About ARIS, the $80 million supercomputer that Jim Liebman, the DOE accountability czar, insists is a valuable tool to improve instruction, here is a report from a teacher who attended a recent training sponsored by the Accountability office:
“ The whole afternoon was devoted to the "connect" features. These include a profile page, blogging, group formation, discussion boards, wiki documents and file uploading that come with everyone's ARIS account. The package is less than meets the eye. All of the features I examined were inferior to similar tools that are readily available online.
A couple examples. If you write a blog or set up a discussion board there's (apparently) no way to get email notification if someone responds. You'll have to keep logging into ARIS and checking for activity. That's will be a big drawback for those teachers who are willing to participate. Many of the participants at the workshop said basically, the Big Brother factor would preclude them from sharing anything meaningful. There was a lot of disbelief this was seriously being offered. Another very weak feature is the wiki documents. No tool bar. I've never seen anything so bare bones.
Before the training started the instructor asked everyone to share their feelings about ARIS in one word. The most common word was "skeptical." She said she'd do that again at the end to see if workshop had changed anyone's mind but we never got to do that. A lot of questions came up. There seems to be an attempt to present ARIS as both data and "community." Well there's going to be data ..."
See this post in Gotham Schools about how New Visions sent out an email pointing out problems with ARIS, including widespread errors in the data, which was later withdrawn -- undoubtedly after pressure from DOE.