NYTimes Declares War on the Future

The New York Times has launched a full on war on education technology—except for when it’s in their own benefit. Yesterday it was Michael Winerup’s hit piece on Pearson. He’s never written a responsible education story—and this was no exception. I appreciate the support the Pearson Foundation provides to the Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). I don’t think it has anything to do with testing contracts.
Today another Richtel—a name now synonymous for edtech hit pieces. Taking lessons from the tabloid Sun, Matt finds a sympathetic and photogenic teacher who doesn’t like computers and he generalizes to “open revolt.” I don’t know about Matt but I’ve been invited by Idaho legislators to speak about the future of personal digital learning and I must have missed the revolt.
Instead, Idaho has been an innovator. Idaho Digital has been a leader in online learning for a decade. Boise State has the most forward leaning Department of Education that I know of. Superintendent Luna, also chair of the state chiefs organization, advanced a great edreform agenda and has been courageous about improving access to learning options and technology for low income students in his state.
“There appears to be a political story here as well, but the confusion/fear/distrust about how technology can/will change teaching and learning is the real issue,” said Julie Evans of Project Tomorrow.
I’m sure Ann (Matt’s heroine) is a great teacher. What Tom Luna and I are interested in is leveraging her talent not replacing it. We want more socratic dialog, not less. We want more engagement, more time, and more student success. We want students to be prepared to succeed in college and careers. The Digital Learning Now framework outlines policies that will extend the reach of great teachers, give students access to more options, and ultimately will boost college/career ready graduation rates.
The New York Times owns and markets a learning management system called Epsilen. I know they’ve wined and dined state chiefs while marketing their product (you won’t find that in the About section). While tiny, Epsilen did have a small jump in traffic last month so perhaps their strategy is working.
Ironically, while Richtel rages, other parts of the paper are promoting 5 Ways to Flip Your Classroom with the NYTimes and Death Knell to the Lecture by a Stanford prof. I cancelled my subscription to the Times. It was the paper of record but it’s just another pandering tabloid.
Disclosure: Pearson is an investor in Learn Capital where Tom is a partner.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Therese Mageau

Matt Richtel is the Todd Oppenheimer of this decade. I don't think these stories are a Times agenda as much as a way that Richtel is imagining he can create a platform for himself. I write about this ed-tech bashing phenomena in the January issue of THE Journal: http://thejournal.com/articles/2012/01/04/make-it-stop.aspx


Tom Vander Ark

couldn't agree more, but the bevy supportive comments must make editors think that pandering to luddites is good biz

Lydia Dobyns

Tech literacy is a fundamental tool to prepare students for success. Providing access to technology eliminates a “barrier to entry” in the college and workplace. Technology isn’t the silver bullet, but eliminating tech from the classroom will only exacerbate the achievement gap.


Tom Vander Ark

Thanks Lydia. We also appreciate that the New Tech network teaches project management as a life skill!


Technology is fantastic. Flexible learning environments and pathways are fantastic. Progress based on competency is fantastic. Online courses can be fantastic, when appropriate. Most of your 10 elements are strong and valuable.
However, requiring any student to take an online course to graduate pretty much negates all the goodwill I might have had toward your efforts. It's actually contradicts the notion of educational flexibility because it removes the element of choice for students and families for which online classes do not work well.
I could go on, but I'll wait to see if comments here are summarily deleted if they don't agree 100% with your platform.


Tom Vander Ark

Thanks DW. I hear you and hear objection to the DigitalLearningNow.com recommendation.
I support a required online course (I'd actually require at least one each year) because all students will learn online after high school (college, military, corporate, etc). I also think the requirement forces schools to consider options. I think it will make it more likely that every student in American has access to every AP course and any foreign language course.


Tom, I agree with you on the Richtel piece which in my view does little to inform anyone on why the legislation is bad or good. Having to take 2 or their 47 graduation credits online seems like it will prepare students on how they will need to take courses in higher-ed, so it makes sense. As for the Winerup piece, I disagree that this is a hit piece, or at least its a hit piece that needs to be told. There is way to much of this lobbying done by the big 3 publishers, and I have seen it first hand. In order for the nest new learning technologies to make it into larger schools and get big contracts, these barriers to entry need to be eliminated. Outside of viral penetration into schools, only a level playing feel will allow Edtech companies to get to these students and teachers. Exposing this will only help.

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