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Thread: Education Technology and the Wayland Public Schools

  1. #1
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    Default Education Technology and the Wayland Public Schools

    I respectfully disagree with Ms. Melnicove's 12/9/2010 Town Crier request that Wayland slow its expenditure on educational technology.

    Quote Originally Posted by Margo Melnicove
    Deny any request by the School Committee for funding for school technology in the next fiscal year. Since fiscal 2001, Town Meeting has appropriated $3.15 million for school technology. Let’s give the new superintendent and the School Committee a year to assess what we already have and what we truly need, and come up with a long-range plan for school technology that is necessary, efficient and affordable.
    Such technology is one of relatively few bright spots on the education and especially education funding horizons, with real potential to both improve outcomes and lower costs.

    As many with very different viewpoints have argued, Wayland's expenditures over the last decade have not been sufficient to keep up with its technology plans, which can be found at www.waylandschoolcommittee.org (see 4/25/2010 posts one and two). These plans and their implementation continue to be thoughtful in intelligently allocating insufficient funding across infrastructure, hardware and software for teachers, and hardware and software for students.

    The idea that we should put technology on the sidelines while a new Superintendent comes on board is curious indeed. Ongoing infrastructure upgrades would not be able to be implemented, causing a reduction in service. Obsolete computers would not be able to be replaced, causing a setback to our already modest position. New approaches to instruction would not be able to be piloted, causing unnecessary delay. Putting technology on hold makes no more sense than putting instruction and curriculum on hold, in large part because the reality is that you can't separate any of the three from the other two without tearing the fabrication of education itself.

    I encourage those interested in learning more about Wayland's measured approach to education technology to attend a Technology Task Force meeting (generally, the first Wednesday of each month) and/or contact Technology Director Leisha Simon for more details.

  2. #2
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    I've been meaning to re-post this--it was part of a prior thread called "Educational Outcomes and Research from 1:1 Computing Settings" that's no longer available. The first section (in blue) was posted by someone else, the second two sections (in green) were posted by me.

    ==SECTION 1==
    1/25/2010: This special issue of the Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment focuses on the educational impacts and outcomes of 1:1 computing initiatives and technology-rich K–12 environments. Despite growing interest in and around 1:1 computing, little published research has focused on teaching and learning in these intensive computing environments. This special issue provides a forum for researchers to present empirical evidence on the effectiveness of 1:1 computing models for improving teacher and student outcomes, and to discuss the methodological challenges and solutions for assessing the effectiveness of these emerging technology-rich educational settings.

    Complete listing of papers published within the JTLA 1:1 Special Edition:

    Bebell, D. & O’Dwyer, L.M. (2010). Educational Outcomes and Research from 1:1
    Computing Settings. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 9(1).

    Bebell, D. & Kay, R. (2010). One to One Computing: A Summary of the Quantitative
    Results from the Berkshire Wireless Learning Initiative. Journal of Technology,
    Learning, and Assessment, 9(2).

    Drayton, B., Falk, J.K., Stroud, R., Hobbs, K., & Hammerman, J. (2010). After
    Installation: Ubiquitous Computing and High School Science in Three Experienced,
    High-Technology Schools. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 9(3).

    Shapley, K.S., Sheehan, D., Maloney, C., & Caranikas-Walker, F. (2010). Evaluating
    the Implementation Fidelity of Technology Immersion and its Relationship with
    Student Achievement. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 9(4).

    Suhr, K.A., Hernandez, D.A., Grimes, D., & Warschauer, M. (2010). Laptops and
    Fourth-Grade Literacy: Assisting the Jump over the Fourth-Grade Slump. Journal
    of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 9(5).

    Weston, M.E. & Bain, A. (2010). The End of Techno-Critique: The Naked Truth about
    1:1 Laptop Initiatives and Educational Change. Journal of Technology, Learning, and
    Assessment, 9(6).

    All of the above papers are available here.


    ==SECTION 2==
    1/25/2010: Here are some 1:1 computing plans--by no means definitive or even representative--from a small sample of districts around the country (I've only just begun to look into them).

    Maine: http://www.maine.gov/mlti/index.shtml
    Wellesley MA: http://www.wellesley.k12.ma.us/progr..._Tech_Plan.pdf
    Summit NJ: http://www.summit.k12.nj.us/administ...echnology.html
    Quaker Valley School District PA: http://www.qvsd.org/page.cfm?p=59
    Irving TX: http://www.irvingisd.net/one2one/main.htm
    San Lorenzo USD CA: http://www.slzusd.org/cms/page_view?...=1242797004815


    ==SECTION 3==
    The March 4, 2010 Town Crier included a guest column on reading by Wayland Public Schools Superintendent Gary Burton. An anonymous poster, "ysaideam," commented, "If reading is so important, why are we talking about doing away with books and moving to computer based instruction?"

