Apr 7, 2007

News hit piece wants Michigan to ditch new educational technology

I have been around newspapers a long time, but I have never seen such an inflammatory piece of writing passed off as an editorial as I saw in the Detroit News last week.

It starts right off with the headline, “An iPod for every kid? Are they !#$!ing idiots?”

That’s a headline from a reputable, mainstream newspaper? The anti-Democratic crap that continues to flow from the Detroit News should finally dispel the ridiculous “liberal media” myth that the Republic Party has turned into a devastatingly effective political strategy. Then we get statements like this one in the hot piece, “The Democrats, led by their increasingly erratic speaker Andy Dillon.”

What can you expect from a newspaper where Nolan Finley is editorial page editor, and I’ll bet the farm he wrote this piece of garbage. The only thing in this hit piece that even makes sense is this lone sentence, “Michigan can't tax or spend its way out of this economic catastrophe.” Michigan can’t cut its way out either. We have cut taxes for 15 straight years, and the state has cut spending for almost the same amount of time. Where’s the prosperity if all it takes is cuts?

I haven’t really had the time to completely read and digest the Democratic plan, but it seems like a long term investment plan to me to truly lift us out of the economic downturn and address the structural budget problems, not just balance the budget with one-time fixes and gimmicks. We have done this “one-tine budget fix and gimmicks” since 2001.

How do we expect a company and corporation to come into Michigan and invest millions of dollars here when its own citizens refuse to invest in their state?

I have to admit I was a bit surprised and disappointed when I first read about the Ipod idea. That is until I thought about it. I’m not all that old – I’m not using my walker yet, but as a Baby-Boomer I can remember the most high-tech teaching tools we had when I was in high school were film strips and reel-to-feel film projectors and even handheld calculators were rare.

As I’m writing this I’m listening to “Lord of the Flies” from the Playaway hanging from my neck that I borrows from the Howell Library. Can you imagine the outcry that came when VCRs and DVDs were introduced in schools?

Now, we have students sitting in class with cell phones small enough to fit in their pockets taking notes on their wireless laptop computer than has Internet access that gives the student access to almost everything that has ever been printed. If you told us that would have been the case 20 years ago we would have said you were crazy, but now we want to say no to new technology.

We’re talking about MP3 players not the more expensive Ipods that are getting smaller and smaller everyday and dropping in price each day. They can load both audio and video, including such things as the day’s lessons or homework. They can also be modified so that only schoolwork can be downloaded, not just music and music videos.

With the volume buying power the state has the price should be rather low.


Colleen said...

A very good reason to not read The Detroit News. I learned about this from this blog. http://whiskeyfire.typepad.com/whiskey_fire/2007/04/fools_and_kings.html Pretty popular blog and now that the wingnuts have gotten a hold of it, watch out. Anything to not talk about the occupation of Iraq or what complete buffoons are actually running/ruining our country.

Anonymous said...

I don't really have an opinion about the Detroit News or its views. On the issue of iPods or Mp3 players for MI children I just can't see the justification. Duke University gave out iPods and digital voice recorder to its entire freshman class for several years. They found that only about 60% of them were used academically and I believe have since stopped the practice.

While the vast majority of college students have access to computer technology [via their laptop] or can gain access with little difficulty [computer labs or friends computers]; only a small amount of Michigan children have this same access level. I wish they had more, but they don't.

So what good would an Mp3 player really do for them?
....at least 40% of students do not have computer access at home
....only 60% of "mature" college students used the iPod for academia, you have to assume less mature students would be less likely to use it (so maybe 50%)
....this leaves us with 30% of total students using the Mp3 player for its actual purpose.

oops wait...

...The majority of teachers don't know how to record their lessons in a digital audio format.

So now we have about 4% of the entire MI student population using these Mp3 players for their intended purpose.

This is not a good use of 83million dollars. Not right now. We already spend enough on educating our students. We rank in the top 5 in spending and only 14th or 15th in test scores.

Communications guru said...


. I do have an opinion on the Detroit News. For the most part it’s a quality newspaper, but clearly its editorial pages are conservative, at best. It’s really hard to imagine why when you consider where the paper is located, its coverage area and that we have this BS about the “liberal media.”

It seems to me that if you want high-tech companies to invest in our state maybe we should invest some money in technology ourselves. I always thought Duke was a very good academic school, so 60 percent seems to a good number. Far too many people see MP3 players and just a high-tech Walkman, which they clearly are not. They fail to see the educational value, just like people failed to see other new technology that’s now common in schools.

Perhaps if we start our kids younger using this technology that 60 percent will be close to 100 percent. I think MP3 players used properly will have a great effect. I would like to know where you got those numbers you are quoting with no attribution. I think all Michigan students should have access to computers at home.

If only 60 percent of "mature" college students used the iPod for academia that leaves only 40 percent who don’t. Now, when I went to high school the biggest high tech piece of equipment was the filmstrip, but your numbers don’t add up. Learning how to properly use them for academics early will bump that number up to 100 percent. Again, learning how to use an MP3 player to teach would also improve if they get them young and learn how to properly use them, and the majority of teachers will know how to record their lessons in a digital audio format, if what you say is really the case. It sounds like a GOP talking point to me, just like the rest of your post.

As for the rest of your numbers, again, show me one reference, other than saul anuzis.

Anonymous said...

See this reference for the Duke information:


I know that Duke itself also has a more complete report, but was unable to find the reference online.

As far as other statistics, I was just using evidence from my own studies and experiences.

All my argument boils down to is without content from schools these Mp3 player boil down to nothing but at best "mass storage" devices for students.

If indeed content becomes available than the educational system would have to address the problem of theft, destruction, or loss of individuals Mp3 players.

I imagine this:
"Teacher A [who is fulling a state, or district requirement to have lessons which use Mp3 players] assigns a lesson for his/her students, but 2 of these students no longer [for whatever reason] have their Mp3 player. What happens to these students?

Do they get another free Mp3 player?
Do they fail their assignments?

For selfish reasons I am all for this happening. In finishing my graduate studies I conducted a study of teacher educational technology aptitude. The results indicated there is a great need in that area. Teachers have computers available, but they most commonly use them for email, checking the score of professional sporting events, or reading the news. If this idea actually becomes funded I will have a lot more work to do. Which is good for me.

Communications guru said...

Thanks for the link to the Duke story, however, your numbers, if this is the person who originally posted them, don’t add up. How do you go from “only 60% of "mature" college students used the iPod for academia” to “So now we have about 4% of the entire Michigan student population using these Mp3 players for their intended purpose.”

Now I’m to understand that’s based on your own study and experience. Where is your study of the entire student population of Michigan published? I will grant you there are some unanswered questions, and there will always be some questions when new technology comes on line.

I’m a little confused about your knock on teachers lacking in technology aptitude. If that’s the case and what you are telling me is true does that mean it's because you are not doing your job?

I also think this entire MP3 thing is being blown out of proportion. I read the House Speaker “Road Map to Michigan’s Recovery,” and no where in the turnaround plan do I see IPods or MP3 players mentioned. From what I understand, there a pledge for investing in technology, but some reporter is making an assumption that it will be MP3 players. However, I don’t think it’s a bad idea.