Newsflash! You Can Go Back In Time, I just Did!

We attended Back-To-School Night at my oldest daughter’s high school last night. She is in the pre – IB program so all her classes are basically advanced placement type classes. It was interesting to say the least in light of the recent spate of posts in the edblogosphere about the turtle-pace of change in how school is done. We spent 10 minutes in each of her teachers’ classes to hear about what they would be doing and their expectations.

Out of 6 classrooms 4 had whiteboards (non-digital) but 2 classrooms, including the room where Formal Geometry is taught, had blackboards and they all had 20 year old overhead projectors. The geometry teacher lamented that she is almost out of the colored chalk she bought, and she is hoping she can get whiteboards installed “…maybe this year!” because the chalk is cracking the skin on her hands and markers have more vibrant colors. So here is a high school math teacher in 2006 excited about POSSIBLY getting a whiteboard installed in her room so she can use markers! To her that is a technological advance. The biology teacher did have a 19 inch TV hooked up to his new desktop computer so he can show Powerpoint presentations and video from his computer which he proudly demonstrated for us. (This demonstrates the fallout of Nevada always being 49th or 50th in per pupil funding in the country).

Ian Jukes tells about his father returning to his high school for his 50th reunion and finding it hadn’t changed – he even found a desk with his initials carved in it – he would have been at home here.

This school is very diverse which we really appreciate, but it also concerns me. Our daughter has wireless access with a laptop at home and parents that have a fair amount of tech savvy. But many of the students have zero access. The one theme that ran through the night was that the school invested in new desktop computers and PDAs so that teachers can keep their “Edline” accounts updated so parents have access to how their child is doing – which is great for us. But what about the students that have parents that have no tech savvy, no tech access? Many of these parents have no significant school experience so that even if they did have access to this constantly updated information about their child’s progress, they don’t have the parenting skills, general knowledge or resources to use the information to really help their kids.

The teachers were not seemingly concerned about the lack of access to technology (or the lack of knowledge about educational technology) and they feel they have a great program – and my sense was that all the teachers we met seemed very competent overall. But I couldn’t help but feel that this lack of knowledge of educational technology and the implications of that are like someone who has cancer, but doesn’t have symptoms yet.

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4 thoughts on “Newsflash! You Can Go Back In Time, I just Did!

  1. Until our new school building was built last year, ours was the oldest operating school in the community. It was about 52 years old, I think. The drop ceilings in the hall were full of new wiring. The concrete block walls had conduit and boxes screwed to it. There was one storage closet in each room. Think about what there was to plug in 50 years ago, when that place was built. There was one original electrical outlet. Times have changed. lt’s interesting how much easier it is to upgrade a school than it is to upgrade schooling. I especially enjoy your analogy to the terminal illness of complacency that is pervasive in our culture.

  2. Whiteboards – you mean the things you write on with them stinky pens? Yeah, I tried them once…

    I do know what you are talking about here. We live and teach in interesting times. My classroom has about 16 feet of clear, beautiful, black chalkboard. I use it daily. My classroom is the only one in my school that has a computer projector on a cart (with laptop, Internet, sound system, etc). I use it daily. Mine is also the only classroom without on overhead projector (thank goodness, was I glad to get rid of that dinosaur).

    The whole thing is surrounded by 17 computers. In the middle it all are student desks, lined up in rows, in pairs, for cooperative work…

    Interesting times. My kids and I are part of the ‘tweener generation.

  3. I don’t think that I’ve used a chalk based blackboard in over ten years and now that the classroom I share has an ACTIVboard, the regular whiteboard has just become a glorified notice board. I think that Doug is right – it is far easier to upgrade facilities than it is to upgrade many educators’ perceptions. The word “confronting” was used by an audience to describe a Web2Showcase I was a presenter for on Thursday – it’s probably the doctor announcing the worst type scenario that Brian referred to. Mark, I love the sound of your classroom set up and I agree, it’s good to see the back of OHP’s. Ironically, my teaching offsider went to a conference earlier this year with a so-called Maths expert presenting who scoffed at “unnecessary technology” and bragged that he could successfully teach any Maths concept with the assistance of his trusty overhead projector! We’ve got a long, long way to go … if it wasn’t for grassroots practitioners like yourselves to connect to, I’d suspect that I was the one who was a bit clueless about where things seem to be heading.

  4. You know something funny…I teach in a class with good tech…and they locked it all out in the last two years. Shut down so I can’t even build my own site and have the kids go there and look up something i marked just to run a math model…and what they insist on is a ridiculously bad workbook in a can,only. It’s not something I really can go into here…it takes time, but I will blog on on my site in a day or two as it is so worth talking about and you are all so astute in your observations.. I really think the innovation, information is something that frightens the “system”. In a way it can make us obsolete…in the model we are in right now, i think it mostly has made traditionalist models of school rather obsolete….on one end of the divide. Bucky Fuller was so great on how awful it is to teach things that people/children have to “unlearn” and truthfully i wonder if that isn’t exactly what my kids are getting in classrooms from 1932. And for that part of what kids with no home access are getting…that’s heart wrenching. It isn’t expensive or really too hard to put all kids online and give them home and school tech savvy. I saw that in the tech conference in the summer in San Diego. It’s really easy. And yet….here i sit unable to even link my class to a few math sites to give them a fuller experience. With tons of money going to teacher training in Directed Instruction and other nonsense. Due to the leadership I work for. To me this is more like a crisis of viral proportion as AIDS was, loads of denial and complicated features and politics and agendas and the thing eating away insidiously. Endangering bloodbanks and folks all over the place…But when I watch at home my daughter using her laptop and exploring the world…i gotta love what this does for any child and all the windows and doors it opens. Amazing. Something teachers should be driven to do something about. People want it for their own, this I know.