The Education Writers Association just held its national conference the past few days in New Orleans. I didn't go. I didn't really consider it, honestly. I see myself as an education technology writer, not an education one.

Maybe that's a distinction that's purely in my head, as it's pretty hard to write about ed-tech and not focus on the education aspect -- not just the teaching and learning, but the politics, the policies, and the funding too.

Or maybe it's a strange distinction that plagues newsrooms everywhere, so you end up, for example, with the Style Editor from The New York Times covering K-12 online learning. (The Style section is typically where the NYT puts its "teens and social media" stories -- not in the technology section, and not in the education section.)

It's a struggle exemplified in the fact that one of the nation's most important dailies, The Washington Post, owns (and actually profits from -- unlike the newspaper) one of the world's largest educational companies, Kaplan Higher Ed. Read this story about the relationship between the WaPo and Kaplan (and the federal government), and then tell me how journalists there can really adequately address education and/or education technology with any sort of critical eye.

It's reflected in The LA Times "value added" analysis -- an attempt at data journalism that is so deeply mired in the politics of education and education reform that few people are asking difficult questions about the technology involved -- not just in the standardized testing, but in the actual data and algorithms that the paper has utilized in its investigations.

The flip-side of this, of course, is the paltry coverage that technology publications give to education. Education and ed-tech go uncovered, for the most part. (I know, I know. I rage about that all the time.) One exception: Bad Teachers on Facebook: teachers saying mean things, teachers posting mean photos, teachers with alcohol. Teachers Gone Wild!!! Education plus technology, these stories scream, is a dangerous, dangerous thing.

No surprise, then -- back to the inextricability of education, technology, and politics -- you get more and more districts moving to crack down on schools' access to social media -- not just students' access. Teachers' access.

A recent Brookings Institute study found that Americans want more media coverage of education. "Hooray!" was my first reaction. "I'll be able to find work!" I thought. But then I paused. More coverage of what? Students' test scores? Teacher performance?

But more coverage of education technology? Sadly, I don't think anyone asked that question.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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