The Decline of IT

We are having a little dispute here in the overly large school district, between a growing chorus of principals, teachers and tech trainers who want to use Chromebooks in their classrooms, and the IT department who says no way.

I understand the reasoning of the school-based people. The devices are cheap, reliable, and perform most of the functions a student would need during the day. They are a step backward from the all-purpose laptop we’ve become used to, but it would enable classrooms to have far more access to network applications for the same money.

However, I also understand IT’s position: regulations. District rules state in no uncertain terms that though shalt not purchase anything that doesn’t run Windows. Just ignore those thousands of iPads we approved in a moment of weakness. :-)

Of course, there’s much more behind their opposition than just following the rules (which they wrote in the first place). Devices like Chromebooks represent the loss of both control and jobs. Our IT people love to customize and configure everything, and they employ more people to do it than the department for instruction.

In the approaching age of easy-to-use, disposable computing devices (the $100 laptop we’ve been promised for so long), organizations like ours will need far fewer people to manage and repair them.

Certainly “real” computers will not disappear from schools anytime soon,1 but in the next few years, their numbers will likely see a steep decline. Accompanied by a corresponding reduction in the numbers of computer repair and “desktop management” people.

  1. And I have no intention of trading my MacBook Pro for a Chromebook.

Reanimating the Corpse of NCLB

Earlier this week, the writers of an op-ed in the Washington Post tried to convince the reader that Congress should reauthorize No Child Left Behind. But the short piece is full of crap from top to bottom, starting with the title pleading not to “undo” the nation’s education progress.

Their rationale for supporting NCLB is all about standardized testing, of course. With three specific suggestions that boil down to 1) collect data, 2) publish data, 3) use data to beat up on schools and teachers.

They finish the column the way they started, with a boat full of red herrings.

As a nation, we must ask ourselves if we are committed to the success of every child. Are we going to bow to the special interests of adults, or will we stand strong for the special interest that has no lobby — our children? We have made great progress for millions of kids since NCLB. Let’s not return to a time when these students were left in the shadows.

I have no idea what these guys mean by “great progress”. The legacy of NCLB has been a narrowing of the school curriculum as schools spent an increasing amount of time on preparing for the high stakes tests.

I certainly don’t understand their accusatory “special interest of adults”. Especially since one major result of NCLB has been the enrichment of the adult investors in the companies that market the required testing infrastructure.

Winning The Race

During my travels around our overly-large school district, I came across a large banner hanging in the front hall of an elementary school declaring “The Race for Excellence Has No Finish Line”.

That sign has stuck with – and bothered – me for several reasons, but mostly because of the suggestion that excellence is a race. And in our competative culture, that implies a contest with someone (or something), resulting in one winner, and probably multiple losers.

Ok, I’m pretty sure that was not the intention of whoever created the message. They wanted a short, understandable concept to inspire the kids. The interpretation above could only be the product of my warped little head.

Certainly no 10-year-old would read it the same way, right?


I’m posting this later than I planned, but here is a small set of images I shot at the annual Nova Mini MakerFaire, held on March 15 in Reston, Virginia. Click the i in the upper left corner for a description of each photo.


Something Only Slightly Different

Speaking of STEM, this has been buzzing through my warped little head since yesterday’s post.

Someone with more talent and resources needs to reimagine this classic sketch for today’s education reform debate.


The result would be silly and pointless, which would be appropriate.