Wednesday, October 19, 2011

SPLOST IV: Let’s Talk about Technology

““We are behind technologically in public school education; we’re behind the nation and the rest of the world,” (Cheryl) Atkinson says. “It is imperative that we make technology the norm, not the exception. Our students must be comfortable with technology, because otherwise we will lose our country’s competitive edge and students will not be able to survive. I’m very passionate about public school education being a great equalizer.”

Dr. Atkinson understands the value of putting technology into students’ hands. One of her landmark educational initiatives in Lorain City Schools was to ensure every student in 6th, 9th and 10th grades was equipped with a netbook to access textbooks online, put the Internet at their fingertips, and enable them to be members of the 21st Century Classroom. And this was only the beginning of an initiative that will span grades 4 through 12.

The current SPLOST IV proposal is troubling because it does not support Dr. Atkinson’s understanding that technology integration and abundant access is essential to students’ future success.

Look at the DCSS SPLOST IV Educational Technology goals:
“(17) (15) Upgrade classroom technology (including interactive boards, student response systems and projectors), upgrade and refresh to hardware (including desktops, laptops, and servers), software, wireless infrastructure in all schools, digital communication technology (including video conferencing, virtual and learning technologies), enterprise content management solution, upgrade and increase data storage systems, upgrades to telecommunications and implementing a mass notification system….”

Currently, classrooms of 30 to 35 students have an average of 2 to 3 computers per classroom. Most elementary schools have one computer lab to serve hundreds of students, and high schools have an even worse student to computer ratio. SPLOST III “upgraded and refreshed” the hardware which basically meant they replaced the existing computers. The current SPLOST IV proposes “upgrading and refreshing” which means student access to technology will remain stationary.

Technology for students has remained stagnant in DCSS as the opportunity for implementing the 21st Century classroom has been delayed. SPLOST I saw the lion’s share of technology money spent on software while the hardware to use the software was severely limited. SPLOST II saw most of the technology funds spent on the network as DCSS installed a private fiber optic cable network. SPLOST III saw the majority of technology dollars go to interactive boards for a relatively small percent of our teachers, replacing computers that were out of warranty (also called upgrade and refresh), and the purchase of eSis and Schoolnet. SPLOST IV now proposes interactive boards, student response systems, projectors, a wireless network, video conferencing, and replacing computers that are out of warranty. The SPLOST IV Educational Technology goals show a very teacher centered view of technology with little additional hardware for students.

Since student access will not reach a critical mass with SPLOST IV, benchmark testing with students “bubbling in” answers using paper and pencil while teachers take planning time to “scan” in 150 tests will be assured for the next five years. DCSS classrooms that do not look noticeably different from their parents’ classrooms will appear even more disconcerting in this fast paced world of global competition.

DCSS’s “Digital Divide” is increasing with children in affluent schools having much greater access to cutting edge technology than children in low income areas. Leveling the playing field should be a prime concern for a school system that has such disparity between schools in terms of student progress.

This is the problem with SPLOST IV passing “as is”. Technology access for students will stay “as is” while tens of millions are spent on non-student centered initiatives.

DCSS must involve the end users in the technology decisions. What do the teachers who are charged with increasing student achievement want in the way of Educational Technology in DCSS? What do the students want? What do the parents want? Who has made these plans for spending the tens of millions of dollars? Where is the Return on Investment in terms of student achievement projected and detailed? What is Dr. Atkinson’s vision of DCSS students as 21st Century learners? Where will the money come from to implement the one-to-one netbook initiative she has suggested for DCSS students once these SPLOST IV parameters are set? How will she get the real time data analyses she and the teachers need to make smart educational decisions?

These are questions that need to be asked and answered before moving forward with SPLOST IV. The 21st Century Classroom puts technology into the hands of students. DCSS is stuck in the bricks and mortar world of the past while our children must compete in a world without boundaries.


Atlanta Media Guy said...

Oh, oh, looks like a certain former BOE chairperson's son might actually have to work, if Dr. Atkinson is looking to improve Technology. She says DCSS is behind when it comes to technology, why? I recall DCSS spending millions on networks that were too large, Computers not compatible with that network and systems and programs that were never taught to employees. Plus, to add insult to injury, some employees didn't even show up for work, until parents did the dirty work of exposing them.

Questions, is Ms. Tyson back at MIS, why must we spend more on technology? I thought Ms. Tyson was in charge of one of the largest upgrades at DCSS/MIS. If Dr. Atkinson says we're behind the world, why is Ms. Tyson still employed? We have one of the largest computer networks, thanks to the former MIS head, who actually sold the network to DCSS. Cere, how much money has DCSS spent on technology the last 8 years? Where has that money gone and why do we have to spend more? If the former leaders of DCSS screwed up, why are they still employed?

Dr. Atkinson better be careful saying DCSS is behind technically. If she is right, and DCSS has wasted money on technology and DCSS is still behind, can we now ask the former "sit up here" staff, who ran DCSS for the past 10 years, to please leave? I know mostly rhetorical, but why are we so behind in technology after spending so much money?

DCSSFrustratedParent said...

