It’s 2020 – and our overly-large school district has suddenly discovered the “powerful role that technology must serve in its ongoing focus on excellence in student achievement”.
In a district press release that landed in my email box this week, the superintendent announces a new Technology Advisory Council with a mission to “assist FCPS with expertise and guidance to ensure FCPS’ technology applications are at the forefront of innovation; and that teachers and students are equipped with the tools, connectivity, access, and security to be prepared in today’s increasingly interconnected landscape”.
I suspect the well-publicized fiasco with the switch to online schooling and Blackboard may have had something to do with forming this council. But better late than never, I guess.
Anyway, who is leading this council?
The Technology Advisory Council is comprised of several of the nation’s leading thinkers across technology, education, and business, and Fairfax County School Board members Karen Corbett Sanders, Chair and Mount Vernon District representative, and Elaine Tholen, Dranesville District representative. Additional members include FCPS administrators, teachers, and a student representative.
The “leading thinkers” named as co-chairs include executives from Amazon Web Services and General Dynamics, the CEO of a firm that seems to sell strategy and consulting, and the CEO of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, a lobbying group for local tech companies.
As to the subcommittees, the one dealing with Instructional Technology will be lead by the owner of an edtech consulting firm that was established just a few months ago, and who was an executive at Blackboard for ten years. I suppose that experience will bring some insight on what doesn’t work to the discussions.
The team working on Innovation will be lead by the director of learning science for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a group not well known for being successful in their education projects. (see also Summit Learning)
A subgroup working on Professional Development and Human Capital will be led by Richard Culatta, the CEO of ISTE. Which probably means teachers (aka “human capital”) will be seeing a lot of ISTE materials in their future. (see also my thoughts on that organization’s increasing emphasis on cheerleading for the edtech industry)
The other five groups have similar leadership with no apparent experience with K12 instruction. And the extended list of Council members linked off their website didn’t make things any better.
However, the very worst part of this announcement lies in that seemingly innocuous final sentence of the pull quote above. The part about additional members including some teachers, administrators, and a student representative.
A student representative. One.
For me, that destroys any credibility this council might have had. If their work is going to have any meaning, serve any useful purpose, one token “student representative” is not enough. Students should be all over it, along with many more actual classroom teachers than they are likely to involve in that “some”.
As a starting point, a student and an experienced educator should make up half the co-chairs for the council, as well as being part of the leadership for the subcommittee groups. Maybe have students and teachers be co-chairs with the corporate types.
For more depth, how about adding some recent FCPS graduates? And students who dropped out of school. Both groups would provide the adults with a unique perspective into how well the technology currently in the classroom did – or did not – prepare them to move on into that “increasingly interconnected landscape”.
I’m sure the superintendent would say that the voices of students, along with teachers, parents, and other “stakeholders”1 will be included through focus groups and community meetings. But I know from direct experience that by the time any district committee like this gets to the focus group stage, the important choices have been made and the reports are mostly in the final draft. At that point, outside opinions and ideas rarely have any impact.
Frankly, I don’t have much faith a group like this will produce any kind of special insight about the use of technology in school or it’s relevance to students. They’ll have even fewer revelations about how it relates to the learning process.
But I am certainly looking forward to the community meetings.
The photo is the fanciest meeting room table I could find in a quick Google search. It bears no relationship to any that I sat around in the overly-large school district.
1. For some reason that term “stakeholders” always made me think of vampire hunters. Maybe the consequence of being a big Buffy fan.