Sunday, May 30, 2010

End of the Year melancholy - Pulling in the laptops and damage

Never mind missing the Seniors or lamenting about where the year went...the hardest emotion for myself and our technology director is taking the computers from the students and lining them up for summer storage.

I say that only kidding somewhat. Truth be told we had an amazingly successful pull in for the computers. We structured it a day before school got out so kids would have time to find "missing" items, we did it between the last two classes so we could get them put away and double checked. The procedure for 2nd year was 10 times more efficient and we didn't have to chase down four or so computers like we did last year.

Statistics for the day - 137 computers accounted for; all cases accounted for; two missing chargers. Zero noted damage. That was it!

Statistics for the year - Four busted screens; eight dead batteries; three failed hard drives. Approximate total for uncovered damage and replacements - $3600. We had double that in year two.

I credit our technology director and our staff for communicating with students constantly about care for the computers. Our "Homeroom" set up allows us quarterly bag and charger checks with rewards for perfect accountability. Constant reminders were broadcast in announcements and classes that if you have something missing you will pay for it, this instead of fee based systems that promote a disposable atmosphere. We had only one case of late in the year swapping (we found several during the year) and the swapper fessed up when confronted and we found his case anyway.

Our staff's conclusion is the students do value the computers and will take care of them as they know they will lose them to the repair room and do not want a loaner.

So we congratulated the students and staff on their efforts, and shut the door on a perfectly accounted for set of Apple Mac Books.

Oh where has the year gone.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Public urgency for change

Education's sphere of protection, it's operating autonomy is eroding fast. The safety and certainty of local control and geographical boundaries are being challenged by the "disruptive technologies" of today. And these challenges are coming sooner than later.

I spent some time with my brother recently and out of no where he asked, "Why can't we just change how we're doing things (in education)?" Sitting with us was his father-in-law who was, and still is, very active in school business back in our hometown of Monticello, Iowa. I was expecting certain affirmation of the way we've done and always done education and a more traditional outlook.

But instead I heard a retired implement dealer, who has sat in on more school board meetings than I have, champion technology. He echoed my brother's frustration and the need for changing the way we educate our students, especially at the high school level. A friend of his had given him a copy of "Disrupting Class" by Clayton Christensen and he was very much behind many of the ideas that the book, one-to-one and online learning advocates have been calling for recently.

Anita has long been a leader in technology use in education. So there can be a "been there-done that" attitude about it's integration in our district and within the walls of our school building. "We've always had technology," has been heard and I can understand the perspective of - "so what's different now?"

Nearly everything is different now. Our students need different skills, they need different learning stimulus, they can get their education anytime, anywhere from a multitude of credible sources. These are some of the realities and the fact two people, from different generations and randomly can see this confirmed my sense of urgency for change in education.

The system had better grow some legs that can move it faster than the snails pace it's moving now. Furthermore, those of us fortunate to have laptops in our kids hands need to pick up the pace as well. A one week seminar in the summer or a few hours before school starts in the fall will not suffice in terms of getting ready to assist students in their navigation their connected world.

The problem with the way we've done PD in the past is at the heart of the change issue. Instead of sitting and getting, teachers, administrators and non-certified staff all need to take control of our learning and get immersed using the very technologies our students need to gain jobs, maintain them and thrive in a new and ever-changing economy.

An economy and world that may not need as many of us, and ultimately demanding we have the very same skills to survive. Might as well learn them now.