Watters, A. (2014). How Will the Ed-Tech Industry Shape Student Reading? Knowledge Quest, 43(1), 16-21.
In the discussion about the education technology industry and how that effects student reading, attentions were brought into how much business and politics played a hand into education.
Watters (2014) firsts discusses the business side where investments in education-technology companies were higher than $559 million in just the first quarter. She discusses how this impacts companies that deal with education children in the K-12 format, to college levels, and even professional education. This is not limited to curriculum based companies. However, Watters (2014) points out that it is a growing market, regardless. The reason for this large number ranges from hardware (devices) to software (cloud storage).
The politics side also had some interesting points. Strongly focusing on the introduction of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) she points out how schools will be required to purchase aligned materials, such as textbooks and assessment pieces, however, these things can be purchased digitally and that is also a plus in the dollars of tech-ed. Common Core will also require online assessments which will increase hardware purchasing. The most interesting piece however, in the political side seems to be the rationale for buying all this technology and equipment in favor of something like CCSS which will prove to make students learn more and to do it faster and better (Watters, 2014). Because of this CCSS is considered a bonus in the world of ed-tech.
It seems that reading tends to take a back seat when dispersing funds. With money going to CC and, because of that, math programs, literacy software seems to be lacking. CC focuses most of the literary power to the Lexile Framework. A program which measures text complexity, Lexile tends to be used to lead students away from books because it may be below or above their level. Many have found this to be disparaging to readers, especially since a recent article by Blaine Greteman from The University of Iowa pointed out that the Lexile Framework has Slaughterhouse Five as less complex than Mr. Popper's Penguins (Watters, 2014).
Even more frustrating is how is still used and valued. Because of this, software design will use algorithms and numbers to give reading assignments to students instead of using "human-based recommendations" (Watters, 2014) This will also steer them away from what may interest them and lead them to what the computer thinks they can handle, regardless of content.
The questions is brought up as librarians, how do we work with this and realize that the decisions being made are not always what is best for the students but what is profitable.
This article fascinated me. Not because I fear that technology and reading don't mix, but because I am always surprised at how people just jump on a bandwagon without really thinking things through. I always have arguments about how we need to see if things are really working for our students before we just jump and buy the program, because at the end of the day, these companies just want to make money. The Lexile Framework is a great example of this. I hate this program. Very much. Not because I don't think it provides a good starting point, especially for lower level readers, but because it is always used incorrectly. It is seen as the final word, the bible of decisions and that is where the problem is. The article had a great example, but that is just the beginning. It happens with many books. Of Mice and Men has a lower lexile than Twilight. Because Lexile has no reference for content. That is where the needs of human interaction come into play. I know that I can give my 7th grade reader, who may be struggling with complex sentences, Twilight because the interest will push her and the content is easy to follow so the only struggle will be the wording. If I give this same reader Of Mice and Men, she won't even try and I have failed her.
The fact that so much money goes into things that are not really working and that so many oft hem are mandated by the state is very frustrating. However, what is the most frustrating of all is when smart, educated people follow it blindly.