On the day that California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is reported as having said that books for pupils are outdated, it’s interesting to read about the apparent failure of Microsoft’s Philadelphia ‘School of the Future’. The failure of which was due, in part, to the failure of the technology:

“Although the technology itself was not supposed to trump basic classroom practices, Microsoft and the school’s planners had decided not to allow the use of textbooks or printed materials; instead, all resources were located online through a portal designed by Microsoft.Yet educators frequently encountered problems accessing the internet, because the school’s wireless connection often would not work.” [source]

Perhaps Microsoft’s aim was lofty and laudable (to improve education) but it was also a marketing tactic. Schwarzenegger’s aim seems much more financially driven, with the aim of saving hundreds of millions of dollars. If there is a moral to the Microsoft School of the Future failure, it’s that technology in education needs to be robust, appropriate and educationally (not commercially) driven… How will Californian schools, and their pupils, fare?

Well, those were my first thoughts. And, if news of the school’s failure was correct, then I’d probably stick with the conclusion. But that was until I did a bit of searching around the content of the eschool article and, as with all media reports, there’s always a bit more to the story than at first sight. According to this blog from the school itself, “we don’t feel like a failure” and, according to one of the students, “It hurts my heart to hear people call my school a failure because I have already achieved great thing [sic] and I am not done yet! …when I walk down the aisle in June 2010 [to graduate] I will remember this article and further my education to become the best lawyer Philadelphia has seen all because of the School of The Future.”

So maybe the moral is really to remind us that it’s always dangerous to take any media report at face value…

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