Education Technology: Trust, but Verify

Marion Herbert's picture
Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The release of Apple’s computer-based textbooks last month had the usual technology triumphalists buzzing. "Apple And The Coming Education Revolution," blared the headline at Fast Company magazine. "Apple puts iPad at head of the class," screamed MacWorld. And Time magazine declared the announcement the "debut (of) the holy grail of textbooks." It sounds exciting -- a rise of the machines that promises educational utopia rather than "Terminator"-style cataclysm. Or does it?

Though it may be too soon to definitively answer that question, it’s not too soon to ask it. Because despite the celebratory hype, there’s no guarantee that a hyper-technologized education system is synonymous with genuine progress.

Ponder, for starters, the much-discussed issue of financial efficiency. As the tech website Gizmodo noted in a post titled "You Can’t Afford Apple’s Education Revolution," the new iPad-based books might "only cost $15 a pop," but "instead of selling an updated textbook every 5 to 10 years for $100, (publishers will) update and sell every year for $15," and "it’s not like you can hand down an iBook from year to year ... you expressly can’t."

It’s the same story with so many other vaunted education-branded technologies: They seem to promise resource-strapped school districts a way to constructively reduce expenditures, but the dazzle of flashy

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