For those posters who say "if SPLOST doesn't pass then the BoE doesn't shrink" is more mis-information - please pay attention to the part of the law that states :
"(a) On and after January 1, 2013, in counties in which there is being collected a homestead option sales and use tax pursuant to Article 2A of Chapter 8 of Title 48 and a county sales and use tax for educational purposes pursuant to Part 2 of Article 3 of Chapter 8 of Title 48 and the county board of education consists of more than seven members, such county boards of education shall comply with this code section."

Since this is all about AND - we are in a situation of - if SPLOST IV does NOT pass then we are not in the category described above on January 1, 2013 so our BoE will NOT have to comply with the Code Section - period, the end. No SPLOST IV no 7 person BoE.

Anonymous said...

Atlanta Media Guy

DCSS has spent most of their money on software and networks and student data management systems and interactive boards for teachers. Now they propose to spend millions on video conferencing, a enormous outlay that requires intense support and will provide little return on investment.

Meanwhile, putting technology directly into students' hands like EVERY other system in metro Atlanta is delayed for another 5 years.

DCSS has spent hundreds of millions with little to show for it in terms of student access and Return in Investment as measured by student academic progress. The care and feeding of these initiatives is good for Information Systems job security, but not so good for students.

Dr. Atkinson brings a new approach to DCSS. She needs to be given a chance to develop a comprehensive technology plan that meets the needs of the members of the classroom (namely teachers and students) and support of the parents.

Where is the teacher input in this plan? Where are the meetings with the community? It appears that every buzz word in Educational Technology has been thrown into this mix. Meanwhile, providing abundant access to hands-on technology for students has been ignored - again. That's why students will continue to "bubble in" benchmark tests and real time data will not be a reality.

I don't have the answers and the MIS department does not either. Send them back to the drawing table and make sure that teachers who currently teach students and parents who pay the taxes have the MOST input into a comprehensive technology plan that includes a Return on Investment for DeKalb County.

After the hundreds of millions DeKalb taxpayers have spent for technology, we can't afford more software and hardware programs that do not work as promised, are not meeting student and teacher needs, and do not have broad based buy-in from the end users.

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to the DeKalb County Schools Technology Plan for 2008-2012. Note that NOT ONE classroom teacher and NOT ONE parent is on the team that wrote this plan.

This tremendous disconnect between MIS and the end user has had disastrous results in academic and monetary terms.

Ask any teacher what he/she feels about the technology provided to the classroom.

More than Cynical said...

Please remember, the people that put together the SPLOST IV presentation are the same people that were brought forward by the former superintendent along with the former interim superintendent. Why are you so surprised? The inmates are still running the asylum. DeKalb's MIS Department has been and continues to be one of the biggest, most inefficient jobs programs in metro Atlanta. It is only rivaled in size and budget by the DeKalb School System's own police department. Just about the time one thinks that incompetence is as high as it could ever be, a new and higher level is attained. Until we have major changes in the administration and a change in the mind set at Mt. Industrial, it is the same old, and more of the same old.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

Anon: 12:45. Truer words have never been spoken about DCSS technology. It is a bit better now with eSIS finally up and running. However, we've seen a lot of money poured into this "technology rabbit hole" with nothing to show for it.

I'm all for giving Dr. Atkinson a chance, she could blaze a trail and expose the former leadership for what they were. I hope so and I hope she asks for input from the teachers regarding future technology and science investments.

Anonymous said...

@ Atlanta Media Guy

eSis/Schoonet cost taxpayers $11,000,000, was an implementation nightmare for teachers and never delivered the benefits promised.

My understanding from a recent post on this blog is that many of the functions that eSis was supposed to perform had to be moved back to the main DCSS server. Maybe that's why the perception is that it is working better. It has less to do.

BTW - we're still paying for eSis and SchoolNet.

Anonymous said...

Technology does not make a good education. Deep, critical thinking makes for a well educated child. I have seen much of what has been spent on technology as wasted money. Many of the smart boards are underutilized, and used as overly priced projectors and video screenings.

DCSS needs to stop proposing more spending, and instead stop and really take a hard look at what is being spent and ask themselves is this the best use of money. Too much money has already been misspent.

Until all parents realize that having computers, smart boards, and the like do not equate to a superior education. As I was told when I visited a small very diverse, small private school that provides a quality education, we're not spending money on having a computer for every child, or other fancy equipment until we can justify the expense vs. the improvement in learning. The research shows that kids, especially in elementary schools, would be better off with hands on activities that help them to think deeply and critically.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 2:32 pm
"DCSS needs to stop proposing more spending, and instead stop and really take a hard look at what is being spent and ask themselves is this the best use of money. Too much money has already been misspent. "

Until Dr. Atkinson asks teachers, parents and students what is going to work in the classrooms, DCSS will continue to misspend hundreds of millions of technology dollars.

No input from teachers, students and parents equals software and equipment that will not be utilized.

