Important Ed Tech Book Reviews

 From Now On
The Educational Technology Journal

 Vol 11|No 6|March|2002

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The Connected School
Technology and Learning in High School

by Barbara Means, William R. Penuel and Christine Padilla

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Reviewed by Jamie McKenzie
About the Author

The Connected School shares case studies of urban schools in Chicago and Detroit that have made the use of new technologies a priority. It makes a fitting companion to Larry Cuban's book, Oversold and Underused, reviewed in FNO last month, as both books show that the mere purchase of equipment and installation of cables is unlikely to lead to much use or much change in student performance.

The key factor emerging from both books is the importance of leadership and skilled teaching.

Read review of Oversold and Underused.

This book is a collection of stories about heroic efforts to bring engaged learning to urban students - what Means and her team call "student-empowering technology uses."

We learn that enterprising principals and exceptional teachers can make a huge difference in the lives of children by refusing to take "No!" for an answer.

We also learn that even heroics may be insufficient when it comes to launching technology programs that include substantial commitment to professional development.

The schools in this study often win grants of one kind or another that rarely endure and rarely sustain. In an ironic twist, the grant and partnership experiences described here often prove frustrating and demoralizing as corporate benefactors come and go with little long-term commitment.

The Connected School devotes a chapter to each of six urban schools, touching upon its victories, its frustrations and its prospects. At the conclusion of each chapter, they point out the most important lessons to be learned from that school. Then at the end of the book, they sum up all the elements they found associated with success or frustration.

It is this focus on what works and does not work that makes The Connected School important reading for school leaders and teachers in both urban and suburban schools. While there are major differences between the technology experiences of schools that are well or poorly funded, readers may be surprised by the commonalities.

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Credits: The photographs were shot by Jamie McKenzie.

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