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Friday, November 7, 2008

MPC Gateway Bankrupt

Uh oh—I hope the kids in Faulkton, Hoven, and Lake Preston have gotten their laptops. If they haven't, they might be waiting even longer: Gateway has managed to (almost) kill the company that bought it. MPC Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy today. MPC CEO John Yeros cites "nforeseen issues surrounding our integration of the Gateway Professional business unit, combined with adapting the operations of our manufacturing partner to additional customized requirements" as "more challenging than originally anticipated."

Didn't anticipate challenges: sounds like an epitaph for countless failed businesses.

MPC's press release assures us that "The company's operations are expected to continue during the reorganization process." Hmm... kind of like Baltic, Faulkton, and several other South Dakota school districts expected to have their computers before September 1?

Maybe next year's Classroom Connections program should skip the fancy laptops and just buy the kids some books. Less tech support, longer shelf life.


  1. I agree. Our state administration gave very little thought to this 1:1 computer program. The biggest factor in their decision was that it looked good politically.

    Most of the blame has to go to the schools, though. I can't believe they would even think about subsidizing 2/3 of the cost for products from the lowest bidder. It was a waste of money, time, and effort that should have been focused on teaching. If schools are serious about technology, they should plan for it and expect to spend the money necessary to do it right.

    Of course, the same could be said for our state government...

  2. Seriously, top down technology integration is destined for failure. Has anyone here seen any studies that show quantitative gains for "technology enhanced" teaching over traditional methods?

    All of this top down crap is just keeping up with the neighbors. "Well Minnesota put technology in the class room; therefore, we should do so as well". I can think of dozens of better ways to spend that money. This technology buzz reminds me of those late night ads on television for "magic pills" that will make one lose weight/increase appendage size. There is no reason to believe such pills would accomplish what they claim.

    My #1 would be improved nutrition. I have seen dozens of studies that show the value of a well tailored diet on the learning process. My #2 would be increased teacher pay. My #3 would be to create a state sponsored competitive grant program for equipment purchases. Let educators submit grants applications. This works well at the college level.

  3. Hypocritical is a main word I am witnessing here. Down playing the uses of technology and spouting off about how schools should not use it in its education all the while using said technology to complain with. If Bound books rule then why not write letters to your congressmen verses using computers and a blog site to voice your opinion. The facts are facts technology is the future. How can anyone with an open eye not see that we need to do whatever we can to try to utilize the most powerful informational tool the human race has ever experienced in the classroom of our youth. The fact that MPC has gone into bankruptcy is a terrible blow to the classroom connection, but prior to this year MPC and/or Gateway worked with wonderfully with school districts in the state. I should know I am one of the technical administrator of one of those initial schools. I also was part of the initial group who worked at developing this program for the schools. I can tell you that I have never been part of a program where such detail and planning took place. I would recommend those reading this blog to investigate first and to speak second. If you limit the tools of an education than you limit the results of said education.

  4. "Well Minnesota put technology in the class room; therefore, we should do so as well".

    As a transplanted school supt from South Dakota to Minnesota I can tell you that South Dakota is far ahead of Minnesota in the use of technology in schools. This can be attributed to Gov Janklow's wiring of the schools and the training programs he set up for teachers (TTL), which laid the ground work for Gov Rounds and Secretary Melmers 1:1 intitiative. This great top down effort has put South Dakota students at a great advantage over students in neighboring states. SD students need this advantage because there is a lack of other opportunities for them in the South Dakota economy.

    This top down effort is evidence of leadership and I applaud it.

  5. Agree with 9:41. Other states look to SD as a model to emulate in technology. No other state has the standardization that promotes efficiency that we have, such as state-wide email and grading programs, webhosting, wiring, and staff development. When Wade Pogany, DOE, spoke on the East Coast recently about the Classroom Connections project, he received a standing ovation.

    5:54: we have had teachers move to MN and other states. They tell me how bad the technology is there. They didn't even have adequate computers and software.

    Go visit a Classroom Connections school and see how technology is changing learning for the better. Kids are engaged. We have virtually no discipline problems anymore. Kids are better prepared for college. The list goes on how learning has improved.

