Sunday, December 18, 2011

Role of K-12 Technology

Many of you know that I love the concept of using technology to overcome the shortfalls of what schools can offer.  With that in mind, I am about to offend many of you that think similarly to me.  So my caveat is simply this, "these are my thoughts, my beliefs, and you may not agree...get over it...or better yet, weigh in on the topic."  Yes, that's a challenge and a hope to get some energy going here on a topic that can really have an impact on the future of schools.

I just read a pretty decent article in the Mason City Globe Gazette on how technology can play into the future of schools.  My concern is definitely not the use of on-line learning.  I believe this is essential in supporting the needs of our students.  I do not, however, have confidence in those that are promoting fully digitized learning that would evade the necessity of face-to-face learning in a brick-and-mortar setting.  Often these are used as punchlines for the digital progress crowd, indicating that these concepts are outdated and a useless waste of time.  My argument is just the opposite.  I believe that we are dangerously close to losing the skill set necessary to survive in the real world.  Exactly what the real world is has even come under fire, so I'm here to give you the "Marshall Lewis definition" of what it is.  Yes, soon to be fully understood by all, the real world is a combination of digital communication, interpersonal socialization, access to information, trust and team building, understanding of interdependence, and a respect of the skills of each person on the planet.  So that is a smattering of what the real world actually is, but what is missing?  The bottom line is we can neither ignore and avoid technology, but we also must realize that we are social creatures.  Much of our life - whether work, family, religion, friends, or anything else - is not based in technology.

I can hold off for now expanding this concept into how it could/would create havoc and disarray (the opposite goal of technology) in our school system.  Those that are pushing to become totally digital are risking more than that.  They are risking personal identities that are so important to the human race.  So much is required of schools that are not stated in terms of NCLB or test scores.  How many times have you heard that schools are asked to raise our children.  Although that is too simply stated, the concept is accurate - social skills are developed in our school systems.  Those that don't do this create future adults that are less likely to be productive in our global society.  I believe that is why you see the prediction from Stanford University's Terry Moe of a "hybrid school" at the end of the article noted above.  Maybe he's right...that's one I can live with.



Anonymous said...

How would you order your real world descriptors?
1.respect of personal skills world wide and team building
3.interpersonal socialization
4.understanding of interdependence
The above of descriptors (put in my order of importance) can all be accomplished by your last two descriptors.. communication
6.access to information
...perhaps in a way that was not possible 50 years ago!
The question being can they be accomplished without a face to face contact. Some would say yes and some would say no. In 50 years what will be said?
Your next statement that a totally digital school would risk developing the personal identities important to humans. What would of people said looking back in history when cars,trains, planes were invented and how it would cause people to be so mobile that relationships would never be developed with family and community. It did change how families relocated but also made it easier to get back together. What kind of pros or cons that will develop from a totally digital education are starting to be seen now. Hopefully reflection will not come at the end of the process instead all through the process.

Social concepts are developed in our school systems. I agree and will continue with what ever type of schools are out there.

My comments are meant to develop conversations on both sides of the blog post. Personally I agree with relationships that need to be built personally. I will also agree that digital relationships in education can be accomplished. It would be very interesting to hear from a students perspective since they are the natives of this digital land.

Marshall said...

Maybe my point is that they aren't able to be put in any order. For each of us, some carry more importance than others. Since many of our kids...essentially all at some point...will need to learn social skills in and around others of their age, those older and younger students, and with the guidance of adults, I see that the brick and mortar gathering place is a physical necessity.

The next thing that concerns me is how the digital schools are going to financially deplete our taxpayers goal for the "common good" with the current system. Right now there is the concept of living in one part of Iowa and taking digital classes in another. I don't mind that, and actually think that it is a good way to enhance what can be done locally (again being physically present with peers). On the other hand, if the digital education is done across the state entirely, and the funds follow that (the student from Southern Iowa actually ENROLLS in a Northern Iowa school, for example) the local community loses that funding that is used for the support of ALL students in that community. Public education is meant to meet the goal of educating everyone, but this would really be a hurdle of equality for all - which flies directly in the face of the VERY GOOD CONCEPT of No Child Left Behind legislation. Note that the concept was very good, but the outcome, regulation, and implementation leave a lot to be desired.

Kastendieck said...

So the big question is will educational funding follow the student or the school district/state? Seems similar to the insurance debate, does insurance follow the person or stay with the job. First instinct is to say that it should follow the student. Had a great conversation about that once and need to look into it again. If the educational dollar follows the students who is responsible for monitoring and evaluating the success or failure. Another question is if a person or orginization is responsible for the monitoring can that be done with a digital relationship? Another question how does that effect/affect the state/national budgeting process. Sounds like a big ,big , big overall or new creation of educational process and pedagodgy.

Marshall said...

According to what I have seen and heard so far, the student would create the funding. That part is not unlike the concept of Open Enrollment in Iowa. The concern that I carry is that if this is allowed to happen, the educational dollars go to a few areas that are less vested in the student. This creates a lowered desire to support that student ("They won't live here anyway" mentality) and yet it creates a socially underdeveloped individual if they are not exposed to social settings in which to grow. Now the financial part of allowing the money to follow each individual is that schools (in Iowa) are funded by the student, but a great benefit of this funding is the grouping of students, which will decline. If local enrollment drops due to those living in a particular area enrolling in classes digitally, that area will lose the funding to provide to the masses. It is the same thing that happens when we purchase on-line instead of locally. The money generated in taxes and income leaves the locality, yet we still want to have our tax-supported industries (fire, police, schools, etc.) able to serve us.
For a generic school example, a school district of 200 students will be more expensive to run than a district of 2000 when viewed per pupil. That is because the large numbers allows flexibility in scheduling an appropriate ratio of teachers to students, bussing is more condensed, activities are more balanced and streamlined, and building/maintenance costs are better shared. It is truly a statistical fact that the more members of any group, the more a school or any entity will be able to group similarly and provide resources to meet that grouping. (Notice, by the way, that I said this is effective financially, not academically. I still believe smaller schools and smaller communities create the best overall opportunities for students to become well-rounded, well-educated, contributing members of our society.)
There are a lot of unanswered questions at this time, but one that I will clearly answer based on my own experiences as a principal, superintendent, parent, and learner...using technology to expand curriculum, bridge gaps, access information, connect with people, and expose people to otherwise unavailable experiences and resources IS what we should be doing while our students are learning locally how to become the citizens, leaders, and patrons of the future.

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