Email Dr. Atkinson (Cerebration has an email link on the first page of this blog - right hand side) and ask why the DCSS Technology Plan has little to no teacher, student and parent input. Ask her to walk the halls of our schools and see how little of an impact these hundreds of millions of tech dollars have made. Suggest she sits down with teachers to find out what technology will help their students.

Instructional technology can put the knowledge of the world at students' fingertips and facilitate the develop of critical thinking skills. But it can't replace the teacher. Teachers must be the GREATEST part of any technology purchase. They will be the ones who use or conversely don't use it with their students. No input and buy-in from teachers is a sure fire way to throw money down the drain. That's what's happened in DCSS and judging from this technology plan, that will continue.

Cerebration said...

To her credit, Dr. Atkinson has already met with groups of teachers and students - in her 'fireside' chats. She has asked them for complete openness and as far as I'm aware, they have complied.

Anonymous said...

Cere, what IS the real deal on the vote in November. Is the SPLOST vote tied to our ability to shrink the board?

Anonymous said...

I am very confused about the SPLOST vote:

On the one hand, not giving more money to people that seem incapable of spending it either competently or ethically seems a very strong argument. And some people say we'll have another shot at voting for SPLOST in the not distant future, potentially with a better BOE in place (and the implication of an at least somewhat better DCSS adminsitration).

On the other hand, other people say a vote against SPLOST 4 will be absolutely crippling, without adequately explaining how, since we haven't spent all of the SPLOST 3 $ and what has been spent does not appear to be well-spent. In addition, they assert that the reduction in the school board from 9 to 7 is essentially contingent on SPLOST 4 passing, with the implication that said reduction in board size is the only way in which the BOE might meaningfully change. They also assert that, no, we won't be able to vote for SPLOST again anytime soon, though I'm not clear on why they assert that.

Finally, there's the ever-present pitting of district vs. district, with those who will--or at least think they will--benefit most from a SPLOST 4 being most vocal in asserting what they know not to be true, that it will be of equitable benefit to all students.

I really don't know who is correct in most of this.


No Duh said...

Cere, yes Dr. Atkinson is having all kinds of chats with people. And, Ms. Tyson has essentially become Dr. Atkinson's right-hand man. She goes nowhere without Tyson.

In fact, it was Ms. Tyson who was taking the minutes at the last Parent Advisory Council. The "minutes" of this meeting were very quickly distributed to the Council members, but I suspect that of the 23 people present at the meeting, few of them would have recognized this one-page excuse for minutes as what was really said at the meeting.

One parent clearly asked Dr. Atkinson to take an immediate look at the dire condition of Math instruction at the High School level and suggested math instruction was in crisis. Other parents concurred. Yet, this very clear request was not captured in the minutes at all.

So, with Ms. Tyson being so closely tied to Dr. Atkinson, I am concerned the truth about the crisis state of MIS will never be fully articulated to Dr. Atkinson. And, given the complete homogenizing of the passionate comments from parents during the Parent Advisory Council meeting (just one of many chats), as reflected in the "official" minutes from that meeting, I fear no amount of hollering from "us" (or some daring DCSS employee) will ever make it through the filter of Ms. Tyson.

The two of them are clearly bonding. Has anyone else who has seen them together noticed this. It's like Oprah and Gayle!

Atlanta Media Guy said...

No Duh, I plan to go to the round table scheduled for Oct. 27th. I wonder if someone should come in and transcribe the proceedings word for word. Any court reporters willing to do that for the parents and stakeholders?

It scares me to think that Tyson and Atkinson are bonding, I hope however as soon as Dr. Atkinson has her bearings she will tell Tyson so long and commit to real change. She has several of her own hires in place, so time will tell. Moseley an Area Super, interesting!

Anonymous said...

Is Ms. Tyson still superintendent by proxy? Does the new superintendent at Fulton, the new superintendent at APS or the new superintendent at Cobb have a person from the past administration functioning like Ms. Tyson does?

Dr. Atkinson was hired to make changes in a system that is at the bottom of the barrel in achievement in our low income schools. The Board insisting that Ms. Tyson "help" her along is counterproductive. Has anyone ever heard of such an arrangement? Two superintendents cannot run a school system.

Many members of the Board made it perfectly clear they would be happy to keep the status quo (as miserable as it is for students) and championed Ms. Tyson as the permanent superintendent. SACS recommendations and public outcry forced them to choose someone not affiliated with DCSS. This seems like an end run to get what they wanted.

Dr. Atkinson cannot move students forward with the same policies, procedures and programs that has driven student achievement into the ground. Will this Board give her the chance to make radical changes at the Central Office and in critical areas like technology for students and parental involvement?

Cerebration said...

As far as I know, the legislators who wrote this law are in the process of tweaking the wording. I am certain they won't let their hard work go by the wayside. They just need to do a little rewriting... There's plenty of time.

Not only that - the legislators are in the process of redrawing district lines. People are going to be very surprised at how the representation will turn. There are so many more people in north DeKalb than south according to the 2010 Census. The north may gain a rep and the south may lose one... or maybe even two.

Cerebration said...

FWIW - that's regarding state reps. But the school board lines will be redrawn as well. There may be more reps drawn in from the north end. They are going to draw by population alone.

resident2012 said...

