Thursday, October 29, 2009

HMH in $40M deal to provide high-tech teaching system to Detroit schools

I have 3 kids in the California public school system and while I applaud the innovations that schools are embracing, I wonder if our generation of children will truly be better educated or will their teachers' learning curve negatively effect how and what students learn.

The ramification for those publishers who 'lock up' school districts is much more far-reaching than many of may have realized. You can toss a textbook program and opt for a new one, not so easy to unravel your computer system from your publishing partner's software, especially when you've paid a $40 million dollar dowry. And in a few years when most school district have signed these long-term, high-cost contracts and a limited number of publishers dominate the field, will the lack of competition be a disincentive to further innovation?

In 5 - 10 years, high-tech teaching will be as commonplace as textbooks are today and students now entering preschool will reap the benefits. I just hope students currently in K-12 will be as lucky.


Some excerpts:

Houghton will be providing a computer-based teaching system it developed with Microsoft that will connect teachers, students, and administrators. It’s a radical shift away from the classic textbook publishing model and represents an industry transformation, as technology supplants books.

“The textbook is no longer the center of the educational universe,’’ said Wendy Colby, a senior vice president at Houghton, which is based in Boston.

The Boston publisher is selling some textbooks to Detroit, but most of the contract is for such software such as Learning Village - a customized, interactive classroom network....

The education publishing industry is being swept up in the swing toward digital products, which has accelerated in recent months, thanks partly to the availability of federal stimulus funds....

“It’s much more than just e-book versions of textbooks. It’s companion videos, interactive games, assessment, curriculum planning tools, and on and on and on.’

It’s also changing the relationship between schools and publishers. It’s one thing to discard a paper text; it’s more difficult for a school district to walk away from a computer system on which teachers and students depend.

A product such as Learning Village, Mickey said, “puts the publisher at the center of school action. It ties the school district to the publisher.’’ ...

The challenge, Johnson said, will be in training teachers on the new Houghton systems.

In a five-year study in the public schools of St. Lucie County, Fla., the publisher found that once teachers became proficient in using Learning Village, student performance improved.

“It took a while to get teachers trained on the system,’’ said St. Lucie assistant superintendent Owen A. Roberts. “But eventually, we were able to take advantage of the fact that everything was in one accessible place.’’


  1. Wow. "Eventually they were able to..." Pretty scary for the kids in class the first few years.

    Everything seems to be changing so radically, so quickly. There was a great article in Case Western Reserve's "Think" magazine this month about a group of students using Kindle instead of standard textbooks. There were a few drawbacks, but overall, the Kindle gave them a lot of tools (easy searching, the ability to excerpt notes to a word doc, etc) that textbooks just can't compete with.

    As much as I hate the idea of eReaders, the Kindle textbook sounded pretty sweet.

  2. So if there's a power outtage, or the system has a hiccup, how do they teach for the day?

    I'm all for integrating multimedia with traditional textbooks, but being completely dependent on it seems a bit much...

  3. Jill,
    I graduated with an BSE (eld) in 1986). I truly believe that kids are still the same...They want to learn. Learning can be exciting. It's up to the adults to find the the way for their kids. Look at vampires...teenage girls love reading right now.

    I loved the whole language arts movement...Reading is more than word comprehension... its about making good choices. Parent participation is sooo important!

  4. I'm more concerned about what the newer textbooks are (or are not) teaching children rather than digital versus traditional. History is being rewritten and important information left out so that today's children have no idea of what really happened in history. Parents who don't have the financial resources for private schools or the ability to home school are paying good money in taxes so their kids can be incompletely educated. Worse case scenario? They are being indoctrinated with values that oppose those this country was founded on. Sad.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

join the mailing list

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner