I sit on the Technology Committee for our local School District. We are so very lucky to have a set of tech guys who understand that the world is changing rapidly, and their job is not only to keep the computers and tech infrastructure running, but their job is to see into the future and plan out what the kids in school today will need to know in five to six years when they graduate from school, as well as those poised to graduate this year. They have a conveyor belt of students that need to be prepared for an ever changing workplace, and these folks need to bring kids, faculty and parents- thousands of people along, hopefully willingly, for the ride.
It’s a big task, and one that’s made more difficult when budgets are tighter than ever. While there’s a comfort in doing what’s always been done- making the easy, default decision, these folks are actively looking at and starting to use ebooks in the classroom. They’re realizing that even if the books need to be updated more frequently, it’s cheaper and easier and better than ordering new textbooks once a decade. (Storage is way easier, too, and it avoids any of that “I lost my book” syndrome forever.) It means that kids can have access to books as long as they have internet access, and it means making sure that can happen for all kids, not just some of the kids in the District.
This may mean things like moving aggressively on a 1 laptop per student policy(1:1 laptop) in an unfriendly budget cycle, but it also may mean that this is the time to make those tough choices. It may be time to transition to a system that’s cost-effective long term, saving money on everything from paper to toner to money spent on updating textbooks that are out of date faster and faster than ever before; it may mean making sure local libraries and even the school computer labs function more like community centers or labs in colleges and maintain extended hours. It’s going to take a whole community effort to make something like this happen, and I think it’s going to end up being more important to our children’s futures than lights at the stadium or other priorities.
I was excited and proud that so many of my freshman son’s classes were using multimedia resources this year. The kids are creating podcasts, using wikis, making websites- light years beyond what was happening even two or three years ago. But many parents are still trying to figure out their first ipod, and still think wiki is something you get at a Hawaiian restaurant, so it’s becoming clear this education effort will be truly an education of the entire village.
While I’m starting to come up with my plan on how we can accomplish this, I’d love your suggestions as well. How would you take your local school district- not just the elementary school, but the middle school and high school, and the parents as well- and bring them up to internet and tech speed in the shortest period of time? How do you change hearts and minds and make people less afraid? How do you make people vote with their feet and their wallets and make a six year gradual transition/evolutionary process instead a two to three year revolution, preparing our kids now for what their future holds?
I know we can do it- and at the heart of it, I think it’s more of a marketing problem than anything else- we need to convince people this is not only important, but vital to our future. What would you do?