That the meetings of our school board are carried on the local cable system is rather remarkable if you think about it.
After all, how many workers are allowed to watch the board of directors of their company making decisions that affect their jobs.
And, of course, I waste the opportunity and don’t watch them very often. But I did tonight.
Tonight many of my colleagues helped put together the report delivered to the board by our big board on one of their goals, the one that mentions technology.
Students will use technology to access, communicate, apply knowledge, and to foster creativity.
Overall, the presentation was a pretty good representation of what’s going on in our schools, a mixture of the mundane along with snapshots of a few classrooms where teachers are experimenting with the newer tools (go Jenny!).
While the show itself was much better than these things usually are (go Karen!), the most interesting part of the meeting was the reactions of the board members.
As you might expect, a few of them were “amazed” and “dazzled” by the examples and offered up the usual cliches about how kids work so well with all these tools.
I wonder if the member who praised the use of Facebook in her business world realizes that site, and other social networking sites where “the kids hang out”, are blocked in the schools she helps to manage.
And then there was the member who express concern about the lack of keyboarding instruction, stating that “touch typing was the most valuable skill I learned in school”. Really? Not much of an education.
But I was also impressed that several on the board asked some excellent and tough questions that went beyond the dazzle to the issue of whether all the technology is actually improving student learning.
To his credit, our boss offered the only honest answer: we really can’t quantify an increase in achievement due to the use of computers and interactive boards.
Since “increase in achievement” is code for higher test scores, I doubt he will be able to come back in a year as requested by one member with hard data to demonstrate such improvement.
Nevertheless, questions about the effectiveness of instructional technology are ones that seriously need to be asked. We’re just not going to get many answers from a multiple choice test.
Now, getting back to the school board goal that was the focus of tonight’s presentation.
The reality is that most teachers in our overly-large school district already have access to many of the tech tools that can help students learn to “access, communicate, [and] apply knowledge” and which can be used to “foster creativity”.
What we lack is the curriculum, teacher training programs, and administrative support that would allow them to be used for those purposes.
However, I do love the language of the goal.
It’s language that opens the door for us, with the school board’s blessing, to encourage and support those unique teachers who are willing to experiment outside the number 2 pencil bubble.