““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.
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.