Under enormous pressure to reform, the nation’s public schools are spending millions of dollars each year on devices that technology companies promise can raise student performance. Increasingly, though, another view is emerging, reports the Washington Post: that the money schools spend on instructional gizmos isn’t necessarily making things better, just different. Many academics question industry-backed studies linking improved test scores to their products. And some go further, arguing that the most ubiquitous device-of-the-future, the interactive whiteboard, locks teachers into a 19th-century lecture style of instruction than runs counter to the more collaborative, small-group models that many reformers favor. On its web site, SMART Technologies quotes a former Fairfax County, Va., high school teacher saying that after whiteboards arrived, he saw “significant” increases in student performance “across all grade levels.” Such statements reflect the fact that many teachers love whiteboards, and they also reflect the relationships that ed-tech companies cultivate with school officials to market their products, underwriting major education conferences and sponsoring professional associations. “The private sector engagement is a good thing,” said Doug Levin, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, which lists Promethean, SMART Technologies, and Apple among its $30,000 platinum sponsors. “It is the [job] of the public sector to evaluate claims of these vendors.”

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staff and wire services reports