Why Are We Only Reporting the Planes That Crash in Edtech?

Opinion |

Why Are We Only Reporting the Planes That Crash in Edtech?

By Tim Holt     Aug 2, 2014

Why Are We Only Reporting the Planes That Crash in Edtech?

As Don Henley once sang in "Dirty Laundry 1982", the news loves to report when planes crash.

The fact is, of course, that the news rarely reports about those planes that land safely. News is only news, it seems, when the unusual happens. Houses that don't burn down are never news, but houses that do burn down? Always news. Marriages that last forever? Not News. Divorce rate goes up? News. You get the idea.

With that in mind, I am noticing a trend in the news of reporting when big edtech initiatives crash and burn. The most famous of course is the Los Angeles Unified iPad rollout where kids immediately found a way around the built-in security, and the iPads had to be recalled. Amidst all of that, the district’s $1 billion program crashed and burned, and recently, the district rebooted its initiative with Windows laptops. I won’t debate the merits or lack thereof of the program, but it was great "news": giant edtech program crashes.

Then just this week, we learned that another large scale 1:1 initiative was cut back by the Hoboken School district, which decided to pull back it’s large-scale laptop initiative.

Of course, we could have a nice discussion about how these programs had some significant failures in implementation, not in goals. Poor logistics, bad training, poor communications. In the Hoboken case, for instance, current Superintendent Toback admits that "teachers weren’t given enough training on how to use the computers for instruction. Teachers complained that their teenage students were too distracted by their computer screens to pay attention to the lesson in the classroom.”

The planes crashed in LA and Hoboken. Sigh.

The point however, is that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of successful iPad and mobile device rollout programs across the country that the media does not report on--both large-scale and small-scale, from Chromebooks to tablets, from classroom implementations to district-wide and statewide programs.

Consider the McAllen ISD in Texas, who has had a wildly successful iPad 1:1 program. They are not alone. Take the state of Maine, where educators have given laptops to all of their kids in grade 7-12. Don’t hear too much about them, do you?

In McAllen and the state of Maine, the planes are landing safely there. But no one talks about them.

One major downside of all of this is that the average news watcher is going to see only the plane crashes in edtech and think that the norm is for a bunch of money to be unwisely spent in times of budget cuts. He or she will never see the positive, or perhaps only tangentially, if they happen to see their own kids' success with technology.

As edtech proponents, we need to get the word out to our communities. We need to celebrate the planes that land safely, not just those that crash.

Editor's Note: This posting originally appeared on the author's blog.

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