Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tech In Schools

Anyone but a "true believer" could have told you this was going to fail, and fail spectacularly:
In a surprising reversal, L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy has abruptly halted the district's billion-dollar technology program, which aimed to put an iPad into the hands of every student and teacher by the end of, yes, this year.

It's a rare retreat for the headstrong superintendent intent on getting the tablets into classrooms as soon as humanly possible. But it comes after more than a year of negative news stories – everything from LAUSD students "hacking" devices to the incomplete iPAD-friendly software to an allegedly chummy bidding process in which Deasy gave Apple and Pearson, the software company, a leg up
It gets better:
The practical part is to give children some practice in the months leading up to California's big switch in testing, when some students, this spring, will begin taking their standardized tests on computers, not on paper. Loads of students won't do well if they don't know their way around a computer.

The idealistic part is to narrow the very real digital divide that separates poor and working-class Los Angeles children from middle-class and rich kids.
If you think giving a teenager an iPad is going to bridge any gap at all, you're just nuts.  Or a true believer, but I repeat myself.

Here's the climax:
"My responsibility is to lift kids out of poverty," says Deasy. "They have the right to technology."
That's not his responsibility, and kids don't have a right to technology.  Kids are entitled to a decent education, which they obviously aren't going to get in a district run by someone who thinks fixing social issues takes priority over the 3 R's.

The LAUSD board should fire him immediately for not even knowing what his job is.  That they don't tells you all you need to know about LAUSD in particular and public education in general.


PeggyU said...

Our school district has done this recently as well. They're all excited about it. According to them, the kids who receive the tablets demonstrate "pride in ownership" and quickly learn to use their new tools for marvelous discoveries. The teachers are impressed with how quickly the kids surpass the teachers in their ability to utilize the technology.

How long does it take for the honeymoon phase to wear off and reality set it?

allen (in Michigan) said...

Kind of depends, PeggyU.

In some school districts the honeymoon lasts only long enough to buy the hardware which never sees the light of day finding it's final resting place in a school warehouse. Yeah, I saw them there. I've also read about other districts who engaged in similar shenanigans.

How long the honeymoon lasts though is less important then the reason everyone from the school board down is wildly enthusiastic.

This is really political theater. The computers are meant to convince on-lookers that the school district is sincerely dedicated to delivering the best education possible by staying on the cutting edge. The amount of money is supposed to be a measure of the depth of that sincerity.

The honeymoon lasts only as long as there's political benefit to be gotten out of the computers. If that means they never leave the warehouse then it's a short honeymoon. If there's coverage of the computers in the hands of the kids then the honeymoon lasts a bit longer.

Pseudotsuga said...

Clearly Mr. Deasy has been affected by mission-creep. How is it exactly that giving kids expensive techno-bling will lift them out of poverty? It's cargo-cult thinking.
Also, if these kids have the right to technology, they also have the right to each get a free Tesla roadster, do they not?

Anonymous said...

We are heading down this slippery slope as well. In our case as a parochial school, it is being done as a marketing ploy because we "need to keep up with the Joneses". There has been very little attention paid to how this is supposed to make education better. Retirement is looking better and better. The inmates are beginning to run the asylum!

Ellen K said...

This is going to be a rather long comment. My district, in a stated attempt to circumvent high stakes testing as evulation, has gone to an all tech system. In doing so, they have forgotten how children learn and they have eliminated such things as writing, memorizing and other basic learning methods. Consequently we have kindergartners who can get into an app, but who cannot write their own names. Indeed the imposition of technology on every aspect of student life led a PE teacher to post a "No Technology" sign in the gym. Students were so distracted by their IPads that they weren't interacting and playing. She was written up and made to take the sign down.

As a high school teacher I have seen some good use of IPads, but just as often I have seen them used in class to watch movies, play games and send text messages. We are told the teacher is the leader of the room and yet how can we possible monitor thirty students most of whom have two of more devices. In the past three years as my district has increased technology access in classrooms, my class itself has become more simplistic. I find many of the students less sophisticated, less able to express themselves verbally. They are insulated from most activity outside their narrow valley of interests. This is not all students-there are always those who rise above-but it is a majority. What is more, the most disabled a student is, the more likely they are to have multiple devices given to them by loving parents.

I just finished talking to my friend the librarian-highly awarded for getting kids to read. Instead of encouraging that goal, she's been put in charge of doctoring sick IPads. I walk into my room not worried about how to teach a student a new drawing technique or the history of culture, but if my question of the day is on the board and if my technology will work.

The worst of this is the money spent. Our district had PC's that worked fine. In fact when I wrote a grant for Mac's five years ago I was told no because we had PC's and they were "the machines of the business world." New administration and suddenly the cushion fund that paid for expansion and raises went into buying Apple products-but instead of using Apple software we are using Google products and expected to transfer our websites to Google sites. I can do this, but what infuriates me is that we could have gotten Chrome books for 25% of the cost and had the same technology impact. When I look at the new pay scale that replaced steps and find after 15 years of teaching I am not even at the midline, there's something very wrong going on here. I have four more years before I can retire. There's a book in this I'm sure.