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Storytelling Time

I have been writing and editing stories about educational technology since the 1980s, and I have seen my fair share of mainstream media coverage of the field--most of it, quite frankly, pretty awful.

Awful because mainstream media, in general, identifies something as story-worthy if it generates controversy. So they find the worst examples of ed tech implementation and write about them as if they somehow represent the state of the art. Worse, they describe schisms that don't really exist.

The New York Times, which is arguably the best newspaper in the country, is as guilty of this kind of ill-informed reporting as any media outlet. In April, the paper ran a front-page story about the "controversy" of online learning in K-12, titled. The article paints the topic to be a left-right issue--it mentions Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education without noting that Bush and the Democrat Bob Wise, former governor of West Virginia, together run Digital Learning Now!, an online advocacy group.

The story portrays other false schisms: education-on-the-cheap versus quality teaching. The prevalence of student plagiarism in online learning versus…. Well, it doesn't offer a counter to that criticism--never mentioning products like TurnItIn, or indeed, that students used to copy passages of out the Encyclopedia Britannica as willfully as they do now from Wikipedia.

I could go on, but complaining about this particular story is not my point, which is this: The best way you can counter this kind of simplistic analysis of complex educational issues is to get your stories out there.

Do you know what the hardest part of my job is? Finding schools that we can profile for our stories. It's not that interesting, innovative examples of technology implementations don't exist. I know they do. But they're hiding under the proverbial bushel.

Which is why I was so thrilled to be a judge this year for the Sylvia Charp Award. Named after the founding editor of this magazine, the award honors districts that exhibit effectiveness and innovation through the application of technology. I can't tell you how thrilled I was to read the stories of the 50 or so districts that applied.

To be sure, not everything every district was doing was award winning. But for the most part, I was so impressed with the thoughtful, careful, conscientious, creative ways that these school districts were using technology to advance the state of teaching and learning. As I read their stories, I thought to myself, "There have got to be other districts like this! Where are they?"

So here's my challenge to all of you reading this: Share your stories! With magazines like ours (tmageau@1105media.com), with your local media outlets, with--why not--The New York Times. Twitter your accomplishments. Have your teachers blog their bragging rights. Let's move the conversation about educational technology from media shock-stories that pose false dichotomies toward an informed discussion about how to improve teaching and learning with all the tools at our disposal.

About the Author

Therese Mageau is the former editorial director of THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at therese@educationworksconsulting.com.

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