    I, too, have been involved with the 1:1 program and I cannot imagine going back to an old desktop lab. Teachers have changed their teaching so much that I'm sure they cannot either.

  6. Gateway didn't kill MPC formerly known as MICRON. MPC's revenue actually went up after aquiring the business systems portion of Gateway (not the entire company) for $90 million last year. Unfortunately MPC has gotten itself in trouble with several suppliers whom they owed lots of past due funds for parts. LSI Corp. in PA says MPC was refusing to pay a past due amount of $348,673 while Prism Pointe Technologies of Mississippi claims MPC owes it $732,287. No wonder they filed for chapter 11 today. It's just unfortunate that so many jobs here in the Nampa/Caldwell area will be lost because of this: 5400 from what I heard on the local news and this after they sent more than 150 jobs from TN south of the border after aquiring a plant there from the Gateway deal. Shame Shame Shame

  7. To SuperSweet:

    The only justifications from the state that I have ever heard for the integration of technology into the classroom are:

    1. It will improve academic achievement.
    2. Others are doing it and we don't want to fall behind.

    First, as I have previously said, I have NEVER seen any published results that show a quantitative improvement in academic achievement from technology integration. PLEASE point me to any published results. Anecdotally, as a member of a SD university, I have seen first hand the effect of top down technology integration. Our latest foray has been the recent mandatory laptop program. I have yet to see any improvement from the use of laptops, but have seen decline. I can pretty much pick out the high achievers by how little they use their laptops during classes. Those who use pen and paper to take notes are always the high scorers. This is anecdotal, but I can't find any published results to either refute or support my experience. I tend to think that the act of writing has the ability to ingrain information while typing does not have a similar effect.

    Second, I want to be clear that I'm not anti technology. Just anti top-down. For example, the internet has certainly become a daily tool for all students in SD. But, it certainly wasn't pushed top down. Good ideas always get pushed to the front. By going top down we are suppressing natural innovation. If anyone figured out a great way to integrate technology, others would pick it up naturally.

    To Anon 9:14:

    I'm not arguing against technology in principle, but I do think the money could be far better spent. Lots of technology!=student achievement. Again, PLEASE point to any study that shows dramatic achievement improvements with lots of computers in the classroom.

    I would point to:


    as a far better use of the funds with PROVEN results.

    "If you limit the tools of an education than you limit the results of said education."

    This may be true if we took away pencils and paper, a proven technology and approach. However, you are advocating top down implementation of UNTESTED technology.

    The correct order of operations is to grab a small population of students and implement your desired technology over the course of several years and then test them vs. a control. You have no idea what the effect of the technology is currently nor do you have a plan to test the effect.

    The right answer here is that you don't know what technology is of value nor do you have a plan to test it. The far better approach would be to allow schools throughout the state to try whatever makes the most sense to them and then the winning ideas would be naturally adopted across the state.

  8. Anon 9:41, maybe you took me too seriously. I do not mean to bash computers and the Internet; these technologies have made it possible for me to enjoy a standard of living that I would never have known without them.

    I think bound books have a place. I believe students ought never to be deprived of the opportunity to learn how to read and understand them. A high-school graduate who can't read and appreciate the works of, say, Benjamin Franklin or Abraham Lincoln or Barack Obama as rendered in ink-on-paper format is a poor soul, indeed.

    Tony, you make an interesting point about writing in longhand vs. typing. I've noticed that my writing style is different when I do it with pen and paper. In some ways better, in other ways worse. Moreover, typing on a computer differs from typing on an old-fashioned electric or manual typewriter.

  9. I've also thought the physical act of writing is more meaningful. Maybe in part because it slows and calms the thought process. But aren't you all working toward a point of balance? Have you noticed the kids and now young adults who can't count up and make change? Not mention spell check. Do kids still hunt for older but possibly more meaningful articles at the library? Or only those on the net which are easier to cut and paste. DSU lost a young history teacher who did not think a tech-based classroom created the right environment for that subject. There's no going back to the old world, but isn't is about integration? Don't be too hard on Stan. He still wants to sell some books.

