Obama’s Speech and the technology needed to view it

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Well, President Obama gave his speech to school children yesterday (text here, video here) and although the Republic didn’t collapse, the hysteria has continued.

So much has been said about the speech that I’d rather point out some things about access to the speech and technology in education, including recent actions by the Madison district.

As I indicated in a previous post, I’m glad that my children had the opportunity to view this speech in school with their teachers and their peers as a civics lesson.  However, the circumstances were less-than-ideal.  It was brought to my attention that the teachers who instruct my children will have to huddle their class around a computer unless the school decides to hold an all school assembly to use the one projector the school owns to stream it online and blow the image up to a viewable size.

It is not normally an option for them to view it on television in the classroom as they do not have access to C-Span.  At the last minute they were able to tune in on a major network and watch it on the television in their room.

Nowadays, technology has become so pervasive, so essential, so advanced in society, that that the integration into classroom instruction is imperative.  Our children have grown up with technology as their number one way of getting information.  Technology provides for the important bases of communication – the storage of past data and the instant feedback on present information.  Technology continues to expand its beneficial influence into better communication and interaction between teachers and students from all across the globe, better instructional materials that reach out to more people than ever, and better information transfer at lightning speed, among other things.

The transfer of knowledge in education becomes smoother because technology assists in transmitting it in a faster and clearer way.  Technology allows participants in the two-way learning process to communicate and interact better with a variety of audio-visual tools.  Interactive technology and the sharing of resources and curriculum including new knowledge and processes are necessary to demonstrate complex concepts in a clearer manner to our children.  Sesame Street figured this out 40 years ago when I was a child and I defy you to show me one child in our school system that cannot identify the character Elmo.

Technology can be used in many ways as an integral part of the curriculum to meet the needs of diverse learners.  Extensive studies and model schools have shown that educational technology enhances student learning in many cases. Some recent reports have indicated that students who have access to online materials perform better than those who do not. For examples see: Pamela Mendels, “Study Shows Value of Wired Classroom,”Effectiveness of Technology in Schools, 1990-1994,” (a comprehensive review of over 130 recent academic studies which found that technology can lead to improved performance most notably in math, science, social sciences and language arts),  and  Summary of Current Research and Evaluation Findings on Technology in Education.”  Technology is the answer to all the needs of schools and students, but in 2009 our schools do need to make effective use of the tools available. In the current school funding climate, this is difficult.

MMSD is working to address the gaps of technology in our schools.   This draft Information (Library Media) & Technology Plan was approved by the MMSD Board of Education on June 8th.  The plan reflects the input and ideas from hundreds of staff, students, parents, and business and community partners collected during the 2008-09 school year.   The plan is a road map for what the community believes our priorities should be relative to technology use in our schools.

Input from stakeholders in its development was essential. It is not a static document, but one that is dynamic and subject to change – as technologies do.  One specific objective states we must: “…create a technology advisory leadership team that includes students.”  Some of the key ideas suggested in the technology plan are: an emphasis on professional development when teachers are provided new technology in order to fully maximize its value. A wireless network across all schools.  More use of mobile internet devices like laptops, netbooks, and smart devices like iTouches.  Making the learning management system– Moodle —  much more easily accessible to all teachers and students.  Exploring newer software tools that can save time and expand access like Open Office (as an alternative to Microsoft Office) and cloud computing (like Google Docs).  Enhancing the use of technology as a curricular area and a service learning focus.  Opening the schools as “lighted school houses” with technology as a bridge to the community.

This last is very important because as Madison and other districts move towards increased reliance on electronic communication, the gap between those families with easy access and those without becomes more important. At the same time, the fragile ties between the schools and some of the neediest families will be further strained while the benefits to the most well positioned will increase.

Lots of good ideas.  Some of these are being funded via the ARRA Stimulus IDEA and Title I monies, some from the operating budget and some are on hold till funding can be found.

Let’s hope that the next time the President wants to address the students of this country and encourage them to really take their learning seriously, find out what they’re good at, set goals and take the school year seriously, our classrooms will be a part of the 21st Century educational system.  Teachers and students need to be encouraged to participate in civics lessons in a medium that they have grown up learning in.

Jackie Woodruff

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Filed under "education finance", Best Practices, education, finance, Local News, National News, School Finance, Uncategorized

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