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Journalism: Unsolicited Observations On Bloomberg's Amplify Takedown

News Corp.’s  1 Billion Plan to Overhaul Education Is Riddled With Failures   Bloomberg BusinessAbove: Correction appended to Bloomberg News story about Amplify.

Bloomberg News' latest story on Amplify is enough to give us all pause to reconsider the enthusiasm (hype?) surrounding edtech in general and tablets in particular -- even if it wasn't following Bright's recent article on blended learning (also skeptical) earlier this week. GSV+ASU Summit, were you listening?

For example, the Bloomberg article (by Laura Colby) reminds us that it'll be 7 more years before schools all have high-speed Internet. And, as of last year, instructional materials in print still sell more than twice as much as digital materials. 

But the Bloomberg article has some issues, both factual and rhetorical,which raise questions about the accuracy of the picture readers get of Amplify in the spring of 2015 and remind me of the seemingly prevalent trend in education journalism towards decontextualized fault-finding that's almost as annoying as the "gee, whiz!" coverage from five and ten years ago. 

I'll lay it all out below.

First and foremost, the Bloomberg story focuses on struggles Amplify experienced in 2013, but describes them as having happened last year. Oops! 

It's a small but important error in that it makes the biggest problems Amplify has had seem more recent than they really are.

News Corp.’s  1 Billion Plan to Overhaul Education Is Riddled With Failures   Bloomberg Business

Note also that the error is acknowledged at the bottom of the piece -- seems to go out of its way to repeat the word "failure," no? -- but the change isn't indicated in the text or below the headline, as it should be in my opinion.

More importantly, however, is the pervasively negative context in which the Bloomberg piece minimizes the adjustments and progress that seem to have been made since then, and doesn't do a very good job of putting those early challenges into context (ie, early laptop and iPad challenges).

No doubt, the Amplify rollout has been a challenge, and its implementation remains imperfect.  However, the company isn't single-handedly responsible for the challenges (broadband access, for example) that the piloting has experience, and a lot has happened since 2013-3014, including both improvements to the tablet and diversification of the curriculum.

The story could just as well have been about Amplify bouncing back from its earlier setbacks, focusing more on materials and apps than devices (including direct-to-consumer learning games). But it's not.

Or it could be about how Guilford County responded to the initial struggles, and learned some lessons compared to LA or other districts.But it's not.

Or it could focus on how Amplify's early efforts compare to early iPad deployment efforts. But it's not.

Now the rant:

It used to be mainstream news coverage of efforts to improve education were over-enthusiastic.  (For a long time I ran a regular feature calling out against reform hype.) These days, the problem seems to be somewhat the opposite. We've gone from hype to hysteria.

It's quite a trend, going negative, and while I wouldn't want reporters and editors going back to the often credulous ways of the past this "all bad, all the time" stuff strikes me as unfair, inaccurate, unnecessarily alarmist, and, well, boring.

Tell us a richer, more nuanced story, rather than a monolithic "bad guy doing badly" kind of thing. Tell us something new. Tell us a multifaceted story rather than one that seems to be built up around a narrow premise and ignores outside factors.

There are examples out there. I just want lots more of them!

Related posts:Can Education Coverage Find Its Balance, Please?Six Things About Amplify's Bright Orange TabletLaptops Vs. TabletsTablet TakedownsThree Articles Raise Big Tablet Questions For Amplify;Examining Bloomberg's "Segregated Charter Schools" StoryWhy EdTech Gives Me The Willies.

 

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