer choice is un-PC, May 2006) are very questionable. One tiny university switches to Macs, and it’s a story? Most public K-12 school districts have more computers than Wilkes does, and a majority have moved in the other direction over the last 10 years (from Macs to Windows). Have you ever done an unbiased or pro-Windows article on this [phenomenon]?

Bill Byland, Network Administrator, Stillwater Area Public Schools, Minn.

I am often amazed when publications such as eSchool News express such surprise at schools moving to the Mac platform and that one school, in the case of this article, is seen as such a novelty for such a move. Every middle school student and teacher in the state of Maine…has a wireless Mac iBook issued to them through the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, and after having been involved in MLTI for over five years (yes, it’s been going on for over five years), it’s easy to see why Macs are the best choice for education.

Send an eSchool News reporter to Maine, talk to the students and educators, check out the incredible software and support we have, check out the projects that hapen, and you, too, will see that why this largest single deployment of 1-to-1 education in the world has been so successful–and you will begin to understand why we use Macs.

Rick Barter, Technology Educator/Coordinator, Conners Emerson School, Bar Harbor, Maine

Editor’s note: We’ll take it as a compliment that we’re criticized from both Mac and Windows supporters for being biased. For the record, we have covered both the migration of schools from Macs to PCs and Maine’s Learning Technology Initiative extensively in the past. The reason Wilkes University is a story is because it marks a reversal of this trend (from a newspaper perspective, think: Man bites dog), and because the school plans to phase out all Windows-based computers. Despite Maine’s choice of Apple laptops, we’re guessing most schools in that state still use Windows PCs for at least some (administrative?) tasks.

Research retorts

I just read my copy of eSchool News and was grateful to find the in-depth information regarding the $10 million study issued by the Department of Education (Ed study slams software efficacy, May 2007). Had I not seen this article, I and likely many of my colleagues might have been “sucked” into the media hype that continues to fill the void of what used to be real information.

Eugene Matthews, Criminal Justice Instructor, Lincoln University, Mo.

The value of a product is not what it is capable of doing under ideal circumstances, but the result it achieves in the trenches in everyday application–good or bad–for that is reality. Mr. Downey’s emotion and evident bias in his writing (Repeaters, not reporters, May 2007 ), even in an editorial setting, supports the notion that he should indeed burn his press pass, but not for the same reason he suggests.

Perhaps the focus of the discussion should be on whether the time, energy, effort, and expense of technology in the classroom is worth the costs. Is the problem truly a lack of adequately applied technology in the classroom, or is the basis of the problem more systemic? If the latter is the case, then will applying a technology bandage have any real effect on solving the problem?

In my Algebra 1 classroom, my students use graphing calculators, laptops on a wireless network, the TI-Navigator system, an ELMO overhead projection system, and a SMART Board on a daily basis, plus they have access to Carnegie Learning’s Cognitive Tutor (and I know how to use it all)…Few teachers are blessed with such a wealth of technology in their classroom. Unfortunately, I am not sure that I could provide evidence that my technology-enriched curriculum does any better than pencil and paper in creating a better-skilled and more creative, problem-solving algebra student. There is no question that the students are better prepared to face the modern world for having been exposed to this technology, but was that the justification for the investment of time, energy, effort, and expense in a ninth-grade math class?

David D. Doherty, AFNorth International High School, Brunssum, The Netherlands

I think the most accurate headline would have been: “Schools Clueless When Implementing Educational Technology.” Too many people who should know better think they can throw software into a classroom, and learning will magically result. Technology needs to be understood and embraced, from school boards on down to school custodians. It needs to be part of a cohesive, properly funded plan that everyone has a stake in. And training must be the most important part of that plan.

Instead of spending time griping about how others are misinterpreting the study, maybe we should admit what the study does show–we’re lousy at implementing learning software in the classroom. And if we don’t start doing a better job, somebody in power will cut our funding.

Kevin Shira, Technology Coordinator, Antelope View Charter School, Calif.