Education Week Technology Counts 2015 review

Several reports that are worth reviewing have been released recently. In this and subsequent blog posts I’ll look at them one at a time, starting with the 2015 Technology Counts issue released by Education Week. Technology Counts is an annual issue that has been published by Ed Week since 2002, reviewing trends in technology in education, and with a focus on online learning in some years. A quick review of the article titles and executive summary in the 2015 edition, compared to earlier years, suggests that Ed Week sees digital learning as moving along the Gartner hype cycle, past the peak of inflated expectations and into the trough of disillusionment.

Look first at article headlines from Tech Counts 2012 and 2013:

Fast-forward to the 2015 edition, and one sees these headlines:

These lists represent a subset of the articles in these reports, and there are other articles that don’t suggest either expectations or disillusionment. On balance, however, it appears that the writers at Ed Week are focused less on the promise of digital learning, and more on the hard realities of implementation.

This is a positive development, even if it may not appear so to advocates. It represents a maturing of the field, and an acknowledgement of the difficulties that districts, in particular, face with implementing online and blended programs. The opening line of the issue’s executive summary captures the view well: “Lofty ed-tech visions are always tempered by reality.”

Another notable shift is evident as well. In past years, many articles in Tech Counts were about online learning and transformative blended learning programs. In 2015 the focus is much more on education technology that is being used in district programs, exploring the use of computing devices, digital content, and similar issues in traditional schools. In some cases the report highlights districts, such as Horry County, that Keeping Pace research has shown to be improving student outcomes. But many other articles are about districts where the jury is still out regarding results, or about districts that have experienced significant problems with digital learning programs. Overall, this seems like a fairly accurate description of the landscape.