Diane Ravitch and technology: Once more into the breach…

I’m trying to see Diane Ravitch’s pro-technology stance. I really am. I thought she was more tempered in Reign of Error. She actually noted some positive affordances of instructional technologies for students and teachers and also appropriately noted concerns about some cyber charter schools. But after yet another derisive statement about how technologies are ‘distracting toys,’ I left the following comment on Diane’s blog:

Diane, lately you have been more tempered with your language regarding educational technology, noting that it has powerful potentials when used correctly and also properly noting the stupidity of some implementation efforts (e.g., L.A. Unified and its iPads). However, you undercut your messaging – and reinforce my earlier concerns about the anti-technology tone of your blogging – when you use phrases like this:

“the ubiquity of distracting electronic toys”

As you know, how we say things is important. I wish you would be more consistent with your nuanced language when it comes to instructional technology. Laptops and iPads and smartphones and other computing devices in schools are not ‘toys’ (as you have stated several times) but instead powerful access vehicles to our increasingly-digital information, economic, and learning landscapes. If a particular implementation is dumb, go ahead and label it as such. But please don’t label all instructional technology efforts as ‘distracting’ or ‘toys.’

Thank you.

That resulted in this Twitter exchange:



I’ll let you judge whether Diane’s response addressed my claim that she often uses anti-technology language in her writing. And I’ll keep hoping for more nuanced recognitions from her – like I thought she was doing of late – of both the positives and negatives of the digital tools that are transforming our and our students’ lives…

Previous posts on this topic:

13 Responses to “Diane Ravitch and technology: Once more into the breach…”

  1. Diane Rabin will probably change her stance on technology only when it becomes fruitful for her to do so. Like she has done in the past with her views on education and reform.

  2. I think that you read more into her post than is really there. There are far more distractions in students lives, and some of them will push out better educational experiences (checking their Twitter feed or some Xbox on down-time rather than picking up a book). The fact that people use their cell phones and text while DRIVING shows that they are in fact powerful distractors. If you do not acknowledge that technology is a double edged sword, you’re the one who is not being reasonable.

    • Educational technology, like most things, has its positive and its negatives. I am asking for Diane to stop using charged verbiage to make it seem like it’s mostly negative. She has a long history of doing this (see my previous posts and other posts of hers that I could reference but haven’t yet).

  3. Regardless of her stance, I don’t understand the need for such pithiness in her responses to you. It’s as if she is saying, “You are so beneath me that a conversation is not warranted.” How will U.S. education ever evolve and move forward if we continue in this manner?

  4. Thanks Scott, I much prefer the balanced tone of Larry Cuban….he can make a credible and serious challenge without hyperboly

  5. Of course technology can be powerful, but I don’t think anyone can honestly say they don’t know exactly what is meant by the phrase “ubiquity of distracting electronic toys.”

    I wonder what a “critical examination of anti-tech language” would get anyone here. Besides that, in this context it’s not on Diane to provide that critique. YOU made the claim, YOU provide the rest. You really are making demands of the way she uses language in general.

    Note: no amount of technology can address these issues. That does not make it anti-tech. Insisting that certain devices or technologies be used here can certainly provide a distraction from the content. In which case it may be a bad idea. And still not anti-tech.

    • Matt, a critical examination might include reflection on how often she depicts educational technology in negative v. positive ways. A critical examination might include looking at my comment and thinking about what elements of truth it contains – particularly given my, Audrey Watters’, and others’ recurring concerns on this topic – rather than simply being dismissive or claiming one thing but then contradicting it with her own writing.

      I have already made the critique three times now, with quotes from her own blogging.

  6. No matter the original intent of her comment, Ravitch’s response on Twitter was really odd and out of place.

  7. Scott, why must you continue to torture me by asking Diane Ravitch to be more nuanced. It will never happen. She is all about the media attention and the more hyperbolic she can be, the better, for that.

  8. Ah, the delicious irony of Scott McLeod asking someone to be more nuanced.

    It’s like asking for more subtlety by baiting a famous person into a response in an effort to generate more traffic.

  9. It seems she does not agree with your opinion and does not care to engage in the discussion any further than her response. People get inflamed so easily, especially when they feel attacked.

    I agree with you that her comment seems a little antitech although not specifically so. The antitech stereotype is actually very broad. She might be protech (you did say that she “noted some positive affordances of instructional technologies…”) but not in all situations. For example, she might be in favor of computers in the classroom but not when she sees students distracted by them. Her statements could be just illustrating something like that.

    I don’t know if there is a good stereotype for the language she uses. In any case, it is important to note that stereotyping people is typically not a good idea and not a good way to be productive.

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