  10. Yeah! I won't deny that! Books sales put a roof over my head and food on my table.

    I also admit: I go to the Internet routinely for information to cut and paste (or print), sometimes before I go to the reference books on my own shelves.

    That said, I've noticed an increase in Internet audio/videos lately at the expense of printable material. It's as if the information brokers are starting to believe that people can't read. Sometimes it's nice to have a text file for reference, especially when there are "facts and figures" involved. A few days ago I was looking for some information and actually could not find a decent text file, only videos ...

  11. The Internet and associated computer technology is changing the way the world lives and does business. Online banking, newspapers, news magazines (US News and World Report is looking at going completely digital), online college and high school classes, anything to do with information exchange, including advertising. If you make your living selling hard bound books, be looking for a new occupation soon. And lots of negative things as well, but that is the nature of society.

    It is imperative that education leverage all the possibilities that this technology holds for students. They are using it anyway. Plus more, such as text messaging and social networks. It's here to stay and isn't going away and we either get with the program or get left behind. And we know that the top down No Child Left Behind Act certainly wouldn't approve of that!:)

  12. Hopefully I won't come off sounding like an advertisement, but some of my books are available for downloading on the Kindle (an electronic book reader, for those who might not have heard of it). I have not tracked electronic vs. paperbound sales. Maybe I should ask the publisher if they have any data on that. My royalty statements continue to indicate paperbound books outselling electronic versions by a margin of at least 50 to 1.

    There are, of course, pirated copies whose downloads do not show up on our records. I am actually flattered by the extent to which some of my books have been pirated in countries that would otherwise never have even known that my work exists ... no real loss to me, but then, the publisher is not terribly happy about it. Oh well. They're going to do it anyhow. Why not teach our students how to find and download pirated books? They'll do it anyway. Why not teach them how to plagiarize other people's work for their own profit? They're going to do it anyway ...

    One reader who downloaded a technical book for reading on the Kindle remarked that the symbol for "ohms" (the uppercase Greek letter omega) did not reproduce correctly. Something about not having the correct fonts installed. That could be a problem in electronic books having a lot of mathematical symbology. I know it's a significant problem on the Web; many authors resort to embedded images to portray mathematical symbols.

    As for bound books becoming obsolete, I agree that it seems reasonable to suppose that this will happen eventually. Students are demanding interactivity, or so one of my academic colleagues says. But I've been anticipating the demise of printed works since the early 90s, and it hasn't happened yet. In fact, the sales volume of my paperbound books has increased.

    Anyone who expects to make a living of any sort these days had better be ready to adapt to rapid changes. The trick will be to anticipate those changes accurately. I envy today's students, with all the technology and opportunities available to them. In another way I pity them, especially if they grow up largely ignorant of the basic skills of reading, writing, and mathematics.

    If our kids are going to spend all their time texting and playing video games or whatever no matter what we do, maybe we should let them have complete freedom in all other respects as well. No more pencils, no more books ... Whatever they want to do, let's teach them how to do it better, and the heck with all the old methods! One of my favorite authors, Osho, would agree with that notion were he alive today. Why don't we try it for a generation or two, and see what happens?

  13. Technology is a product of our impatience. We want everything faster and won't wait. Cell phones have become pacifiers to most people, but they hold it to their ear like a little security blankey instead of a binkey in their mouth. Our impatience and insecurity, the need for input and reassurance, both combine to drive more and more accessibility to immediate electronic information. Like it or not, that won't change, so we either ride the wave or tumble in the whitewater.

  14. My question is why such expensive laptops for students? Put out bids, don't necessarily accept the lowest bid, but don't take the highest with the most gidgets either. Get a basic computer that kids can take notes on, isn't that the idea? Why the fancy tablet types?