Technology in schools is both a wonderful thing and a quagmire. School never attract the hottest talent in the IT world. Overall most of the school level techs I've encountered over my 14 years in public education are not enamored by the wonders of technology, they are just doing a job. DeKalb is a bit worst than others in the waste of money tossed at technology solutions that have not been thought out. There is a huge gap between the MIS department and educators who are working with students and using the technology. The school level CTSS staffer have little to no knowledge of the software teachers are using. Overall the school librarians are the ones staff go to when they are trying to figure out how something works. The worst situation is the layer upon layer of security that has been placed on the computers. Laptops labs do get used since the boot time is nearly 20 minutes. Students working on multimedia projects have to jump thru security hoops to compile files for projects. When it comes to using anything other than very standard programs its a hair pulling experience. Teachers can learn new technology at classes offered by MIS but on their own time after work. Furlough days have also reduced the time for technology training. Overall DCSS has a mixture of poor staff in MIS, misguided hardware and software purchases, a lack of dialogue between educators and techs and an overall attitude of if you throw technology at education things will improve and the public will be impressed. Dr. Atkinson needs to clean house and find people with vision and a love of technology.

Kim Gokce said...

"DCSS’s “Digital Divide” is increasing with children in affluent schools having much greater access to cutting edge technology than children in low income areas"

I think this technology debate is an important one and do not mean to take away from it ... but ...

I think the Digital Divide is actually outside of school more than inside. The "poorest" schools in DeKalb Co. often have better technology in the school house. I know this to be the fact at Woodward ES (the highest FRL and Title I rate in the County). Title I dollars actually are shrinking the divide. At least, during the hours of 8am-4pm.

After school, most, if not all, of our Woodward student's return to homes with no cable, no satellite, and no internet access of any kind. This "access" issue is increasingly going to further segregate our children.

Anyone with a curious child and web access is going to move that child's understanding, vocabulary and general knowledge light-years faster than parents with curious children with no access all other things equal.

In conclusion, I suppose I am saying (heaven forbid!) that Title I spending is making a difference in this area. It is not our schools' place to address the second issue of access after hours but we must remain cognizant of this reality.

Kim Gokce said...

On the more broad point about technology in the educational process ... I view it this simply: Every workplace today has key tools of a technological nature - every one. If we think for one minute by leaving technology out of the classroom we are preparing these children for the workplaces that await them, we are mistaken. Sorely mistaken ...

dundevil said...

Tyson - Atkinson bonding, Remember that Dr Walker pushed for Ms Atkinson. Now he always worked "for the children". He is covering his bet with Ms Tyson guiding Ms A. Tyson will probably get some cooked up title at $200K per year or so after her $275 Interim super transition extension expires. After all, you cannot lower her standard of living.

Atkinson's request for more millions in technology is a proactive CYA. "I failed because you cheap ***** trash would not give me the money."

Possible Benefit If she gets the technology money, you will be able to buy "slightly lost" Ipads at a reduced price on some street corners.

7 or 9 BOE members makes no difference. Just will be a 4-3 majority instead of 5 -4. Maybe
5 -2 if Bowen votes with the demographic group.

SACS will be here by the end of the month give kudos to the new regime, collect its $75 K dues, have a good free lunch, and go home.

The more things seem to change the more they stay the same.

Anonymous said...

@ Kim Gorcke

We are still paying (15 + years now)the AlGore telephone tax to wire the schools for Internet.

Used computers are cheap. I just threw out a couple. There used to be a group that fixed up the old computers and gave them free to the "divided" . But group folded because the "divided" wanted only new stuff and a minimum T1 Internet high speed connection.

Those living below the poverty level get free cell phones. When they get the new 4G Androids then they can access the net at high speed and the digital divide is solved.

Anonymous said...

An accounting of the money DCSS spent for technology and the results followed the Y & R study on the bloated overpaid administration. Did you also miss the technology study?

Kim Gokce said...

I've got to hurry up and get below the poverty line - that's a great deal!

Kim Gokce said...

Ugh! Really? A T-1? Fantastic! Let me know where to sign folks up for that.

Kim Gokce said...

Oh my gosh! I apologize. I thought for five minutes I might be able to participate in a rational dialog tonight. Bonne nuit mes amis - outta here!

Anonymous said...

I work in a public library with a large number of Hispanic patrons. Yesterday a 12-year-old boy and his non-English speaking mother came in, needing to use a computer for an assignment that he had due the next day. He finally came to me to ask for help; normally we can't take the time out to assist each person this way, but they really looked out to sea, so I went over.

Turns out he was supposed to create a Facebook page for a social studies class, based upon information that he could only get to through the school's licensed database. It also required that he have an email address. Based upon the rubric, it was a very complex assignment, with some knowledge of how to use the Internet and databases required.

