In visits the officials described as inspirational, they checked out the company’s latest gadgets, discussed the instructional value of computers with high-level Apple executives and engineers, and dined with them and other educators at trendy restaurants. Apple paid for meals and their stay at a nearby inn.This is part of a big trend by technology companies to make money off of school districts, even as there's some question about how much difference technology makes in how students learn:
The visits paid off for Apple too — to the tune of $1.2 million in sales. In September, Little Falls handed out iPads to 1,700 of its 2,500 students at a celebration in the school gym. And a few days earlier, 200 teachers got a pep talk via video chat from an Apple executive whom the school superintendent had come to know during his company visits.
I found this interesting in light of a press release that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt put out this week around the contract they have with the district around the innovation and Level 4 schools. Frankly, we've been seeing a lot of HMH people: they've been at School Committee meetings, press briefings (where they've provided the muffins), and elsewhere. (And if I'm seeing a lot of them, you can bet that our administrators are seeing even more of them!)The sales pitches come as questions persist about how effective high-tech products can be at improving student achievement. The companies say their products engage students and prepare them for a digital future, while some academics say technology is not fulfilling its promise.
I don't at all mean that we've been bought by a basket of muffins; I don't think that's the case. There is a lot of money flying around (in this case, Race to the Top funds for the innovation and Level 4 schools), and companies are going straight after it. My fear is that what we're doing is spending the money as fast as we get it (or even faster; the RTTT money isn't actually in yet), without taking nearly enough time and care to make sure that it actually does what it's supposed to do. I raised this question (and I wasn't alone), but administration was definitely sold, as demonstrated in the press release:
"The opportunity to implement a comprehensive technology platform that gives students, parents and teachers greater connectivity is at the crux of our interest," said Dr. Jeffrey Mulqueen, Chief Academic Officer, Worcester Public Schools. "Pinpoint allows us to break free from time and place, allowing teachers and parents to work more productively."That's the theory. We don't actually know that yet.