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  • January 15, 1998                                                    1998.1
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    NETFUTURE reader Ed Miller was formerly editor of the Harvard Education Letter and is now an analyst and consultant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The following essay first appeared in WorldPaper (Dec., 1997), and was slightly revised by the author for NETFUTURE. Miller can be reached as millered@hugse1.harvard.edu.

    Before getting to his essay, here's an excerpt from a Jan. 12 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, written by Colleen Cordes. It concerns the December conference on technology and education held at Columbia University. Miller was one of the speakers at that conference, and Cordes writes of his contribution:

    While he was editor of the Harvard Education Letter, Edward Miller concluded that academe had a new sacred cow -- the role of computers in education.

    At an unusually critical conference here last month on that very topic, Mr. Miller recalled how "things really hit the fan" when he aired his reservations about the rush toward new technology for teaching.

    That was in 1996, just after President Clinton had called for every classroom to be hooked up to the Internet. Mr. Miller told The New York Times that such a goal was low on his own list of education priorities, and that the research evidence on the usefulness of technology in improving schools was "not very encouraging."

    To him, what he said seemed "rather mild and judicious." But it generated what he described as an "almost hysterical reaction" among some administrators and faculty members at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, which publishes the newsletter.

    The school had been wooing some corporate executives in hopes of getting major gifts, Mr. Miller said, and apparently the potential donors were angered by his words. A senior professor blasted him in an email message sent to the deans and other senior faculty members. To his knowledge, he said, no one came to his defense.

    "I was accused by various people of trying to stab the school in the back," said Mr. Miller, who added that his departure from the publication later that year was nevertheless amicable.

    His experience at a leading university and his own education research, he said, have convinced him that basic questions about the impact of computers on students have rarely been asked, let alone systematically studied.

    The article is entitled, "As Educators Rush to Embrace Technology, a Coterie of Skeptics Seeks to Be Heard", and you can read the entire thing at http://chronicle.com/colloquy/98/skeptics/background.htm. There is also opportunity at that site to engage in discussion about the issues the article raises.

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    TEACHING THE THREE `M'S IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM

    
    
    Edward Miller

    
    American education will look ver