I sadly told him that he could only get to this information through his school computers, and asked him if his teacher had taken the class to the computer lab or media center to work on it. He said no, because there weren't enough computers for the whole class, and the teacher didnt have the time to go over it with each one. So why give an assignment like this? How is he going to be able to do this? His family doesn't have a computer at home, and the main part of the assignment had to be accessed on a school computer! When he translated for his mom, she looked crestfallen. I nearly burst into tears myself. We put computers in the school, spend a fortune on licensing software and databases, and then don't have the time or the staffing to actually teach them to use it--we just expect them to do it at home!

You can't just buy hardware and hope they get it by osmosis, folks.

Cerebration said...

Um, that's just blatant discrimination, IMO. Why would a teacher knowingly assign poor immigrant students an impossible task?

Anonymous said...

a T1 is practically useless nowadays. it is a 1.5Mb connection, which is the slowest or 2nd slowest dsl you can get, and ive seen google maps choke on it.
what was mostly lacking in a lot of the very slow computers was memory. that got upgraded to bring the computers to a usable speed.
what plagues the computers now is age, especially of the hard drives and monitors, not to mention leaving the laptops on while putting them inside their bag letting them cook into oblivion.

fedupindcss said...

The US is prehistoric in wiring the country for Internet. Our speeds are crazy slow compared to Europe and Asia. And they are at work wiring (or wi-fi-ing) entire nations, while we have not only rural areas, but huge swaths of urban areas that can't get Internet. It needs to be treated like phone service has been (well, maybe not under the old Ma Bell regime). In the 30s we put electricity in all over the country, so we should be doing the same with Internet.

Open+Transparent said...

How about a committee that can actually make a difference? How about a school technology advisory committee of county resident school parents with actual IT experience like Kim Gokce and Ernest Brown? We have GA Tech professors and staff who live here, Emory, GA State, Agnes Scott, etc., etc. We have CDC researchers and staff. We have a plethora of IT professionals who live here and send their children to our schools.

Yet the DCSS Central office, BOE and MIS Dept. has never reached out to experts in our own community, most likely because they don't want to hear what such a committee would find (eSIS, Where in the World is Jamal Edwards, overmatched staff, millions wasted on software and smartboards, etc.).

This is one citizen's committee that could actually make s substantive change in our children's education.

Anonymous said...

Parents don't have to be technology experts to give input on what they want for their children. Parents/taxpayers had absolutely NOTHING to do with the DCSS technology plan. This is wrong. They foot th bill for technology that has absorbed hundredsf millions of dollars and has notnmade a positive impact on learning.

Even worse, not one classroom teacher was on the Tech plan committee. Personnel who have NEVER taught in a classroom have made and are making the decisions on technology for teachers and students.

DCSS is the ONLY metro school system that does not issue laptops to teachers. Yet there is nothing to remedy this in this SPLOST tech plan.

Please go to the DCSS Technology Plan and scroll down to the "team" members on pages 3 and 4 You will not find ONE classroom teacher or ONE parent.

Non-working software and hardware, and now untold millions for video conferencing which will not be used since teachers will be the ones asked to run this complicated equipment.

This has got to stop. Dr. Atkinson should commission a teacher survey asking regarding the effectiveness of MIS for students. Ask about the software and hardware, teacher buy-in regarding the products, does the equipment work, does it work for their students, what would they like to see in the way of technology, what are the obstacles to using technology with students, what do they think of eSis, Schoolnet, Activboards, benchmark testing, do they have access to real time student data, Is the software they have appropriate for their students, how timely are the repairs, etc.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

O & T, I couldn't agree more! However, with DCSS there are too many rabbits down too many holes. We hired the guy who sold DCSS a bill of goods, the expensive and huge cumbersome network, when Tyson became the Super. See how DCSS works?

Dr. Atkinson, the people of DeKalb want to start seeing some heads roll out the Palace door! Heads that are responsible for the terrible job DCSS has done to educate our children. Once heads are rolling out, I think Dr. Atkinson will have some buy in from the stakeholders who have no faith the way things at the Place are run today.

The culture at the Palace must change! The only way to do that is to totally remake our system. It's time to do that, but the folks who depend on DCSS for their paychecks, will sue, kick and scream as they are being shown the door.

Dr. Atkinson I also think it's time for you to ditch the former Super and CTO. If you hang with her too long the public will lose faith in you and your 90 day plan. I for one will try to give you a chance, but as long as you embrace the corrupt past I can not, in good conscience, support you!

Anonymous said...

Kim, I love your posts but you may just be too thoughtful for this blog. You are certainly too positive. Hang in there, in the land of people who cut off their noses for spite, the person with a nose KNOWS.

Anonymous said...

Dundevil has hit the nail on the head. When the Board was 7, the splits were 4-3. While it would be advantageous to have a 7 person board because Dr. Atkinson would only have 7 bosses, the reality is things have looked the same with 7 as they look with 9. After all, it was with 7 that we got in all this SPLOST lawsuit mess. The new districts have not been made public so there is no guarantee the new lines will make a significant difference. Voters proved last election that even with more qualified candidates on the ballot, they chose the same or similar reps. Do you really think changing the number on the board is going to change the voters' mindset? We may get a new face but if history repeats itself, don't count on getting fresh, new perspectives. If you don't trust those running the show and you think the SPLOST list was politics at work, vote no. Don't let Fernbank folks scare you into voting yes. You may regret it later but the Fernbank folks will be sitting pretty with a new building so they never have to fear being sent to Briar Vista (or Medlock since they abandoned us in redistricting.)

