I'm going to post the vast majority of today's email here, and then comment.
I hope everyone had a great weekend and a super Sunday.
I am pleased to report that, after considerable review, a selection committee of staff and community members will be presenting a proposal for a district website provider to the Board of Education. The committee is recommending that we enter into a contract with School World to provide district, schools, departments, and teacher websites. I very much appreciate the hours and hours of work the committee has put into this process. The recommendation is based on many factors, but certainly being extremely user friendly was a major consideration influencing the recommendation. If approved by the Board, we are planning to provide training this school year to a teacher, administrator, and school secretary or clerk from each school, with more training provided next year. We are hopeful that schools and teachers can have viable websites up and going by January 1, 2008, if not sooner. This will add another layer of communication that will strengthen partnerships with the community and parents.
I recently presented a very simple technology “plan” for consideration. It is intentionally over simplified as I am attempting to move us forward with a strategic, but simple vision for the expansion and infusion of technology throughout the district. It basically consists of increasing bandwidth, migrating into wireless school environments, expanding access for students in the classroom, selecting a few core web-based programs that the district supports, and providing an expanded system of professional development. (I will post this “plan” on our website, but please keep in mind; it is not intended to be a refined product, but rather to stimulate productive discussions.) I understand that financial constraints often stand in the way of what we want to accomplish. I believe however, that we at least need to have a clear vision as to where we want to go, regardless of financial constraints.
Despite perhaps lacking this clear direction, we do have incredible examples of applied technology around the school district. We have teachers using interactive white boards, streaming video, netTrekker, and other great web-based programs. We have classrooms taking advantage of COWS (computers on wheels), with expert teachers bringing technology applications into their lesson designs, boosting student learning, production, engagement and communication.
In order to share this expertise with others, we are preparing to post on-line the names and locations of teachers who are willing to share/demonstrate their knowledge with other staff members. If you are willing to be listed as a resource, please contact the coordinator of this project, (name deleted) at (email address).
I am pleased that we have many examples of expanding technology in our schools. Many schools are thoughtfully using the one-time money allocated to the schools this year in order to secure equipment in support this effort. Our students are “digital natives” and their world is high tech. They demand that our schools and classrooms reflect this reality. In fact there is increasing evidence that our students are actually “wired” differently because of their extensive exposure to electronic screens. I recently attended a presentation by Ian Jukes where he talked about this phenomenon. His presentation can be read at http://ianjukes.com/infosavvy/education/handouts/ndl.pdf. It is somewhat long, but I think you will find it fascinating. It could be a great topic for a Leadership Team and/or staff to discuss.
Thank you for reading and thank you for the important work that you do. Have a good month of February.
He communicates well, doesn't he?
I'm wary of exuberence regarding computers in schools. Some may call me a Luddite, but I'm not against technology; rather, I'm against the gratuitous use of technology for its own sake. You can click here to find many of my posts on the subject. My views can be summed up thusly:
Technology is not pedagogy. Technology is not a substitute for teaching. Technology is merely a tool. Nothing more. link
Put simply, the Holy Grail of education is hard work. There's no "royal road" to geometry, as the old saying goes. Computers are a tool, nothing more. They are a means, not an end. They are akin to a pencil, a book, a movie projector. Computers have no inherent ability to improve education... link
Text vs. Tech. I got that phrase from what appears to be a defunct blog, Teaching Right, but it's catchy and it has meaning. I don't mean to imply a false dichotomy--we can and should have both in our schools--but absent some evidence that computers actually help students learn academic content better, I'm going to lean towards text more than tech.
I have a great personal story that relates to how computer software led me and my son to some real learning. I don't expect that schools can replicate what we did, but it does show that I'm open to possibilities. Even there, though, the tech led to text.
I'll be interested to read what our supe comes up with.