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.


5 Replies to “Let me save you $6,162.48”

  1. I continue to hear IWB & touch table evangelists talk about how you can do things using these tools that improves learning. It’s a true statement- the problem with it is you can accomplish just as much (often more) for cheaper using other (perhaps older) tools.

    So…should I just have my school officials make out the check for the extra $6,000 to you…or…?


  2. Sylvia,

    I understand the concerns, and am a IWB skeptic too. At the same time I don’t believe anyone can say that the WashPost article was an shining example of unbiased reporting. It is as guilty in many respects of drawing conclusions from anecdotal, biased results that they accuse vendors of sharing. We shouldn’t be pawns to vendor-induced hysteria about the latest product and we need to be careful about not being pawns to other folks who are trying to discredit most use of technology as fluff and are simply using IWBs as the hammer and anvil to get that message across.

    I think all of us (teachers, administrators et al) need to stay grounded by asking ourselves “what is the use of this technology allowing me to do different instructionally and will this difference really have a beneficial effect on my students”.

    After all, it’s not the technology (any technology really) that makes the difference, it’s what we are able to do differently or better because of the technology that causes an impact.

  3. All of the core classrooms in middle and high school in my district are getting IWB’s next year. All of the elementary schools already have them. I was told I was getting one, but now am not. I am not disappointed at all and actually feel good about it. I felt kind of like a hypocrite getting one when I think that IWB’s should be a low priority tool compared to computer devices in student hands.

    Instead of interactive tables, schools should invest in student computers in the form of netbooks, ipod touches, and tablets. Notice I did not say Ipads because I think they are currently overpriced for schools and their creation limitations. I also believe the market will be flooded with similar tablet devices in the near future that are more open than Apple (Can you say Android?).

  4. As a technology integration specialist, it is frightening to me that so many teachers have not had to take a course in either personal productivity or technology integration in college as part of their teaching degree. It was mandatory in Wisconsin and the one huge thing you come away with is that curriculum must drive the technology and not the other way around. You must know your content inside out and then see if there is a way to use technology to bump up the engagement level for those lessons that make the kids’ eyes glaze over. No one in a primary classroom needs one of those interactive cubes, and they are ridiculous for anyone older than primary. I love an interactive white board for getting young kids to participate in a well thought out, student driven activity, but they are not really needed above 6th grade. I can’t tell you how sad it is to walk into a classroom where these expensive boards are being used as overhead projector screens because there was no good plan for implementation or vision for the future.
    That being said, we can provide a very rich 3D environment for older students by using virtual worlds such as the Reaction Grid where the building supports math skills, spatial reasoning and all content areas. A hammer can be a weapon for destruction, but it can also build a glorious home. It’s not the tool, it’s the skill of the person holding it.

  5. On Monday morning I will greet my new kindergarten students for the 33rd time. (That’s 33 years, it’s 53 times if you count the 20 years of half day kindergarten.) I have seen many changes during my teaching career – in students, parental involvement, curriculum, and technology. Some changes have been good, some mediocre and some definitely for the worse.

    My kindergarten classroom has also changed over the years. Now we are standard and assessment driven. Sometimes, I feel as if all I do is assess. My students are given MAP 3 times a year, DIBELS once a month, tested on technology proficiency twice a year, placement test for first grade in the spring plus checked off for our 60 item report card four times a year. (I’m sure there are more but I try hard to forget!)

    Our day is filled with our phonics lesson, our math lesson and our reading lesson (all accompanied by workbooks that we are required to use.) Gone are the days of simply reading a great book, going to the easel to paint a picture of your favorite part, going to the art center to make puppets to act out the story, and going to the listening center to listen to it again.

    Many of my students are entering school for the very first time. We live in a rural area and 93% of our students receive free or reduced lunch. All of our supply funds have been frozen since the beginning of last year and next year is predicted to be even worse.

    Several years ago I was introduced to DonorsChoose. My students and I have been blessed by the generosity of its supporters. I have gotten basic supplies for my class – pencils, papers, crayons, paint (including fingerpaint!), drawing paper, writing paper, books, and many other items that have benefited my students. Now I am asking for an interactive table and was asked “why”.

    I have three desktop computers in my classroom that students use during our limited center time. We have some great programs and there are some truly wonderful websites for young children. However, one area that many of my students come to school lacking is socialization. The computers are set up for only one student so the students who chose or are assigned to the computer miss out on what I believe to be a very important part of the kindergarten day.

    An interactive table would allow my students to work in groups. Not only would they have access to the same activities as on the computer, they would also be able to use the many wonderful activities already developed for the table. I would also be able to create unique learning activities to correlate to the units we are studying.

    Do I think thAt having this interactive table in my classroom is worth the money? In a word – YES!

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