Dekalbparent said...

Anon 10:39 -

What an appalling story! As an aspiring library professional, I certainly share your frustration: that child was probably only one of many in the class who were unable to do the assignment.

A problem is that the teachers are encouraged to use lesson plan databases that contain assignments like this one - there is nothing wrong with the assignment, but it assumes the students and teachers have access to technology that they just don't have.

A few years ago, teachers were required to take a course that acquainted them with educational technology and taught them to use common educational software that was supposed to be available to all schools. It was a great program, but DCSS did not have some of the software, so many of the great things they learned could not be done. Other lessons could be used, but only if the teacher was sufficiently technically proficient to use the software, and most of the teachers were not and did not have the time to become so on their own.

This has not changed.

Some districts have an actual alliance between the municipal library system and the schools. If the librarians 1) could access the tools at the schools (it can be done - DCSS students can access the DeKalb library online offerings) and 2) were given an advance copy of the assignment the students will be working on, they would probably be able to help (I know for sure they would WANT to - they're librarians!)

Anonymous said...

If your child is in a trailer, it's highly likely there's little to no "technology." How many trailers are at Chamblee, Lakeside, and the International Center? (And the list of schools with trailers goes on and on...) Many of these trailers are not hardwired for computers and/or are too far from the main school building to get the DCSS wifi.
Administrators are reluctant to put anything of value in the trailers because of the fear of vandalism and theft. Those poor teachers and kids get the "cast offs" if they're allowed to have an overhead projector or CD player. Forget about a SmartBoard or student computer workstations in a trailer!

Anonymous said...

The 2:19 PM post is mine. Despite the abysmal technology situation in DCSS, I'm still voting NO when it comes to SPLOST IV. No more money from me until they clean up their act.

Anonymous said...

@ 2:19 PM

With the application of a little bit of readily available technology (look at every Starbucks) and expenditure of a modest amount of money a strong signal from the DCSS network could be beamed into each of the trailers. Maybe the problem is that there is no one in the entire 300+ person DCSS MIS establishment that has either the knowledge or ambition to do anything.

Ms Atkinson talks a strong technology spending money game. But does she really know anything about computers? Maybe MIA Waldo could give her some lessons.

Anonymous said...

@ 3:40 PM
Even if the school system managed to boost the wifi signal to all the trailers, the problem still remains that technology isn't encouraged/endorsed in the trailers. Justified fears of vandalism and theft keep it out of the trailers. (Sort of ties in to the thread about the DCSS Police and Campus Security Department, doesn't it?)
What a tangled mess this school system has become. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

@ 3:40
it seems like there has been a decision made by the DCSS police that they do not want to pursue criminals. Surrender. If they caught a few of the the miscreants and handed out some severe sentences, then things might change.

Another possibility is that some of the DCSS police are complicit with the crooks. In that case, the administration has made a smart decision in not placing any technology in the trailers since it will be stolen.

What really is needed is for some figure of authority in the community, like the good Bishop or other respected clergy member, a noted civil rights leader, or Dr. Walker, to come forward and read the riot act to the miscreants. Tell them that they are sabotaging the futures of their younger brothers and sisters.

I repeat the quote of former State Senator Steen Miles in an article entitled "The Downward Spiral" as published in the Champion a little over a year ago:

"If things aren't reversed in DeKalb, in less than a decade, this county will be a bankrupt, crime-ridden wasteland with a plethora of poorly performing schools, churning out a bumper crop for the state's prison system."

There are only 8 1/2 years to go.

resident2012 said...

Old equipment is not the answer as the computers in order to run current and new software require a current OS. Many educational websites require current versions of Flash and other programs that will not function on older units. Users will be beating their heads against the wall if they attempt to do what they need to do using old gear. Computers, memory and connectivity are getting cheaper and cheaper every day. A lot of students are carrying more powerful computers in their pockets in the form of their smart phones than are in some labs and classrooms.

Anonymous said...

@ resident 2012

The problems not the age of the computers as much as little access for students. When you have 30 to 35 students in the classroom and only have 2 to 3 computers, they will generally sit there unused. No matter how up to date the hardware and software is, it is untenable in today's high tech world to expect 35 students "share" 2 or 3 computers in a middle or high school classroom. And since most of the computer labs are dedicated to the Career Tech program all day, there is little access there. Add to that the fact that the tech labs have 30+ computers and often 3 or 4 do not work. If I take my classes of 33 into the computer lab all day for my one day a month turn and only 28 computers work, then I am left with 5 not having access. Doubling them up will not work if each student is to be responsible for his own assignment. Would we ask 28 to use a textbook and 5 to "share" a textbook? This is also why the benchmarks cannot be given online. Instead students are forced to "bubble in" answers and teachers have to spend their planning and grading time "scanning" in the answer sheets.

Does anyone think the current technical group can deep up and maintain a sophisticated videoconferencing system? Teachers will be asked to run the system, and that's just not going to happen.

