Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cart, Horses, and iPads

A district I work with just announced they were ordering sa large number of Dell laptops. One of the key reasons mentioned in the news article announcing this move was the need to have enough machines to conduct state testing. Now, I don't mind assessment and accountability but I do think we need to start considering the impact on school decision making. I do not have a problem with the districts decision making progress, they are facing a reality and need to respond. I am, however, questioning a system in which accountability pressures dictate everything from teacher bonuses to decisions about which technology to buy and what it will be used for.

I will pull a NASCAR metaphor. In racing, crews choose tires to fit the conditions of the road so their driver will have the best chance to win. In education we invest in the photofinish camera instead... Only problem is with the wrong tires the photofinish camera views will be very sad.

As an iPad fan I have a request from Apple. Districts are asking Apple to create an ecosystem that will allow students to participate in assessments on the iPad essentially locking other features so students could not "cheat" (on the nature of cheating another time). I am begging Apple to not succumb to this pressure. If you will create such an ecosystems you will undoubtedly sell more iPads but they will be used in all the wrong ways for all the wrong reasons. Experience tells us they will have a whole set of closed apps that will disable the joy of exploration and cross validation. At the same time such devices will be unavailable for instruction months each year so students can participate in testing.
It is time to put the horses in front of the cart. It is time to invest in the right tires so all students can get to the finish line.
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