The Electric Educator: Fatal Failure: High Tech School Fails!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Fatal Failure: High Tech School Fails!

In 2003 Microsoft and the city of Philadelphia set out to build the "School of the Future." In 2006, the school opened and touted a 1-1 laptop program, campus-wide WiFi, an innovative schedule, and "project based learning." Three years later, the school has been labeled a failure by the American Enterprise Institute. 

Meris Stansbury, associate editor of eClassroom News wrote an extensive article reporting all of the facts and comments from key administrators from the Philadelphia school district and from Microsoft. 

The entire situation is a comedy of errors including the fact that the Philadelphia school district is Mac based and the School of the Future (SOF) is PC based and that despite all of the technology integrated into the school, there wasn't any on site IT support. 

The entire situation is succinctly summarized by Jan Birson, a former member of the SOF Curriculum Planning Committee: 
"We naively thought, I guess, that by providing a beautiful building and great resources, these things would automatically yield change. They didn't." 
Technology is good, but only when it is implemented for a reason. High tech for the sake of tech is a waste of time and money. A good lesson for all. 


  1. Technology really is a trap that many fall into. It's so transient and disposable that it's hard to see how it could be a good investment of limited resources. Yet, schools continue to invest in technology believing that it will somehow make for better education, without necessarily realizing the ongoing and forward costs. A high tech school without IT support - it's sad when you think about it. What were they thinking!

  2. A team from my district, Richland School District Two, Columbia, SC, visited the Philadelphia SOF in April 2008. The idea was to see first hand what this SOF offered in terms of modern teaching and learning. What we saw, however, was not a school of the future, but rather a Richland School District Two school of today. While every student there had a laptop,the teaching and learning very much resembled typical classrooms anywhere in America. Even the students weren't quite sure which topic they were currently working on for the the project-based learning. The school seemed to have a part-time Microsoft person on site to help and assist, but no Philadelphia Public Schools IT staff were anywhere to be seen. Further, the media center was a virtual ghost town. Completely empty bookshelves surrounded the beautiful room. Not a single book was present in the media center. And no pepole at all were in there. It was completely deserted. I have been a public school technology director for more than 20 years, and I was stunned. I would have expected some modern practices, such as operating the media center as a global communications center -- having resources for collaborating with other students from around the world. Any how about having a high-tech Web 2.0 presence in the school for allowing students to take charge of their own learning by researching the answers, utilizing online learning resources from universites and subjec matter experts from around the country, and the world? Not the case. I would also point out that high Tech High in San Diego has suffered a similar fate. All the best, innovative ideas come crashing down once reality sets in. To make a difference today, we need to change our education culture, not the amenities in our midst.


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