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Education Technology Is An Enabler, Not A Magic Wand

by Kelly Walsh on September 7, 2011


NY Times Article Calls Attention To The Need To Do A Much Better Job Of Understanding Technology’s Role And Potential In Education.

This NY Times Internet article, “In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores” has been getting a lot of attention this week. The article discusses a U.S. school district that invested roughly $33 million in education technologies as a result of a ballot initiative in 2005. The focus of the article’s first page or so is that reading and math test scores have stagnated in the district, while at the same time they improved statewide (in all the other districts, where there was no infusion of technology dollars). It is easy to read this as an inference that technology does not improve the quality of the education.

Based on the headline, or a brief look at some of the Internet commentary circulating about the article, many readers may come to the conclusion that it is a categorical defamation of the ed tech movement. It is not.  The article goes on to provide a lot of insights and relevant facts for consideration when pondering the issue of whether or not technology can improve education. It is very much worth the read if this is a topic you are interested in. It is proper to question the value and return of these large investments.

Computer technology is not a magic wand. This perception, while it may sound rather absurd when stated so plainly, has been a thorn in the side of technology managers for decades. Employees and managers of organizations and institutions of all types and sizes seem to think that throwing technology at business problems instantly improves efficiencies and yields myriad other benefits. Technology is a tool, a potentially powerful enabler, and with proper planning and implementation it can produce many benefits, but it does in fact require planning, and so much more, in order to make the investment pay off.

The potential of education technology is still so far from being realized, and too often dollars are spent without proper oversight and planning. Many technologists and educators will welcome and applaud these types of thought-provoking news pieces on education technology. Hopefully people who come across the article will give it more than just a brief scan, and look beyond the provocative title and introductory paragraphs. It would be nice to think that the impact of Mr. Richtel’s piece will be more positive than negative, and that it will help to open some eyes and minds to a closer look at this unrealized potential.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Let’s stop misspending education technology dollars
8 Great TED Talks About The Future Of Education And Teaching
Check out the (Education) Reform Library from The Foundation for Excellence in Education


Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer and a faculty member at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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