Author Archives: Jackie Woodruff

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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Speechifying on Education

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On Tuesday , September 8th, at 12:00 PM (EDT) the President will talk directly to students across the country on the importance of taking responsibility for their education, challenging them to set goals and do everything they can to succeed.  The President’s message will be streamed live on WhiteHouse.gov/live, and broadcast live on C-Span.

In the Sept. 8 speech, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in a letter to principals, said Obama will challenge students to work hard and take responsibility for their learning.

“He (President Obama) will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens,” Duncan said in a press release.

The Education Department is encouraging teachers to create lesson plans around the speech, using materials provided on the department website. And to foster student involvement, the U.S. Department of Education is launching the “I Am What I Learn” video contest. On September 8th, students will be invited to respond to the president’s challenge by creating videos, up to two minutes in length, describing the steps they will take to improve their education and the role education will play in fulfilling their dreams.

The Education Department is inviting all students, ages 13 and older, to create and upload their videos to YouTube by October 8. Submissions can be in the form of video blogs, public service announcements (PSAs), music videos, or documentaries. Students are encouraged to have fun and be creative with this project. The general public will then vote on their favorites which will determine the top 20 finalists. These 20 videos will be reviewed by a panel of judges, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The panel will choose three winners, each of whom will receive a $1,000 cash prize.  Starting this Friday, you can visit www.ed.gov/iamwhatilearn to find out more.

However, in a short file report today on Madison.com, an issue has been raised by some concerning President Obama’s speech.

The speech on the importance of education has raised concerns among some parents who view it as nothing more than political advertising within public schools.

Officials with both the Green Bay and Madison school districts say they’ve heard from a handful of parents with questions about whether the video will be shown next week. A spokesman for Republican state Rep. Steve Nass from Whitewater says their office has also fielded calls from concerned parents.

Madison schools is working on guidelines about how to handle the speech.

Some conservative talk show hosts are already suggesting that parents keep their children home from school to protest the speech.

President Obama is a powerful role model for many youth today.  I applaud his efforts to encourage students to work hard at school as way to achieve their dreams. This sends a needed message to our youth that hard work and perseverance pays off and that education is a priority in our culture.  I for one am glad that my children will be watching this video and I look forward to the discussion that we will have about it over the kitchen table Tuesday.  In my day, the saying was “Knowledge is Power.” I applaud President Obama for again reminding our nation of the power of knowledge.

Jackie Woodruff

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Filed under AMPS, Arne Duncan, education, Local News