Saturday, February 2, 2013

Tech Questions for Educators

EdWeek has Questions For Educators
1) Do the most exciting technology-rich learning opportunities in your school go to the most-advantaged students in Honors or AP classes?

APThat's a tough question but fair and it's a good way to start this discussion. Our school is dipping its toe in the water this year and jumping in next year. From eight tablets to full 1:1 but it has been a tremendous work getting the IT, administration, faculty and taxpayers all on that same page. I can see how a school might hesitate in giving its worst students expensive tech that never gets used; better to give it to motivated students who will use it, in my view.  Even better to give it to everyone and avoid this quandry.
2) Is your school using technology to gain efficiencies in old practices, or to do things that are truly different?
I disagree with this question's intent - to pressure people into change - and I don't think that it is necessarily a bad thing to gain efficiencies. This will be the spark that gets technology into schools but once there, the changes to paradigm will happen when they become obvious. Changes shouldn't happen just for the hell of it.
3) Does your school teach students to be afraid of making bad decisions on the Internet? Or do you teach students how to create a digital footprint to be proud of?
I am proud to say that we teach the students to hide their personal information, obfuscate Facebook details, and do those crazy things teenagers do in ways that won't come back to haunt them. Then, we show them how to create the Public Persona and keep it clean and well-scrubbed.
4) Do rubrics for online projects evaluate students' ability to demonstrate their understanding, or do they measure compliance concerning criteria like length, number of posts, number of pages, etc.?
Spoken like someone who has never been a teacher. Those compliance measures are minimums. The wheat cannot get separated from the chaff if neither exists. As any writer can tell you, writing is the best practice for writing.  Do it often and throw away the bad stuff, but do it often.  As any math teacher can tell you, practicing the basics allows critical thinking to happen. Sometimes to have to require certain minimums from all and then marvel at what you get.
Nowhere to be found.
5) To what extent is your school measuring the impact of your technology investments? Could you prove to your stakeholders (parents, school boards, trustees) that the vast sums invested in technology are making a difference in student learning?
Absolutely not at all. This is a common complaint for me. "Change" is the rallying cry. Administrators spout the most recent BestPractice workshop. To which I answer, "To what end? Why? What improvements do you see? How do you know you've achieved those improvements?"  The inevitable answer is, "You're not much of a team player."
6) Does your school have a coherent vision that defines high quality learning? Is your technology plan specifically designed to serve that vision?
Again, nope. Reasoned, directed planning is not something that schools do well.  We're usually far too engrossed in our day-to-day work to venture into the world of "Vision."  I hate going there because I feel that the school's vision should be one sentence long: "Teach the students" and that obviously won't do. Our current vision and mission statement together run three pages and several hundred words.
7) How does your school prepare students for a world where the vast majority of learning takes place outside of school?
Silly question.  The vast majority of learning has always taken place outside of school. School is for the common foundational work that all students need. Little of what we do is geared specifically towards any particular life or job future. We teach poetry, algebra, physical science, literature, computer literacy and programming, languages, writing, history, art and music; most of it has little direct use once they graduate except as a foundation upon which to learn what they really need or want to know.

School is not a job training exercise. It can have some of those aspects to it's mission but that is not the primary mission of school.

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