    First, reading *is* important--there is no "if."

    Second, the comment reveals a misconception about education, books, and technology. Reading is a skill, whereas books and technology are simply media. The fact that the comment was posted online underscores the point that reading isn't limited to traditional print.

    The acquisition and application of reading is a complex undertaking. Humans haven't evolved to read, and it's only in the past 100-200 years that the majority of people in even the developed nations have been readers in any meaningful sense.

    The connection between language and print is an arbitrary one. Some languages are highly phonetic (Spanish, Finnish). Others are less so (English). And others aren't phonetic at all (e.g., pictographic Asian systems). Even in alphabetic systems, the alphabet isn't necessarily the same (think English, Russian, and Hebrew, for instance). Each person needs to learn one or more of these arbitrary systems, and whether we struggle to do so depends on a multitude of factors that include the language to which we're exposed and the specific neural wiring of each of our brains.

    We don't need to wait until third grade MCAS results arrive to identify struggling readers. Assessments exist (Wayland uses DIBELS, the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) that let educators know when children as young as Kindergarten are at risk for reading difficulty. This early identification allows for early intervention that will save valuable time, save valuable funds, and be far more likely to result in better reading outcomes.

    In short, learning to read boils down to having a sufficient oral vocabulary and understanding the connection between sounds and symbols. Both of these elements of reading can and should be supported by more than just books. Being read to helps, say by a parent or in the form of an audio "book." Using reading skill development software helps (programs from Lexia Learning Systems are part of Wayland's education technology toolbox). And more and more, the written word doesn't appear as ink on a page, but rather, as pixels on a screen.

    Are books an important part of reading? No doubt. But to miss the power that technology can bring to bear not only on "learning to read," but also to "reading to learn," is to miss the point entirely.

  3. #3
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    Thought this was interesting in light of prior discussion - Maine's laptop initiative completely (and intentionally) skipped the pilot phase: http://mashable.com/2011/01/04/class...ogy-education/

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    Default Why laptops?

    There's one major component of one-to-one initiatives that I just don't get - why laptops?
    The 6 lessons in the article were good ones, but nowhere in this piece could I identify anything that made these particular points unique to laptop computers, rather than desktops.

    I agree with the concept of putting lots of money into technology for public schools, especially in Wayland, where according to our Superintendent a couple of years ago, we have been woefully neglecting technology funding for years.

    But, why laptops?

    Like a lot of people, I work with both desktop and laptop computers and am familiar with the pros and cons of each.
    Byte for byte, here are a few of the pros:

    Laptops
    Portability

    Desktops
    Bigger displays
    More memory
    Bigger hard drive
    Faster
    More bells & whistles, i.e. multiple drives, CD burners and such
    More ports
    Cheaper
    Low likelihood of damage from falling off desk
    Lack of portability makes them harder to steal or lose or leave on the bus.

    On the surface, it sounds sexy to have a laptop for every student and there is something about that term "Laptop Initiative" that just rolls off the tongue. But there are many practical issues of this plan that I have not seen addressed:

    • Who owns it - the school or the student?

    • Who's responsible for it - the school or the student?

    • How much redundancy are we creating, considering that probably 98% of the families in Wayland already own state-of-the-art computers? And wouldn't it be cheaper to just buy a handful to loan out to the few who don't?

    • What happens 6 months or a year later, when the families' computers begin to surpass the schools' in terms of features, speed, memory, etc.? The natural tendency will be for students to abandon the school's unit in favor of the one they got for Christmas.

    • Since everything is becoming web-based, what is the advantage of a dedicated laptop per student - they can access their work from anywhere in the world, without lugging a school laptop around with them.

    • Who will pay for it when it becomes lost, stolen or damaged?
    Claypit Hill recently purchased 20 iPods for students, and within weeks, all of them were stolen. How do we address situations like this - do we spend another $2000 to replace them? How many times can we afford to do that? This dilemma WILL become a reality with laptops, and we'd better know now how we plan to address it when it happens. How deep are our pockets?

    • Who will get sued when a school-owned, student-issued laptop is used in a crime - cyber-bullying, stalking, drug dealing, pedophelia, etc.?


    This line in the article stuck me:
    "At the launch of the initiative, the state made no apologies about how it had chosen to spend its one-time state surplus."

    To spend a one-time chunk of money on an initiative that will have substantial ongoing annual costs seems very short sighted.
    Once we've begun going down that road, there is no turning back.

    I would have no problem spending this $700,000 (or even more) on technology.
    But this plan seems ill-conceived.


    P.S. Why is the thread "Educational Outcomes and Research from 1:1 Computing Settings" no longer available? Was it removed?
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    There's one major component of one-to-one initiatives that I just don't get - why laptops?
    The 6 lessons in the article were good ones, but nowhere in this piece could I identify anything that made these particular points unique to laptop computers, rather than desktops.