Dr. Atkinson needs to sit with the end users and discuss their need for technology with students. I don't think this happened in the fireside chats because currently technology has such scant access and unreliability that most teachers do not see it as viable for classroom instruction.

Looking at the DeKalb Technology Plan and seeing not one teacher or parent on the committee says it all. Match the Tech Plan with SPLOST IV Tech Plan and you will see they are one in the same with no teacher or parent or student input.

Tens of millions of SPLOST IV dollars will be spent on technology. These dollars are wasted if they don't meet the needs of the classroom and don't have teacher input and buy-in. Not buying technology is not an option. E SPLOST can only be used on construction and technology.

Before I vote for SPLOST IV, I want to see that the technology matches the needs of the classroom. I want to see a Tech Plan that lists broad based involvement and support from teachers, students and parents. This is the way other Successful systems doit, and we should demand non less from DeKalb.

Anonymous said...

As a teacher, I think that many are missing the point about technology. It's not about having lots of computers. It should be what the children are doing with them and how they are using them to better their education.

Currently most computers in elementary school are not utilized to increase deep, critical thinking. They are used to play math games, practice CRCT questions/tests, and other activities that in my opinion do not make the expenditure of spending more money on have a computer for every child necessary or even fiscally prudent.

Yes society is very technical, but one must understand and have lots of practice critically thinking and problem solving before we should allow students on computers. Computers, tv, and video games change the way a child's brain works. In my opinion most children already get enough "screen time" at home and shouldn't be further exposed at school, and need to learn how to read books, compute and solve multi-step math problems, and learn real history and more science.

Spending millions on technology does not equate to giving our children a better or superior education. Instead we should be focused on increasing the number of books our children are reading, making sure that our children are learning real history and not the watered down distorted version found in most text books, increasing the amount of exposure and increased depth to science, and a better emphasis on math and problem solving.

DCSS's focus should be on providing a better education for our children and not on spending more money on technology that currently isn't being utilized as effectively as it should, given the amount of money that has been spent, and the district not securing the equipment that we currently have, and frankly for teachers at all levels not sure how to use technology effectively to promote the thinkers that our children need to become in today's society.

As a local independent school said on a recent tour, we will not spend money on having computers for every child in the school until we are sure that this technology will help their students learn critical thinking and problem solving, as the research doesn't show that teaching using computers is as effective or more than using what they have currently. Maybe our public schools should learn something from this.

Cerebration said...

True that, teacher. We can't continue to spend so much on technology infrastructure (not much has actually been spent on hardware for students), administrators and lawyers while asking our teachers to continue to make sacrifices in the way of lost retirement savings, lost income due to furloughs and increased work load by increasing their students per class. Our best teachers have been quietly leaving for several years now. Nearby systems have benefited from our lack of teacher support.

Below is an interesting link on AJC blog…

Of course, a system does not have to be perfect to offer something we can learn but then here is the second problem: “happy families” are not really alike. What works for one system does not necessarily work for others. The McKinsey report discovers the “secrets” in the “black box” that leads to success:

The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers;

The only way to improve outcome is to improve instruction;

High performance requires every child to succeed.

(McKinsey & Company, 2007)

Tucker's analysis of the giants resulted in a much longer list that includes clear goals and expectations, high quality teachers, high quality principals, exams and incentives for students, sorting students using external exams, access to high-quality education for all students, accountability and autonomy.

Cerebration said...

I continue to remain shocked and appalled that our board finds it 'necessary' to cut pay and benefits to the people charged with the only true task schools are responsible for: educating students.

Yet never once have I heard an outcry from a board member as to the cost of the lawyers. Nancy Jester is the only board rep to even ask for a report on our legal costs. In fact, the rest are quite happy to keep those figures buried deep within the budget so that when the cuts need to be made, the teachers once again suffer the blows.

Anonymous said...

The use of technology in the classroom is vastly overrated. Promethean boards are good, if the teacher is able to draw supporting materials from the internet efficiently. They are also very good for marking up texts. I wonder how many DCSS teachers, not to mention administrators, are able to use this this kind of technology, since tod o so well requires a lot of subject knowledge. Overall, students need to be reading more. They have enough technological "stimulation" outside of school.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 1:28 pm

I agree that using technology successfully depends on how it is used with students. DCSS has not used technology to promote critical thinking skills. Students should be using word processing to write fluently. Then they get out of school, no business or college will want to see handwritten information or correspondence. They should know how to out together a spreadsheet or a media presentation. They should be using the Internet to research a topic. College students using library books - even on the graduate school level is in the past. Gone are the days when we could take them to the library and take comfort in knowing that the books they used for research had been peer reviewed. Those days are gone and are not coming back. Many of our students will graduate without knowing how to tell which websites have reliable information and which do not.

These are some of the reasons that I think more access foe students is not only desirable but necessary. If you come from another system (not DeKalb) that has used technology with students - not to play games, etc. - but to create projects, collaborate with others, do research, write papers, participate in simulations, etc. you can see how far behind we are.

