Edtech Business

Can We Amplify Education Outcomes?

By Betsy Corcoran     Sep 14, 2013

Can We Amplify Education Outcomes?

Thoughtful and detailed NewYork Times piece here about using Amplify's tablet in school. The writer,Carlo Rotella, director of American studies at Boston College and a parent ofmiddle school students, spent time in schools Guilford County (Greenboro, NC),which are an early first paying Amplify customer, as well as talking with JoelKlein, Arne Duncan and others. The story is well-worth a read; a couple of points that stood out:

 Rotella writes:

Itry to be on guard against misrecognizing complex change as simple decline, andI acknowledge that my tendency to dismiss the tech industry’s marketing mightblind me to the Amplify tablet’s genuine potential as a teaching tool — and tomajor new developments reshaping not just the nature of schooling but also theworld in which my kids are growing up."

Rotella spoke in detail with a long-time teacher, Sally HurdSmith, who was initially suspicious of the tablets. Partway through a trainingsession, Smith warmed up to the technology:

 "As an older teacher, when all thisstuff started coming out, I fought it. You know: ‘This is the new fad, and intwo years there’s another.’ ” Good teachers, she felt, already get the “data”that matter just by paying attention to their students, and they reach childrenwith all kinds of learning styles. But the more Smith learned about the tabletand the kind of teaching it made possible, the more she thought that this timewas different. “And I realized that if I don’t get with this, it’s going toleave me behind,” she said." 

Perhaps the most critical point is made by Greg Anrig, vicepresident of policy and programs at the Century Foundation and the author of“Beyond the Education Wars: Evidence That Collaboration Builds EffectiveSchools.” Anrig said:

Theresearch on successful schools and good teaching, [Anrig] said, highlights theimportance of relationships among the people in a school: administrators andteachers and students. “None of these studies identify technology as decisive.”Where technology makes a difference, it tends to do so in places with a strongorganization dedicated to improving teaching and where students closely engagewith teachers and one another. “A device that enhances such interactions isgood,” Anrig said. “But kids focused on the device, isolated, cuts intothat.” 

The piece returns frequently to thetheme that it's the combination of traditional teaching skills using newtechnology that will have the most impact on students. 

“Onceyou develop familiarity with this kind of teaching and your students catch onto the routines, you find you can actually give each student a lot more ofyourself,” said Britt [a trainer working with the NC teachers]. “Instead of talkingat a group where one-third are bored and one-third are lost, I can haveeverybody working at their level, and I have time to give the love to you andthen you and you.”

A landslide of comments attached tothe article from the readers bounce back and forth between embracing and condemning the technology. No one disagrees that teachers are fundamental. Beyond that, debates over what will stretch precious education dollars most effectively--tech? teachers? fighting poverty?--seem to devolve into ideological debates.

Bottomline: Our society is in the midst of profound culturaldebate about the goals of education and the methods we use to do it. When thetechnology was deeply flawed, there was little debate; better technology makesthat debate all the more critical. 

Edtech Business

Can We Amplify Education Outcomes?

By Betsy Corcoran     Sep 14, 2013

Can We Amplify Education Outcomes?

Thoughtful and detailed NewYork Times piece here about using Amplify's tablet in school. The writer,Carlo Rotella, director of American studies at Boston College and a parent ofmiddle school students, spent time in schools Guilford County (Greenboro, NC),which are an early first paying Amplify customer, as well as talking with JoelKlein, Arne Duncan and others. The story is well-worth a read; a couple of points that stood out:

 Rotella writes:

Itry to be on guard against misrecognizing complex change as simple decline, andI acknowledge that my tendency to dismiss the tech industry’s marketing mightblind me to the Amplify tablet’s genuine potential as a teaching tool — and tomajor new developments reshaping not just the nature of schooling but also theworld in which my kids are growing up."

Rotella spoke in detail with a long-time teacher, Sally HurdSmith, who was initially suspicious of the tablets. Partway through a trainingsession, Smith warmed up to the technology:

 "As an older teacher, when all thisstuff started coming out, I fought it. You know: ‘This is the new fad, and intwo years there’s another.’ ” Good teachers, she felt, already get the “data”that matter just by paying attention to their students, and they reach childrenwith all kinds of learning styles. But the more Smith learned about the tabletand the kind of teaching it made possible, the more she thought that this timewas different. “And I realized that if I don’t get with this, it’s going toleave me behind,” she said." 

Perhaps the most critical point is made by Greg Anrig, vicepresident of policy and programs at the Century Foundation and the author of“Beyond the Education Wars: Evidence That Collaboration Builds EffectiveSchools.” Anrig said:

Theresearch on successful schools and good teaching, [Anrig] said, highlights theimportance of relationships among the people in a school: administrators andteachers and students. “None of these studies identify technology as decisive.”Where technology makes a difference, it tends to do so in places with a strongorganization dedicated to improving teaching and where students closely engagewith teachers and one another. “A device that enhances such interactions isgood,” Anrig said. “But kids focused on the device, isolated, cuts intothat.” 

The piece returns frequently to thetheme that it's the combination of traditional teaching skills using newtechnology that will have the most impact on students. 

“Onceyou develop familiarity with this kind of teaching and your students catch onto the routines, you find you can actually give each student a lot more ofyourself,” said Britt [a trainer working with the NC teachers]. “Instead of talkingat a group where one-third are bored and one-third are lost, I can haveeverybody working at their level, and I have time to give the love to you andthen you and you.”

A landslide of comments attached tothe article from the readers bounce back and forth between embracing and condemning the technology. No one disagrees that teachers are fundamental. Beyond that, debates over what will stretch precious education dollars most effectively--tech? teachers? fighting poverty?--seem to devolve into ideological debates.

Bottomline: Our society is in the midst of profound culturaldebate about the goals of education and the methods we use to do it. When thetechnology was deeply flawed, there was little debate; better technology makesthat debate all the more critical. 

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