Sunday, May 27, 2018

My Brush With Technology In The Classrom At Scale

The 2017/2018 Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) school year has come to a close, and with it the DTAC group is wrapping up for the year. I will not be pursing a role on the committee this next cycle (thought I encourage you to do so to get a sense of what’s happening). Instead I will be putting my resources into district board member lobbying and campaigns. I am lobbying for district policies that ban cell-phones (personal communication devices) in middle-schools on down, and campaigning for prospective board members that have an understanding of the impact screens are having on our childrens’ growing minds.

DTAC is a well organized and executed committee and I applaud our district CIO, Andrew Moore, and his team for actively engaging the community; thank you. Unfortunately, his team has been given an impossible task. BVSD is attempting to modernize itself with hundreds of millions of dollars in bond money, much of which is being spent to support its “1:Web” initiative. Our CIO has been tasked with bringing our schools “online” and figuring out how technology gets purchased and deployed in the classroom. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of cart being put in front of some really big, strong, fast moving horses. The Board has NOT provided reasonable guidance or direction at the policy level, and the CIO’s office is left trying to interpret direction and meaning, field extremely difficult questions from parents and students, and manage the deluge of technology vendors who have shown up at the bond money trough to feast and sell expensive products to a district that lacks a cohesive, safe, technical strategy to rollout.

There are a few massive challenges we, as a society, need to come to terms with before public dollars should be spent trying to rollout “technology” in classrooms.

Personal Connected Devices

In a nutshell, these are today’s “cell phones” (iOS/Android devices with SIM cards in them). Cell phones are destroying in-person social interactions at our schools, and ruining classroom participation dynamics. Teachers have become cell phone baby-sitters dealing with an incredible new level of distraction in the classroom, instead of being... teachers. To further complicate things, our kiddos use their cell phones as WiFi hotspots and connect their school-provided chromebooks to them to circumvent the expensive IP network filtering we deploy on school networks to protect our children from bad online content. To stop the hemorrhaging of effective social interactions, friendship bonding, social learning, and _teaching_ in the classroom, I recommend a zero tollerance ban of personal connected devices in our middle and elementary schools, and that school provided chromebooks be locked down to only connect to whitelisted WiFi networks. Yup, you heard me. Ask a teacher about their experience with cell phones in their classroom, and go read the book “Glow Kids” or watch the movie “Screenagers.”

Curriculum

The current wave/generation of staff/educators do not know what “digital curriculum” looks like. A few of them do, but the vast majority do not. They do not know what “digital citizenship” looks or feels like, nor do they have a cohesive understanding of how, and when, to do certain things digitally. It’s been a disturbing several years as a parent watching my kiddos manifest science projects in a slide deck. Machines have a place in education, but we haven’t figured it out yet, and we’re losing generations of children to broken programming/curriculum. I recommend significant research into what new-age teaching and curriculum should look like, and then training/developing teachers to effectively apply it.

Addiction Services

When a child shows up at school grappling with a drug addiction, we lend them a hand. Unfortunately, we do no such thing for the droves of kids addicted to their screens. School counselors are often addicted themselves, so, we’re lost on an entirely new level. The world has not figured out how to handle/manage personal connected devices/screens, and we’re educating generations of kiddos in this environment. I recommend effective funding/staffing for counseling services to help our children navigate the new addiction.

In general, I believe we need to slow down the introduction of technology in our classrooms, and roll it out only when we understand it better. I’m bummed my kiddos are going through school amidst such a massive experiment.




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