"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Good Reporting on Whiteboards at WaPo: A Model for Education Writers

Anyone interested in whiteboards?  Anyone?  Do you know what whiteboards are?  Anyone, anyone?  Well, Stephanie McCrummen at WaPo does because she's done her homework.  She not only visits a classroom where a whiteboard is in use, but she interviews industry spokesmen, classroom teachers, vendors, and even four or five education professors.

My question is this:  If WaPo reporters can do such a fine job reporting on a technology issue, why can't, or why won't, they and the rest of the education reporters do something similar when reporting on policy issues?

Rather than coughing up the same quotables from Finn, Hess, Walsh, Greene, Haycock, and Rotherham on any policy question, why not choose some of hundreds of other policy researchers who have the same kind of expertise in policy as the ones quoted in McCrummen's piece do on technology?  Does anyone know?  Anyone, anyone?  EWA?  Anyone?

Here is a chunk of Stephanie's article.  I hope you follow the link to read it all:
. . . .Increasingly, though, another view is emerging: 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. They argue that the most ubiquitous device-of-the-future, the whiteboard -- essentially a giant interactive computer screen that is usurping blackboards in classrooms across America -- locks teachers into a 19th-century lecture style of instruction counter to the more collaborative small-group models that many reformers favor.

"There is hardly any research that will show clearly that any of these machines will improve academic achievement," said Larry Cuban, education professor emeritus at Stanford University. "But the value of novelty, that's highly prized in American society, period. And one way schools can say they are 'innovative' is to pick up the latest device."

The appeal
Federal dollars for educational technology, minuscule until the mid-1990s, grew to more than $800 million last year, and industry analysts estimate that federal, state and local expenditures will total $16 billion next year. Money that once bought filmstrips and overhead projectors has spawned a thriving industry of companies that pitch their products as a way to help schools meet the federal priorities of the day. Glossy brochures that claimed whiteboards would help teachers reach Bush's No Child Left Behind goals, for instance, now say the devices will help schools win "Race to the Top" grants from the Obama administration.. . . .

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