  15. Here is the latest article I have read regarding the end of textbooks http://content.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3750551&FullBreadCrumb=%3Ca+href%3D%22http%3A%2F%2Fwww2.scholastic.com%2Fbrowse%2Fsearch%2F%3FNtt%3Dthe%2Bend%2Bof%2Btextbooks%26query%3Dthe%2520end%2520of%2520textbooks%26Ntk%3DSCHL30_SI%26Ntx%3Dmode%2Bmatchallpartial%26N%3D0%22+class%3D%22endecaAll%22%3EAll+Results%3C%2Fa%3E

  16. Here is research on the only 1:1 program going in Minnesota that I know of.

    The Stillwater school district's efforts to put more laptops in the hands of students at its two junior highs have improved teaching and learning as well as student engagement, according to a University of Minnesota study.

    But researchers could not determine whether more laptop access improved student achievement on standardized tests.

    All of Oak-Land Junior High School's students and staff members have received laptops to use at home or in school during the school year since 2004. The five-year plan cost the district about $1.7 million. In contrast, Stillwater Junior High has about 500 laptops for its approximately 1,100 students to use in the classroom.

    "It shows when teachers and students have access to technology, great things come from it," Superintendent Keith Ryskoski said. "Students are more interested and more engaged, and they're more thorough and complete with their work."

    Stillwater contracted with the University of Minnesota's Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement in 2007 to evaluate the laptop initiative. School board members reviewed the study at their Thursday night meeting.

    Researchers used online surveys, teacher interviews, classroom observations and standardized tests for the study. They also conducted focus groups with sophomores to discuss their experiences with laptops at the junior highs.

    Researchers said it was difficult to compare the two junior high initiatives when it came to their influence on teaching
    and learning.

    Stillwater Junior High students were more likely to say they found schoolwork more enjoyable when using a laptop than their peers at Oak-Land. About three-quarters said they wanted to use laptops more, compared with one-third of Oak-Land students.

    Mike Dronen, the district's technology coordinator, said he believes since Oak-Land students have access to their computers 24 hours a day, it's probably not as unique.

    "If you're around it enough, you're accustomed to it," he said. "It's not quite as novel."

    But board members questioned whether researchers had a big enough sample to draw strong conclusions. Board member George Thole pointed out that only 20 percent of Stillwater students responded to the survey, compared with 60 percent at Oak-Land.

    Board member George Hoeppner wanted to know about the impact on student achievement. He questioned whether district money was spent on a program that is helping students achieve.

    Researchers said students felt access to the laptops helped them get better grades, and teachers found a higher order of thinking in student work. However, they could not conclude whether laptop use led to better test scores.

    "Standardized tests measure some things. But they don't measure other things that are important, too," research associate Debra Ingram said. "I would encourage you to use the standardized tests as just a piece of judging the success of the program."

    Ryskoski said it didn't surprise district officials, given the fact that Stillwater students post some of the highest scores on statewide tests.

    "The program was never put in place for that reason. It was to increase student engagement and enhance the curriculum," Ryskoski said. "Given the makeup of our student body and community, we never expected to see big gains on standardized tests."

    Other key findings:

    # Ninety-four percent of teachers said they had better access to diverse teaching materials and resources when the students had laptops. They also believed they delivered more individualized instruction and that students were able to explore topics in greater depth.

    # Eighty-four percent of teachers said they were better able to meet their curriculum goals. Researchers found in their observation and surveys that the laptops enhanced the curriculum and served as more than just another teaching tool.

    # Students used their laptops to learn beyond what teachers assigned in class. Fifty-five percent of students at Stillwater Junior High and 60 percent at Oak-Land reported using the computers in this way.

    # Ninety percent of students at both schools said they were more organized.

    # Parents said they benefited from online access to classroom assignments and grades. Sixty-one percent of Stillwater parents and 46 percent at Oak-Land said they spend more time talking with their children about schoolwork.

    Now board members and residents have to decide whether to continue with the laptop program and whether to expand it.

    Ryskoski said administrators will use the report when mapping out the future of technology in the district. He envisions having several scenarios by May for the school board to consider. He cited a need for a districtwide technology plan, not just one for the junior highs and high school.

    "We need to provide greater access to technology," Ryskoski said.

    Ryskoski also said adults should set aside comparisons with their own educational experience. Today's kindergartners will enter a different global work force than their parents or grandparents did decades ago, he said.

    "What is it that they're going to have to do? What kind of skills are they going to need?" he said. "That's what we need to be thinking about."


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