Let me save you $6,162.48

Wikimedia commons. Ingvar Kjøllesdal. Click for original.
Creation is in the child, not the table

This morning in the Washington Post, an article critical of educational technology tore into the heart of the matter – the relationship between schools hoping that there is some new magic wand that will improve student achievement and the capacity of sales-driven companies to invent expensive “solutions.”

Focusing mainly on interactive whiteboards, the article quotes teachers and researchers who point out that they are little more than glorified chalkboards, and one student who says exactly that.

“There is hardly any research that will show clearly that any of these machines will improve academic achievement,” said Larry Cuban, education professor emeritus at Stanford University. “But the value of novelty, that’s highly prized in American society, period. And one way schools can say they are “innovative” is to pick up the latest device.”

“Or, as 18-year-old Benjamin Marple put it: “I feel they are as useful as a chalkboard.”

The end of the article leaves you with a sobering vignette – the advent of the next wave, the multi-touch table.

“One recent morning, an amiable corporate salesman in a dark suit wheeled into a Maryland classroom the latest high-tech device — a $6,500 table with an interactive touch screen that allows students to collaboratively count, do puzzles and play other instructional games. “We had a first run and boom! They sold out,” Joe Piazza said in his presentation to administrators at Parkside High School on the Eastern Shore. “It was kind of like the iPad.”

In the cinder-block classroom, a few kindergartners sat around the fancy table, working a digital puzzle as blips and canned applause encouraged them. The school officials seemed pleased.

“So,” the district’s technology director asked Piazza, “do we just call you for pricing?”

So, as promised, here’s a shopping list that will provide you with EVERYTHING a multi-touch table does. I’ll even spring for the high quality “classroom” versions.

1 Kindergarten Table – $169.99
Deluxe Wooden Classoom Tangrams – $18.95 (go crazy, buy two) $37.90
Classroom Coloring books – $3.74
Finger paints (classroom set) – $19.90
MathBlaster on eBay – $5.99

I’ll even spot you $100 to go get a collection of maps, human body visuals, and other stuff to lay on the table so  students can point at them. (Actually, if you really are bargain hunting, you can get a lot of this stuff for free on the Internet. Cha-ching!)

Oh, and don’t forget the canned applause when students do things “correctly” – priceless

Total cost – $337.52

These tables cost around $6,500. So there, tada! I’ve saved you $6,162.48

But as I’ve said before, “You can’t buy change. It’s a process, not a purchase. The right shopping list won’t change education.” That quote got picked up in an article by Bill Ferriter for Teacher Magazine “Why I Hate Interactive Whiteboards.”

So do yourself (and the kids) a favor – save $6,162.48 today, and in a few short years you’ll be able to say, “I told you so.” when the articles about “tables don’t teach” start appearing.

As the kids say — ur welcome.