    I agree with the concept of putting lots of money into technology for public schools, especially in Wayland, where according to our Superintendent a couple of years ago, we have been woefully neglecting technology funding for years.

    But, why laptops?
    Although I'm on the Technology Task Force (TTF), I'm speaking only for myself. The program to get computing technology into the hands of students is called the Student Computer Initiative (SCI), not the Student Laptop/Notebook Initiative. To my knowledge, the plan is to use different types of technology where it works best.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    Like a lot of people, I work with both desktop and laptop computers and am familiar with the pros and cons of each.
    Byte for byte, here are a few of the pros:

    Laptops
    Portability
    I'd add size--one major constraint is the space that desktop computers occupy versus notebooks.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    Desktops
    Bigger displays
    More memory
    Bigger hard drive
    Faster
    More bells & whistles, i.e. multiple drives, CD burners and such
    More ports
    Cheaper
    I'm not an expert, but my sense is that for similar features, the price gap isn't all that large. For instance (these are consumer prices--the schools would likely pay less in bulk):

    DESKTOP
    Lenovo TopSeller ThinkCentre A70 : 2.5GHz Celeron DC 1GB RAM 320GB hard drive
    * Item #: 11856162 $349.00
    * Mfr #: 7844D4U
    * Platform: PC
    * 2.5GHz Intel Celeron DC E3300 / 1GB DDR3 SDRAM / 320GB Hard Drive / DVD-ROM
    * Intel GMA X4500 / Gigabit Ethernet
    * Windows 7 Professional / 1 Year Warranty

    LG 19" W1934S-BN Widescreen LCD Monitor, Black
    LG Electronics
    * Item #: 8475086 $105.50
    * Mfr #: W1934S-BN
    * 19in LCD Display / 1440 x 900 Max Resolution

    Total: $455

    NOTEBOOK
    HP Smart Buy 620 : 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo 15.6in display
    * Item #: 11792277 $499.00
    * Mfr #: WZ282UT#ABA
    * Platform: PC
    * 2.1GHz Intel Intel Core 2 Duo T6570 / 2GB DDR3 SDRAM / 320GB Hard Drive / DVD Super Multi DL, LightScribe

    Total: $499

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    Low likelihood of damage from falling off desk
    Lack of portability makes them harder to steal or lose or leave on the bus.
    The discussions I've been part of include insurance to cover damage and theft. The premium above the $499 price above wasn't all that great (less than $100?), but I don't recall the exact figure.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    On the surface, it sounds sexy to have a laptop for every student and there is something about that term "Laptop Initiative" that just rolls off the tongue. But there are many practical issues of this plan that I have not seen addressed:

    • Who owns it - the school or the student?
    Both approaches have been discussed. At present, the pilot that's underway uses school-purchased computers. The leaning of the TTF has been toward student-owned computers. In my opinion, the schools would need to have a mechanism to provide a computer for families who cannot afford one.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    • Who's responsible for it - the school or the student?
    I would think that legal responsibility tracks with ownership, but that's not to suggest that a student using a school computer has no responsibility.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    • How much redundancy are we creating, considering that probably 98% of the families in Wayland already own state-of-the-art computers? And wouldn't it be cheaper to just buy a handful to loan out to the few who don't?
    I don't know how many students have their own notebook computers (family ownership of a computer isn't the right measure, in my opinion). With either school or student ownership, the schools would likely have a pool of computers for use as backups.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    • What happens 6 months or a year later, when the families' computers begin to surpass the schools' in terms of features, speed, memory, etc.? The natural tendency will be for students to abandon the school's unit in favor of the one they got for Christmas.
    I suspect that the schools will have a replacement schedule that's responsible, not aggressive.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    • Since everything is becoming web-based, what is the advantage of a dedicated laptop per student - they can access their work from anywhere in the world, without lugging a school laptop around with them.
    The eventual model isn't set, but for at least the time being, there will be a fair amount of sharing of computers, meaning that the schools will need to be able to move them from place to place. Wayland's technology infrastructure is certainly towards data center/web-based computing.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    • Who will pay for it when it becomes lost, stolen or damaged?
    Claypit Hill recently purchased 20 iPods for students, and within weeks, all of them were stolen. How do we address situations like this - do we spend another $2000 to replace them? How many times can we afford to do that? This dilemma WILL become a reality with laptops, and we'd better know now how we plan to address it when it happens. How deep are our pockets?
    Theft and damage insurance is part of the equation.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    • Who will get sued when a school-owned, student-issued laptop is used in a crime - cyber-bullying, stalking, drug dealing, pedophelia, etc.?
    I don't find this to be a compelling argument against notebook computers as compared with desktop computers. All of the issues you cite are important ones, and will continue to be addressed by an evolving collection of laws, regulations, and social practices.

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