Don’t read this article

I really wanted to like the Creating Valuable Class Web Sites article in the May 2008 issue of Learning and Leading With Technology. I really did. I believe strongly that teachers should be incorporating digital technologies into their instruction and communication with students and parents, and I know that teachers can use all of the good ideas, best practices, and resources that we can provide. But then I read the article (hat tip to Sylvia Martinez and Bud Hunt) and I was completely dismayed…

As Sylvia and Bud noted on Twitter, many of the web sites presented by the author are quite dated. Geocities and Tripod: weren’t those big in the 1990s? Netscape Composer: Seriously? FrontPage: didn’t Microsoft quit selling that a while ago? The inclusion of such tools calls into serious question the currency, and thus credibility, of the author’s expertise.

The Resources section at the end was similarly lacking. Take a look at Blog Connection. It was one of the two best blogging sites the author could recommend for K-12 educators? And EdBlogger Praxis? The site that hasn’t been updated since February 2007? At least the author linked to eMINTS when it came to wikis…

Instead of tables of outdated web resources and an irrelevant resources section, the author should have included current tools rather than those from 5–10 years ago. Some discussion of the desirability of using outside, non-district-sponsored tools also would have been nice. Instead, the article reads like it was cobbled together by someone who’s rooted in the technology of yesteryear rather than today. This was an opportunity squandered. Is this stuff what the author teaches her students? Doesn’t ISTE have a responsibility to do some checking of article content?

Learning and Leading With Technology is supposed to be helpful to educators in 2008, not 1998. And usually it fulfills that function extremely well. I hate to say this – because I’m rarely critical in public of others (unless they’re clueless leaders who should know better) – but the author and the ISTE editors didn’t do their job with this one.

14 Responses to “Don’t read this article”

  1. I haven’t looked through the current issue (I know it’s in a pile around here somewhere), but I’m not surprised that an article in L&L is recommending out-of-date technology. (Well, maybe a little surprised that it’s that far out.) The articles in most issues are pretty far behind the curve.

    Part of that, of course, is due to the lead time required to put together a glossy, dead-tree periodical. But should an organization that’s supposed to be “leading” in the area of instructional technology still be printing and mailing their journal? Our state affiliated group took ours electronic two years ago, not to mention making membership free.

  2. Thanks for being brave enough to review this article with honesty. I feel like too many education issues, especially technology-related, get the high-gloss varnish when it’s just a piece of MDF underneath.

  3. I can only imagine the damage the author is doing to her reputation and credibility as tech-savvy educator after tech-savvy educator reads through her article and says WTF?!

  4. One of my projects for this summer is to create a class website/blog (leaning toward using edublogs). Thanks for the heads-up on where not to turn to for advice.

  5. Janice Robertson Reply May 4, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    Perhaps the editors feel that the intended audience knows nothing about Teaching and Leading with Technology, and that’s why cutting edge, current sites don’t matter. Maybe they think all the people who would know better are not reading the articles anyway because they already know how to Create Valuable Class Websites! Just a possibility. I have the same reaction as you did whenever I find books reviewed and then discover that the books were published 4-5 years ago or longer! What good are they to me now?
    I hope you sent a copy of your post to the editor. It is important feedback. Everybody drops the ball now and then, and needs a friendly and honest reminder.

  6. THANK YOU for your review on this article. To be honest, I started skimming it last week after the condescending “don’t panic” intro. I just went back and read it again and you are right on target with your criticism. Looks like an article from 4-5 years ago with a section added in the middle about the collaborative web.

    Is print media, with it’s slow editorial process, still relevant? As an ISTE member, I am a bit embarrassed that an article like this was published. Let’s hope they recognize the issue and tighten up their editorial process.

  7. Scott,
    I agree with your post, though I may have a reason for why people would write articles that apply to 5-10 year old technology: Those are the tools they have to work with. In my former job in Lakeville, MN, we did a study last year of the inventory:
    75% of the equipment was 5 years old or older, and 28% was over 8 years old.
    Despite this fact, last fall they still failed to pass a levy for technology-by the widest margin of any of the levy questions.

    Given the outdated technology, some are forced to use outdated software and hardware tools.

  8. Hey! I created my first ever class website in 1996 on Geocities using Netscape Composer!! My hunch is that this was actually written 10 years ago and fell behind someone’s desk. Years later, they decided to move offices and found it back there.

    Had this come out on April 1, I would have laughed at the joke and moved on.

  9. Yes, those tools bring back happy nostalgic memories. I build a family web site using Tripod and remember the pages getting smaller as the ads got bigger, and more animated.

    And maybe the whole thing about trying to get teachers to build web pages using html is way over. Think: wikis!

    It sounds like one of those PD sessions you arrive at where you know instantly that this is going to tell you anything remotely relevant and where you start thinking of ways to get online and get some real work done in the back row.

  10. Yes–

    > It sounds like one of those PD sessions you arrive at where you know instantly that this is going to tell you anything remotely relevant and where you start thinking of ways to get online and get some real work done in the back row.

    I wrote on my own blog about my experience reading this post, and subsequently, coming to some similar conclusions. (click the URL above.)

    My main points: to be fair, I don’t think the recentness of the tools really matter. What does is the author’s avoidance to discuss what the title promised: value in class (teacher, student) web sites.

    It seems most here are in agreement that the article doesn’t merit a lot of value. But for me, it got me to think, and evaluate. And for others, it might lay-out more clearly some of the tools available for web publishing, and what makes them different.

  11. I don’t agree with people pushing irrelevantly out of date information but I think that there is some value in teachers and students UNDERSTANDING how a website is created and managed.

    After this, I think it is fine to use as many flashy web2.0 technology as you want.

    This is not obviously what happened in this article but is still valuable information for people to know.

  12. Scott,

    Great post!

    Take a look at ISTE’s exploding book catalog. The books are banal, mind-numbing and written by “experts” you’ve never heard of toiling away in faculties of education.

    ISTE stopped being a membership organization years ago. It’s a publishing and lobbying conglomerate benefiting its friends, often at the expense of its members.

    I’ve written about these issues on a number of occasions. Check out:

    http://tinyurl.com/2xgxt3

    http://tinyurl.com/5dg6h7 (The ISTE Problem)

  13. Thanks for the heads up. I had just glanced at the cover of this mag this morning, and had planned to read it later. Now I can spend the time on Twitter and probably learn more.

  14. Hi Scott,

    I don’t think that Dr. Baker can damage her reputation much. She’s a college professor after all 😉

    Listing Netscape Communicator and FrontPage are somewhat justifiable in that there really are no good replacement products – simple and inexpensive and still widely used. But a note should have been added that they are no longer available.

    It seems the lesson here is that extremely topical material is best left for electronic publication and conceptual/pedagogical material may have the shelf life needed for books and journals.

    I wrote on the same topic in 2000 and 99% of it still works.

    My sense is that print journalism, including professional publications, is still redefining its role in the Internet age. I’m sure this is a conversation held on a regular basis basis by the editors at L&L.

    All the best,

    Doug

Leave a Reply