You are right that we cannot just throw money and computers at the problem. Any technology purchase needs to be linked to educational goals and benchmarks need to tell us if the technology hardware or software meets these goals. Look at eSis and SchoolNet as examples. What teacher wold have picked these programs? Many teachers got Activboards who did not want them. Teachers need to be the personnel driving the purchase of classroom technology.

I agree with a poster that suggested surveying teachers would be a good place to start. Those tensor millions of SPLOST technology dollars have never been measured and teachers have never been asked to give the administration feedback on what has worked, what has not worked and what they would like to see put in place.

Anonymous said...

"College students using library books - even on the graduate school level is in the past." This statement shows another real DCSS weakness. There are too few people who have been to real colleges and universities and who understand what education is really about. Last I checked, serious colleges and universities still require a lot of book-based learning. Technology is a complement, not a supplement.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 6:28

Ask any Emory University or Georgia Tech student how much they use the Internet versus using the "card catalog" in the library.

Science and Nature are online as are so most publications. Peer reviewed articles may need a subscription for access, but they are available via the web.

Dekalbparent said...

Every college has a subscription to the databases that carry peer-reviewed articles. There are also databases of peer-reviewed open-access journals that do not require a subscription. The resources are there, but as both 6:26 and 4:15 point out, the students need to know how to use them - this can be taught in middle school and high school.

Research, writing, spreadsheets and presentations should be a required part of schoolwork from the elementary level onwards, and students need adequate access to computers, but even more important is the need for teachers trained and comfortable with teaching technology. There are too few of these because there are so many other demands on their time. The curriculum allowsno time to teach these skills. The DCSS regulations also bar anyone from teaching technology unless they are a state-certified teacher, even though there are many fine paras who are capable of teaching these skills well. (Other districts do not have this restriction).

That said, students still need to know how to use books for research; whether it is a print book or an e-book, the basic techniques are still the same for good research, and students need to be taught these skills.

Anonymous said...

@ Cere:
You mentioned the new BOE lines being drawn earlier in this post. There was a called BOE meeting yesterday and the BOE redistricting was on the agenda. Does anyone know what happened or have the details of the proposed districts?

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:02 pm

"The DCSS regulations also bar anyone from teaching technology unless they are a state-certified teacher, even though there are many fine paras who are capable of teaching these skills well. (Other districts do not have this restriction)."

When Ms .Tyson was head of the Technical Group at MIS (before she became the head of MIS), she made the rule that no technical person could train teachers - even the 100+ CTSSs that are located in the schoolhouse. Not only were they forbidden to do any training, technical personnel were/are told they had/have responsibility for knowing how instructional software works. They are ONLY responsible for remotely "pushing" the software out onto the desktops of the computers. If the icon appears on the desktop, and the software launches, it is considered a successful install. If the software doesn't function, then the teacher must fill out a trouble request form, and when the network person has time, they will "push" the software out again.

Now you can see why there is so much trouble with the use of technology by teachers and students, and how many software programs that reside on DCSS computers for years and do not give students the benefits promised.

No other school system Information Systems group works this way in metro Atlanta. This department needs a major overhaul. They have some talented technical employees, but the structure, policies and procedures set in place by the DCSS MIS administration are not conducive to successful technology utilization for students,

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:02 pm

"The DCSS regulations also bar anyone from teaching technology unless they are a state-certified teacher, even though there are many fine paras who are capable of teaching these skills well. (Other districts do not have this restriction)."

When Ms .Tyson was head of the Technical Group at MIS (before she became the head of MIS), she made the rule that no technical person could train teachers - even the 100+ CTSSs that are located in the schoolhouse. Not only were they forbidden to do any training, technical personnel were/are told they had/have responsibility for knowing how instructional software works. They are ONLY responsible for remotely "pushing" the software out onto the desktops of the computers. If the icon appears on the desktop, and the software launches, it is considered a successful install. If the software doesn't function, then the teacher must fill out a trouble request form, and when the network person has time, they will "push" the software out again.

Now you can see why there is so much trouble with the use of technology by teachers and students, and how many software programs that reside on DCSS computers for years and do not give students the benefits promised.

No other school system Information Systems group works this way in metro Atlanta. This department needs a major overhaul. They have some talented technical employees, but the structure, policies and procedures set in place by the DCSS MIS administration are not conducive to successful technology utilization for students,

Anonymous said...

@ 4:53 You've hit the nail on the head when it comes to technology. It's like no one knows what the heck is going on and there is no where to go for a teacher to ask a simple question. As you stated, the department needs an overhaul and many in it need to go, as they do not know what they were doing.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:34am.

Pertaining to the redistricting from last night's Board meeting.

The item was pulled from the agenda due to Mr. Eugene Walker's recommendation.

He said that due to ALL the uncertainties about the future of the Board that they shouldn't discuss it last night and should wait until next meeting until the SPLOST is voted upon.

It seems like he doesn't want to talk about the possibility of him losing his seat at the table until it is certain.

I haven't heard what Mr. Eugene Walker has said for years because his ACTIONS speak louder than his WORDS!!!