Friday, February 17, 2006

Thanks

After re-reading my post from yesterday I realized that to others I may seem ungrateful for the technology we have. I want to clarify that I am extremely grateful for what we have. Our teachers and students do amazing things with the equipment we've been allocated.

We have a nice computer lab that will be very up-to-date (once we upgrade to Windows XP and Office 2003) by the end of the spring. Our school hasn't really had a technology facilitator for the last few years to push upgrades and steer purchasing towards the future. Hopefully we will be on the right track after the next couple of years but it will take time.

I have visited other schools in other counties. Some have more technology than us and others have less. I am always grateful that we are not in the latter category. I just think there is room for improvement when it comes to refreshing our equipment and I am glad we have advocates in the county who are willing to speak out on our behalf.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Local Budget Request Thoughts

I just wanted to take a few moments to respond to the recent presentation to our county's school board on the need to better fund technology in our schools.

Our county does need to reflect on how it is funding technology. As a new tech facilitator, it seems that we refresh computers when they're 7 or 8 years old and basically obsolete. My teachers have iMacs that have so little memory/up-to-date hardware that the only thing students can do with them is take an Accelerated Reader test. Surfing the Internet on them is almost impossible. Our recent Computer Utilization Survey results prove this--the highest percentage of student computer usage was using Accelerated Reader. Teachers tell me over and over again that they can't do anything else with those iMacs.

We are in dire need of another computer lab in our school. I have posted on this topic several times in my blog. We are looking at other possibilities like a wireless lab but there is no money for such a venture. We have the potential to do some wonderful things but with such limited computer access, there is no way they will be accomplished.

The fact that we even have to prove students use computers is ridiculous. Of course they use computers but our survey results won't show that students are doing real-world technology projects (like editing digital video, blogging, etc.) until we can get equipment and software to support them. It's like a catch 22.

There are technology facilitators at almost all the schools in our county now. We are trained well to assist with the integration of technology into classrooms but many of us are bogged down with troubleshooting ancient equipment and have very little time to help teachers. Are computers just sitting around gathering dust in our schools?? Absolutely not! I have seen computers run like the Duracell bunny, be repaired, bandaged, petted, and coaxed into running years after most people in the professional sector would have junked them and bought new machines. Teachers are the most frugal people I have ever seen.

Why do we expect teachers to deal with the oldest junk imaginable but produce stellar results with technology? They do, day after day, but teachers and students could do so much more if they had more and better computers. We have teachers presenting their lessons on PowerPoint, streaming video downloaded from the Internet, designing their own web pages (where they post homework, extra credit assignments and link to their class blogs), and doing virtual dissections on CD-ROM. We try to get them the resources they need with what funds we have but it’s still not enough.

So far this year I have been able to teach students how to blog, how to produce multimedia presentations, how to create a spreadsheet from scratch, how to use advanced features of word processing, and how to sort and filter databases. Each time I see these middle schoolers’ eyes light up with what they and the computer can do. They are learning with and through using technology but they deserve to touch a computer more than 2-3 times a week (and in many cases even less). Most adults touch a computer for productivity purposes at least 5-10 times a day if not more.

I could go on and on but I will let the following passage speak for itself. I have pasted it here from a link on Joe Poletti’s
blog. He is our county’s Director of Technology and Media.

This was posted on the Abilene, Kansas High School Dialogue Buzz website. It was an anonymous post, but VERY powerful. Feel free to share this with educators, parents and stakeholders about 1:1 and the power of the seamless use of technology. It seems to sum it all up!!

Let’s have a little competition at school and get ready for the future. I will use a laptop and you will use paper and pencil. Are you ready…?

I will access up-to-date information - you have a textbook that is 5 years old.
I will immediately know when I misspell a word – you have to wait until it’s graded.
I will learn how to care for technology by using it – you will read about it.
I will see math problems in 3D – you will do the odd problems.
I will create artwork and poetry and share it with the world – you will share yours with the class.
I will have 24/7 access – you have the entire class period.
I will access the most dynamic information – yours will be printed and photocopied.
I will communicate with leaders and experts using email – you will wait for Friday’s speaker.
I will select my learning style – you will use the teacher’s favorite learning style.
I will collaborate with my peers from around the world – you will collaborate with peers in your classroom.
I will take my learning as far as I want – you must wait for the rest of the class.
The cost of a laptop per year? - $250
The cost of teacher and student training? – Expensive
The cost of well educated US citizens and workforce? - Priceless

Friday, February 10, 2006

Wireless Lab Thoughts

Our school continues to grapple with the issue of very limited time in the computer lab and outdated machines. There has been quite a bit of discussion about exploring a wireless lab (class set of laptops on a cart) as a solution to our dilemma.

As I stated in a previous post, our school has one decent lab and another relatively decent lab of computers in the Media Center. After much brainstorming on the most fair way to sign up for lab time, teachers came up with the idea to assign each teaching team (7 in all) one week per 9 weeks. The last 2 weeks of the grading period would be left on a first come, first serve basis. This system seems to be working for those who couldn't sign up early enough to get the lab. On the other hand, a team's week doesn't always coincide with that brilliant unit on frog dissection or the Civil War. If a team can't swap a week, they sign up for the Media Center. Using the Media Center as a computer lab does put a little strain on classes using the Media Center for research. There have been a few times when the MC seems like Grand Central Station with multiple classes doing circulation, research, and computer projects.

The bottom line is--WE NEED ANOTHER COMPUTER LAB!! The next question is where are we going to put it?? We don't have any more classrooms. The only other option is to go wireless.

I'm doing some research and I found some great articles. Here they are:

I'm just getting started. Apparently there's a lot of factors involved and a lot to think about.

Does anyone out there know of any grant possibilities for something like this?