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Articles: Technology

In the last few years, smartphones have moved quickly from banned to embraced in K12 schools as educators have realized that mobile learning devices engage students, enhance the teaching of 21st-century skills, and instantly check for understanding with student response applications. Districts have started upgrading their wireless networks to accommodate one-to-one technology initiatives, while others follow a “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy.

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho

As legislators in Florida gather this month in Tallahassee, they have a unique opportunity to empower our students with technology that will enhance their education. Our legislators have the capacity to provide students with digital content at a fraction of the cost of traditional textbooks.

When I was young, I loved puzzles. My favorite childhood toys were the Rubik’s Cube and the wooden tangram set my grandmother gave me. I’d request logic problems over bedtime stories from my father. He preferred withholding puzzles until morning to prevent me from staying up all night solving them.

Every state in the country now has a longitudinal data system extending beyond test scores, according to the Data Quality Campaign’s seventh annual Data for Action analysis. Thirty-six states—a giant leap from zero in 2005—have implemented the organization’s 10 Essential Elements of Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems. While the results are promising, Aimee Guidera, executive director of DQC, warns that building the data system isn’t enough.

As we welcome in 2012, let’s do a quick recap of the new state of the world of education, shall we?

Technology demonstrates its significant value time and time again, from improving productivity in the workplace, to providing a huge range of personalized entertainment opportunities, to making the slogan “Reach out and touch someone” an essentially frictionless reality. Unfortunately, in K12, technology has been a bust. In contrast to the communications industry, the music industry, the accounting industry, K12 has failed to see improvement in student achievement attributable to the use of technology.

Since the U.S. Green Building Council launched LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Schools certification in 2007, building sustainable, eco-friendly facilities has become the norm for new construction and is statewide policy in 13 states. However, there is still much to be done with the approximately 99,000 existing public schools across the United States. According to “A National Action Plan for Greening America’s Schools” (Sundance, 2011), on average, green schools save $100,000 per year on operating costs. Over 10 years, America’s schools could save $20 billion.

Of American teens, 78 percent have broadband Internet at home, while 62 percent of all Americans have broadband at home.
—Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project

The increasing incorporation of digital materials and resources into school and district portals and repositories has given rise in recent years to a new focus on the issue of identity management in K12 education.

Deborah Karcher, CIO of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, meets with a network a

For district leaders considering idenitity and access management programs, Sandeep Chellani, executive director of product development for the New
York City Public Schools, says it’s important to become as aware as possible of the benefits and potential of identity management and not to be at the mercy of vendors. “Districts need to step up and do a better job of voicing concerns and pushing vendors to meet their needs,” Chellani says.

Clintondale (Mich.) Community Schools’ high school has turned the traditional school day upside-down by asking teachers to assign short video lectures as homework and have students do activities, participate in discussions and complete assignments in class, with their teacher at hand to answer questions.

Districts in the area covered by the LEARN Regional Educational Service Center in southeastern Connecticut for the past four years have boosted their ability to save money on bulk technology purchases through online reverse auctions. Such auctions are designed so that vendors try to out-lowball one another to get the job in school districts.

County, regional and statewide education service centers that provide shared purchasing power and technical support have been around for as long as a half-century, and some have helped districts gain lower prices on technology through economies of scale since the heyday of the Apple II. But the combination of tighter-than-ever budgets and greater-than-ever needs for computing and other leading-edge technology has made the opportunities that education service centers provide all the more valuable in the past three years.

On a district-wide professional development day, a consultant presents to an auditorium of 250 teachers and conducts follow-up sessions with smaller groups throughout the day. The event is chock-full of information, and the teachers feel good about the resources and skills they have learned. The consultant departs at the end of the day knowing she has done her job. However, the teachers do not get the time to reflect and practice the skills learned, and their excitement about the new information soon wanes.

Technology may have, at last, caught up with the intentions of balanced assessments—or at least it has in the Douglas County (Colo.) School District, according to Syna Morgan, the district’s executive director of performance and accountability. Already a high-performing district with 62,000 students across 86 schools, Douglas County wanted to take its assessment data to the next level by making students not only college-bound, but global leaders.

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